Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Read My Lips: Don't Move Your Lips While Reading in Public

Perhaps we need an annual award for the most excessive copyright claim of the year. Surely a contender for 2009 would be the Authors Guild assertion that the new Kindle device from Amazon that reads a book you have bought and paid for out loud via computer synthesized voice infringes copyright by creating a derivative work and a performance in public. We are not talking about the unlicensed use of an actor's or author's reading. We are talking about a computer synthesized speech to text device, which is old technology. Here's an article on the Author's Guild assertion.

The Authors Guild should not be taken too lightly, however. They led the charge against Google for its book digitization project. In this case, however, they appear to be in a realm of fantasy.

It didn't take long for bloggers and reporters to begin to wonder what if they are right.

Here's just some of what might happen:

1. It would be illegal to read bed time stories to your children. They will have to read to themselves, once they learn to read. Which may be difficult in the Authors Guild scheme of things.

2. It would generally be illegal to read out loud. Anywhere, but particularly in a public place. If the Authors Guild is right about what is “in public”, everyone should avoid even moving their lips when reading on trains, planes, buses and in parks or on the beach. A good lip reader might be able to free ride. Come to think of it, it's a good idea in any event not to move your lips when you read.

On a seriously serious note, the Author's Guild assertions would render illegal technology long relied upon by the blind and visually handicapped.


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