Chris Ashton

dai11y 23/11/2021

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Blind People Won the Right to Break Ebook DRM. In 3 Years, They’ll Have to Do It Again

  • This Wired article details how accessibility advocates in America regularly have to go to court in order to be granted an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act (DMCA). The exemptions, which last for three years at a time, mean that blind people are able to circumvent copy protections on ebooks for the sake of accessibility. It would otherwise be illegal for these users to use third party programs (such as JAWS) to lift text and save in a different, accessible file format.
  • In 2014, publishers fought Amazon for enabling a text-to-speech (TTS) feature on the Kindle, claiming that it violated their copyright on audiobooks. To this day, publishers are able to disable TTS on their books, which makes it difficult for blind people to consume their content.
  • Even when TTS is enabled by the publisher, many ebooks lack alternative text for their illustrations. Non-profit initiatives like Bookshare can provide semi-accessible versions of inaccessible books, but they must agree not to change the content, meaning they’re not permitted (or, in the world of academia, sufficiently qualified) to fill in any missing alternative text.
  • In Europe, there is already a law (the European Accessibility Act) requiring all ebooks published in the EU to be fully accessible from June 2025. There is hope that this might set a precedent in the USA, meaning that advocates would no longer have to fight the case for exemption every three years.

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