Reading Rights Resolution
Dear Coalition Members:
The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind passed the attached resolution (copied below) on April 23, 2009. It is virtually the same as our model resolution. I suggest we adopt this version from this point forward as our model and urge other organizations (as well as coalition members) to adopt the same resolution. Please be sure to send listserv a copy of any adopted resolutions so we can track our progress and post the information on our web site.
John G. Pare, Jr.
Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
WHEREAS, the ability to read is critical to living a well-informed personal and professional life; and
WHEREAS, blindness and other disabilities pose challenges to accessing all available written information fully and efficiently; and
WHEREAS, text-to-speech technology has helped to remove these access barriers for the approximately fifteen million blind and otherwise print-disabled people living in the United States; and
WHEREAS, Amazon's Kindle 2 is one of the first mainstream, commercially-available e-book reading devices to incorporate text-to-speech functionality, potentially making well over one quarter of a million titles accessible to the blind and other people with print disabilities; and
WHEREAS, this heretofore untapped community of eager consumers promises to benefit publishers and authors; and
WHEREAS, many educational institutions are exploring the possibility of e-textbooks and mobile access to electronic book information; and
WHEREAS, upon learning that the Kindle 2 would feature text-to-speech technology, significant segments of the publishing industry and the Authors Guild promptly lodged specious legal and business objections with Amazon, urging it to eliminate or severely restrict access to the synthesized-speech function of this device; and
WHEREAS, one specific objection of the Authors Guild was that the ability to have a legitimately purchased e-book read aloud with text-to-speech technology violates copyright, a legal claim that experts have dismissed as erroneous, since people who buy books have the right to acquire the information privately in whatever way best suits their needs as long as they do not reproduce the content of the book for general circulation; and
WHEREAS, Amazon has agreed to allow publishers to deactivate the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2 for individual authors based on lists provided by the publishers; and
WHEREAS, the suggestions that leaders of the Authors Guild have proposed to mitigate the harm visited upon blind and print-disabled readers (e.g. creation of a national registry of blind and print-disabled readers or charging additional money for the privilege of accessing books on the device with speech output) are wholly unsatisfactory to first-class customers who are prepared––like everybody else––to pay for the product that Amazon has developed, advertised, promoted, and sold to the general public; and
WHEREAS, civil rights laws and policies in the United States oppose and protect against acts that thwart equal access and equitable treatment of the blind and other people with print disabilities; Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED that the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind in conference assembled this 23rd day of April, 2009, in the City of Bethesda, Maryland, urges state and municipal procurement agencies, schools, institutions of higher education and libraries to be mindful of the requirements of technology procurement laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and insist that mobile e-book readers and e-books have accessible text-to-speech; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we register our strong protest against the attempts by the Authors Guild to eliminate or restrict the text-to-speech technology that Amazon has incorporated into its Kindle 2 e-book reading device; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the publishing industry and the Authors Guild to abandon their unreasonable demands on Amazon to degrade the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2 and––barring the willingness of the publishing industry and the Authors Guild to comply with this resolution––that we call upon Amazon itself to ignore the outrageous and self-interested petitions of both the publishing industry and the Authors Guild.