Intellectual Property

"When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud"

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The release of Amazon's latest Kindle electronic reader, which features a text-to-speech option, has sparked a major controversy in the world of audiobooks. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken claims that the Kindle's computerized reading voice may violate copyright law. "They don't have the right to read a book out loud," Aiken said. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."

Bestselling author and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman takes a different view:

When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it.

Back in 2000, Jesse Walker explained how copyright and intellectual property laws stifle popular culture. For more of Reason's intellectual property coverage, click here.

Full Disclosure: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, is a donor to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit organization that publishes this website.