[nfbmi-talk] FW: [Writers] CVAA Stuff

Fred Wurtzel f.wurtzel at att.net
Fri Jan 31 17:51:21 UTC 2014

-----Original Message-----
From: Writers [mailto:writers-bounces at explorations-in-creative-writing.com]
On Behalf Of Chris Hofstader
Sent: Friday, January 31, 2014 11:52 AM
To: Explorations in Creative Writing
Subject: [Writers] CVAA Stuff


If you don't already know about the 21st Century Video and Communication
Accessibility Act of 2010, known more conveniently as CVAA and you have a
disability of any kind, you should take a look at the legislation. CVAA is
the single most important piece of civil rights legislation regarding
technological accessibility on Earth.

On Tuesday, the US FCC, the agency charged with making the rules for
enforcing CVAA, ruled that Amazon and Sony can have an exemption to the
accessibility requirements for their lower end book readers (devices like
the $99 Kindle book reader). This is equivalent to allowing Amazon to refuse
to sell devices to any other identifiable group like black people, women,
gay people or any other group. This is Barak Obama's corrupt FCC allowing
Amazon to hang the 21st century version of a "whites only" sign on these

What makes matters even more outrageous is that Amazon has been making book
readers that are accessible at least to people with print impairments who
can hear (they never added braille support for our deaf-blind friends) since
2009. Amazon's petition to FCC suggested they had technical limitations
which, of course, was a lie. Amazon doesn't want blind people to have access
to cheap book readers because they do not want blind people to have access
to their copy protected books. Today, you can go to BestBuy or the Amazon
web site or countless other consumer electronics outlets and buy an Amazon
book reader for about $70. Unfortunately, as a blind person, you are only
allowed to read books out of copyright (great books, Moby Dick, Tale of Two
Cities, The Rights of Man, etc.) or books by publishers who explicitly allow
Amazon to turn off the copy protection for readers with disabilities
(O'Reilly publishing gives all of its content in publication quality files
to Bookshare for instance but how many blind people care to read serious
texts about engineering issues?). Thus, blind people who want to get one of
these low cost devices are screwed out of 98% of all Kindle content. Yes, we
can use Kindle on our iOS devices but the Windows, Android, GNU/Linux and
Macintosh versions only allow for books out of copyright or under special
agreement with the publisher.

Next week, I will be publishing a blog article that reminds blind readers
that, according to Library of Congress, the federal agency tasked with
providing reading materials to people with print impairments as well as
enforcing copyright law has ruled that blind people like us can legally
crack any copy protection that prevents us from accessing any reading
materials whatsoever. I will include a link to download a Kindle crack
directly from my web site. 

I will also be encouraging blind and other readers with print impairment to
take illegal action as a form of civil disobedience. I believe the right to
read is absolute, there is nothing that people with vision impairment should
be prevented from reading and that this right trumps the rights of copyright
holders to enforce copy protection. I will ask my readers to get their hands
on as much Kindle content as they can find and release it all with the copy
protection removed for anyone on Earth to read for free. 

I can't think of any other way our community can punish Amazon for taking
direct action to enforce a level of discrimination against our community. If
Amazon insists that a segregationist policy is appropriate, they have taken
an immoral position and, must, therefore, be punished for this action.

Imagine, if Amazon said they would refuse to sell content to a racial
minority, I'd expect that their building would already be on fire. If it was
women against whom they were enforcing segregation, there would be 10,000
feminists blocking the doors to their offices. When the screw over the blind
community, the government (FCC in this case) permits them to do so and most
blind people just shrug and say, "accessibility has always sucked, why
should we expect change ever?"

So, I'm taking it upon myself to lead as large a civil disobedience action
by people with print impairments ever. I'll be releasing a pointer to an
illegal database (with really nice search facility including good access to
metadata) with about 150 gigabytes of books that have already been liberated
by blind people. This database is hosted outside of the US, all
communication to and from it goes through Tor so is mostly untraceable and
certainly untraceable by any agency tasked with something as minor as a
civil copyright infraction.

In the US, we blind people enjoy the Chafee amendment, the law that gives a
copyright exemption to groups like Bookshare, RFB&D, NLS, etc. As I believe
the right to read is absolute, I also want to make all of the books
available to all people with print impairment in the world, regardless of
their local laws. Yes, this is illegal and, if AG holder comes after me as
heavily as he did Aaron Schwartz for what was also a massive copyright
violation, I can technically be thrown into federal prison. 

As cracking copy protection is, as I mention above, perfectly legal in the
US and as our first amendment protects free speech, I may not actually be
breaking an US laws as I'm not hosting or giving away the copyrighted
materials, I'm just encouraging people to take civil action against Amazon
which is protected free speech. 

I've already been offered the services of the amazing lawyer, Eben Moglen
(his resume is awesome, look him up on Wikipedia for the details). Eben is
the founder of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) based at Columbia
University where he is a fully tenured professor. While he's highly
confident I won't run into any actual legal problems, he has offered me his
personal services plus those of SFLC and what he describes as an "army" of
Ivy League law students just in case Amazon decides to harass me with bogus
but potentially expensive legal claims.

One bit of Eben's history, after he clerked for Thurgood Marshall and went
to work teaching at Columbia, he filed the first ever Internet accessibility
lawsuit. He's not only a software freedom and civil rights guy, he has
specific experience in working on legal issues with blind clients.

So, that's what I'm rocking on this week.

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