Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DRM blocks blind people's right to read

Any digital text can be read aloud through text-to-speech, granting people with visual impairments the basic human right to read -- unless there's DRM in the way.

Tricking the technology used by Amazon, Apple, Adobe and Google to stop blind people from adding text-to-speech to their devices isn't hard -- but it is a felony, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A UN treaty intended to help people with visual, cognitive and sensory disabilities access copyrighted works has been all but killed by the big publishers.

Groups representing blind people have asked the US Copyright Office to renew the very narrow exemption that allows legally blind people to jailbreak their devices to add text-to-speech, but no one knows if they'll get it. And even if they do, it remains a felony to make or supply the tools that allow blind people to undertake this feat.

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