The following is my second submission to the Library of Congress’s Notice of Inquiry and Request for Comments on the Topic of Facilitating Access to Copyrighted Works for the Blind or Other Persons With Disabilities.
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My position has not changed. I reiterate the points in my previous submission. In particular:
The original notice mentions how “concerns over... downstream infringement” have “prevent the marketplace of accessible works from growing to its full potential.” Concerns over downstream infringement are comparable to concerns over unicorns. You can’t be “concerned” about something that doesn’t exist, never has existed, and never will exist.
As I stated before, print publishers have never actually intended to provide alternate-format works. Publishers have disingenuously acted as though alternate formats were viable market substitutes for print works. They acted like alternate formats were a vector for what they would now call “piracy.” They acted like they were about to lose sales of books that print-disabled people, by definition, could not read. Publishers acted as though alternate formats were attractive product choices for nondisabled people and represented lost sales of print books.
None of those “concerns” is based on reality. It isn’t just that they’re incorrect; they’re outright lies, incantations recited in the hope of casting a spell. In this case, the spell publishers hope to cast is legally prohibiting any kind of alternate format they do not completely control, imposing DRM, or otherwise hobbling the system even worse than it already is hobbled.
Publishers cannot prove that “downstream infringement” even exists, let alone is a problem.
Similarly, the original notice’s insistent use of terms like “trusted organizations” and “trusted intermediaries” signifies that the Library of Congress intends not to fix the system. Again as I stated before, the Chafee amendment authorizes only certain organizations – nonprofits or charities – to make alternate-format copies of works. The proven result is slower production and fewer books. Nondisabled people are never expected to funnel their reading through “trusted organizations” or “trusted intermediaries.” By implication, blind and other print-disabled people are “untrustworthy.”
A treaty that limits production of alternate formats to nonprofits, charities, or any “trusted” entity is a treaty that isn’t even pretending to solve the problem. Moreover, the term “trusted” suggests the use of DRM – specifically Microsoft DRM, arguably the worst kind.
To respond to ¶4 of the notice’s “Subjects of Inquiry,” additional possible methods of improving accessibility are as itemized in my previous submission. The most important steps are to remove limitations on delivery format and limitations on who can produce alternate-format materials. To give a concrete example, a for-profit company should be legally empowered to create a talking book in MP3 if that’s what a blind person wants.
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