E-book access "restricted" for the sight disabled

MULTIMEDIA: Denise Dwyer from RNIB speaking about restricted e-book access to the sight disabled.

READ: Measures meant to prevent digital copies have restricted access to e-books.

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Legal and technological restrictions on copying electronic content have affected the legitimate and rightful access of the blind, and the print disabled, to literary and cultural works, according to experts.

“The development of e-books gives blind and partially sighted people the prospect of greater number of books than ever before,” says Denise Dwyer from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), UK. “However, because of issues with DRM, the books aren’t as accessible as they should be.”

Denise Dwyer on e-books:

Digital Rights Management or DRM refers to that technology that prevents unauthorised copying of digital content. (Find out more about DRM here.)

However, it can consider the alternate versions created when a disabled person uses a screen reader or the text-to-speech function on an e-reader as an unauthorised use. It interferes with these assistive technologies and the work is effectively “useless”.

Institutions working with the blind and partially sighted in the US are particularly concerned with Amazon’s decision to allow publishers to disable the text-to-speech feature on Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reader.

The decision was taken following objections from the Authors Guild that authors were not getting paid for audio rights. Writing in the New York Times in February 2009, president of the Authors Guild, Roy Blount Jr. had said, “Authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books.”

Denise Dwyer on Amazon:

However, the company’s hesitation to defend the legalities of their service is being criticised by activists. They see it as a lost opportunity to discuss changes to restrictive copyright laws, increase accessibility to literature and digital content, and clarify the issue for any future services wanting to offer the same features.

Cory Doctorow, sci-fi writer, activist and co-editor of Boing Boing says, “Amazon's DRM isn't about controlling copying, it's about controlling the industry.”

Amazon has maintained that the revocation admitted no culpability or copyright infringement and was just a goodwill gesture.

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