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Authors Angry As Findaway Voices By Spotify Changes Terms: Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

Authors Angry as Findaway Voices by Spotify Changes Terms: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

On the ALLi Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway takes a critical look at Spotify's Findaway Voices' recent update to the terms of use for audiobook creators, a move that has stirred significant debate within the indie author community. As Spotify faces scrutiny over its revised policies, Dan explores the implications of these changes and the broader concerns they raise about rights and transparency in the digital publishing landscape.

“In the opinion of the Watchdog Desk, the update to the Terms of Use showed a shocking carelessness around issues crucial to the indie author community,” said John Doppler, who runs ALLi’s Watchdog Desk. “Waiving moral rights, granting a staggeringly broad array of rights. These conditions may have escaped notice in the Artist's Terms of Use from which they were copied, but in the context of independent publishing, they would have allowed unconscionable exploitation. Any expert familiar with the industry should have immediately flagged these issues.”

To the credit of Spotify and Findaway Voices, the correction was swift and addressed the key areas of concern with clarity. However, there are lingering questions, particularly around the use of user content for AI training, which have not been adequately addressed.

Spotify did not respond to our inquiry before press time.

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Listen to Self-Publishing News: Findaway Voices

On the Self-Publishing News podcast, @agnieszkasshoes takes a critical look at Spotify's Findaway Voices' recent update to the terms of use for audiobook creators. Click To Tweet

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About the Host

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Findaway Voices

Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to another Self-Publishing News podcast from here in Oxford, where you would never believe it, it actually has felt like a little bit of spring today.

Findaway Voices T&C’s Cause Author Backlash

Some greenery on the ground, blue in the sky, and of course, after last week we shone a spotlight on Spotify, needless to say, this week the main news is yet again, featuring Spotify.

It is something that will either be looked back on as a storm in a teacup or the beginning of the end, depending on what happens next, but it is certainly the latest in a long line of, shall we say, tech companies upsetting writers, discovering that writers, when they are upset, actually know how to express themselves really quite well. Tech companies then backpedalling and either saying, we didn't mean that, or doing a U turn.

What's been happening, if you've been anywhere on Facebook or anywhere near Reddit or Kboards, or any online platform where indie writers gather, you will have seen that Findaway Voices by Spotify, if ever there was a catchy name for a platform it's Findaway Voices by Spotify, what they have done is they have changed their terms and conditions, or as they put it, they have clarified their terms of use.

The point of that was, they say, to explain two companies working together, both had different sets of terms and conditions, we needed to make it clear what it meant to deal with this hybrid between the two. We wanted to ensure that you understood that we had your best interests at heart. We were doing all sorts of fun things to make it easier for you as audiobook writers to get your work discovered, so we updated our terms and conditions.

That's not quite how writers saw it when they were sent a message saying their terms and conditions have been updated and the words said things like granting FVBS a permanent license to do whatever you want with my book, change it, and you don't have to pay me for changing it, and all sorts of things that in an already twitchy community who is, A, already worried about how AI is being trained using their work, and B, already worried by the lack of transparency that Spotify have shown over how much they're actually paying audiobook publishers, against that background, using phrases like this, probably not the most sensible thing to do.

Writers went up in arms about it. Every forum blew up. People were campaigning, petitioning, and generally sharing angry reactions with anyone who would care to listen, and many who wouldn't, and the result was that FVBS responded saying, in classic fashion, no, we didn't mean that, you still own the rights to your work.

Interestingly, they even call their blog post in response to it, let me find it here. Who owns the rights to my uploaded work? That's the title of the blog post. First line of it is, you do! Or, if they were thinking properly, I do.

So, they're very clearly trying to set writers minds at ease and set out things that the new terms and conditions will never mean they can do, and those include selling a book without paying you for it, creating derivative work, so using your audiobook to create an eBook or to create a print book, or to pass on the film rights, for example, or to create an AI voice.

Likewise, they promised that there was nothing permanent about it. If you wanted to stop distributing through them, they would let you pull the plug on it, and that would be that.

Very interestingly, this was felt to be a little bit of a hedge, this section doesn't say that they're not going to train AI on the content of your book. It just says it's not going to be used to create an AI voice without your permission.

People felt they were two slightly different things, and the idea that, in their words, our goal was to introduce language that would allow us to offer authors innovative features, improve discovery, and provide promotional tools, such as share cards, while assuring authors that you retain ownership of your user content when you post it to the service.

They clearly didn't do much of the reassuring thing, and this whole idea that we did silly unthinking things, but we did it for your best interests, it doesn't really fly very well. Put it like that. That's probably a polite way of putting it. Anyway, they seem to have backtracked.

Nonetheless, as people have pointed out in various forums the changed terms and conditions remain changed, and it remains to be seen, as I always say, how this is going to play out in practice, and more to the point, whether this is the first of an ongoing series of spats between Rights Holders and Spotify, just as we've seen between Rights Holders and Audible, or whether Spotify will have learned that you take on writers at your peril.

They didn't necessarily seem to learn that you took on the music industry at your peril. Who's to say whether they are more pragmatic when it comes to writers. We will see.

Digital Services Act Comes into Force

The other big news this week focuses on one of my favourite subjects, which is European Union law. I love a good bit of EU legislation.

There are very few bigger bits of EU legislation for impacting any of us who work online than the Digital Services Act. So, this came into force on the 15th of February, and it means that basically, the rationale of it is, you can't harm people online. You can't expose people to harm online. You can't use the fact that you do your business online as a way of excusing the fact that you don't do your best to protect consumers.

It places a lot of really strict restrictions on what they call very large online platforms. The thing that Amazon spent ages arguing it's not, only to lose the case, because it has been listed as one of 19 that they have identified very large online platforms alongside the likes of Google Play and Facebook, and these platforms have an awful lot to do in terms of protecting people and especially protecting minors from illegal content, harmful content, and making sure especially that children's data can't be used by advertisers to target ads at them.

There will also be a lot of transparency requirements around adverts, and this is the thing that has really been worrying a lot of writers, a lot of us write with pseudonyms, a lot of us use ads on Amazon. There has been some fear that what would happen in practice is that there would be a demand that pseudonymous authors advertising their work, it would have to be declared in the adverts what your real name was.

Obviously, it's one thing if you use a pseudonym just to distinguish your fantasy from your thrillers, it's another thing if you are writing whistleblowing fiction, or if, for example, you write erotic fiction, but you are also a schoolteacher. There are all sorts of circumstances in which you might want to remain pseudonymous.

The fear was that this legislation would stop people doing that. In practice, although the law is now in force, there is going to be a long transition time, a year or so, for companies to get used to what it means before enforcement starts being really fierce. The usual thing that happens when a big EU law gets passed that there is this sort of transitional period as everyone gets used to what it means and rolls things out in practice. So, we don't really yet know what it means for us.

European Accessibility Act Means Changes for eBooks

What we know more about is something that hasn't become law yet, but which is going to become enforced from the end of June 2025, and that's the European Accessibility Act, and that requires all kinds of essential services to be made more accessible for disabled consumers and specifically listed amongst those is eBooks.

So, that means there is going to be a requirement on us as the publishers of our own eBooks to make sure that content is accessible, if we don't already do that.

Obviously, a lot of the platforms we use will do that for us. Some of us might not use platforms who do that. It will be on us as the owners of the business publishing the books to ensure that our works are fully accessible, and because it's coming into force in a year there are already groups dedicated to working together to figure out what this means.

So, there's a group called APACE that Publishing Perspectives has a look at this week. It's based in Italy. The acronym stands for Accelerating Publishing Accessibility Through Collaboration in Europe, and what it's doing is trying to help publishers prepare.

The first thing it's going to be doing is looking at the state of accessibility for digital books at the moment to see what needs doing and is then going to launch a whole series of seminars, policy papers, best practice sharing programs, standard operating procedures, to ensure that publishers across the board who want to make their work available in Europe are able to do so in a way that fits with the legal requirements that will be enforced from June 2025.

It's something that we really need to be thinking about. We need to know whether or not the platforms we use put these measures in place automatically, or what we can do to ensure that we comply with the requirements of the Act.

So, it is going to be very much worth our while following the developments of groups like APACE to ensure that we know what we need to do, and we know when we need to do it. It's where I say, of course, I will be following that for you, I will let you know. I will also, I'm sure because accessibility is one of my passions, I will be doing active work in this area, and I am sure that at some point Orna will ask me to write something about it. I will keep you updated so you will know what to do and you will know when you need to do it.

The next thing you need to know when to do of course is to tune in at the same time next week when I will be talking to you from what looks, by all account, to be a slightly wetter Oxford. So, have a lovely week and I will speak to you again soon.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/


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