Flash! Hacking Kindle TTS still not legal
There is a rumor roaring through the Kindle blogosphere that the Library of Congress has recently allowed the circumventing (“hacking”) of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) of Kindle store books that blocks text-to-speech access. It’s being presented as a new ruling by the Library of Congress (LoC).
Unfortunately, that’s incorrect.
We have the same situation we’ve had since the Kindle 2 was introduced with the RealSpeak TTS software from Nuance.
As regular readers know, I’d love to see TTS remain unblocked (which is the situation unless the publisher takes an action to block it) on all titles.
However, the part that is being quoted to show that it is okay to hack it has the statement in it that makes it not okay:
“Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.”
What all the bloggers and forums seem to be missing is the 8th word…”all”.
If any version of an ebook title has “read aloud” enabled, it is legal for the publisher to block it in other editions.
That’s true even if the one version where it is enabled requires print disability certification to obtain it.
When the blocking first happened, I checked for alternate versions at http://www.bookshare.org . That’s a website where people who certify a print disability can get books, including ebooks with TTS.
It was legal for Amazon to include the TTS feature, as they have always maintained. It was legal for the publishers to block it in the Kindle version…provided at least one version of the ebook has “read aloud” enabled…even if it’s one you can’t get without certifying a print disability.
The LoC made that very clear in an earlier version of the same basic ruling:
To be included in the exempted class, a literary work must exist in ebook format. Moreover, the exemption is not available if any existing edition of the work permits the “readaloud” function or is screen reader-enabled. Thus, a publisher may avoid subjecting any of its works to this exemption simply by ensuring that for each of its works published in ebook form, an edition exists which is accessible to the blind and visually impaired in at least one of these two ways.
I still hold out hope that the major publishers which have chosen to block text-to-speech access reverse that policy. I’ve noticed a number of Hachette books recently where it is not blocked.
Here’s the disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, just an interested layperson. This is my understanding of the law in this case, but you may want to check with an intellectual property rights lawyer.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.