NVDA and ETI-Eloquence: The Situation Explained

We have received countless requests from users wanting to use the ETI-Eloquence or IBM ViaVoice TTS speech synthesisers with NVDA. Unfortunately, it is generally not legal to use either of these synthesisers with NVDA. This article explains the situation. Please read this article in full before posting any questions about either synthesiser. Discussion about illegal use of either synthesiser on the NVDA mailing lists will not be tolerated.

What are ETI-Eloquence and IBM ViaVoice TTS?

ETI-Eloquence is a small footprint, multi-lingual speech synthesiser which is extremely popular among blind and vision impaired people and is used in many popular desktop and mobile screen readers. IBM ViaVoice TTS is another product which incorporates the ETI-Eloquence speech synthesis technology .

Licensing

ETI-Eloquence is now owned by Nuance Communications. It is not (and has never been) a free product, even despite the fact that its development has been discontinued by Nuance. Similarly, IBM ViaVoice TTS is distributed by Wizzard Software and is also not a free product.

Both synthesisers are licensed to application developers for use in their applications. Unfortunately, unlike many synthesisers on the market, it is not currently possible to purchase individual licenses that aren't tied to specific products for either of these synthesisers.

Certain products, such as IBM Home Page Reader and GW Micro Window-Eyes before version 7, included a SAPI 4 version of ETI-Eloquence or IBM ViaVoice. This synthesiser could be used with NVDA via its SAPI 4 driver. However, even though there is no restriction on the actual software, it is highly likely that the license does not actually permit the synthesiser to be used with products other than the one with which it is bundled. The license certainly does not permit free redistribution of the synthesiser.

Confirmation of Licensing

In 2006, NVDA did include a driver for IBM ViaVoice (but not the synthesiser itself). We used the version of IBM ViaVoice bundled with IBM Home Page Reader. However, we were asked by IBM to remove this driver due to the above licensing issues.

Following is a translated letter from Byteway Srl, the Italian distributor of ETI-Eloquence, in response to suspected illegal use of ETI-Eloquence by NVDA users:

Sirs,
I have read in various mailing lists that the ETI Eloquence Synthesis, property of Nuance International BVBA, is used by some integrators without the regular License Agreement and thus without the right of using this technology for commercial or divulgation purposes.
Furthermore, I read that the ETI Eloquence is used by end users in combination with third parties applications for which no right of usage is granted by the producer.
At the present moment only two companies (in Italy), Cavazza 2000 and ITEX di Marco Gregnanin, are authorized to integrate ETI Eloquence.
As the legal representative of Byteway Srl, distributor of the above mentioned technologies, it is my right and duty to inform that, the persons that do an indiscriminate use of this vocal synthesis are breaking the laws against software piracy.
Thus, I kindly advise to all integrators and end-users to settle their position with respect to the right of using ETI Eloquence as soon as possible.
Byteway will be happy to provide further information, license agreements and prices.
Otherwise, as stated with Nuance's legal office, legal measures will be adopted to defend the interest of the producer and the distributor.
Highest Regards,
Donato Savino, CEO
d.savino@byteway.it
Byteway Srl
Imaging and Speech Technologies
Milano, Via Roncaglia 14 - ITALY
Tel. +39 02 3809 3651
Fax +39 02 3809 3656
www.byteway.it

Attempts by NV Access to Provide a Solution

NV Access, the organisation which develops and supports NVDA, recognises the importance of ETI-Eloquence to a large portion of its user base. As such, NV Access attempted to make it available for a small cost to NVDA users for use with NVDA.

First, we investigated the possibility of re-selling IBM ViaVoice TTS, as TTSynth has done for Linux. Unfortunately, after spending several hundred dollars on the SDK, we discovered that the Windows version of IBM ViaVoice TTS uses the registry to store its configuration, which makes it unsuitable for use with a portable screen reader such as NVDA. (ETI-Eloquence itself does not use the registry.)

Second, we investigated the possibility of re-selling ETI-Eloquence itself. Unfortunately, the lowest cost that Nuance would negotiate was $15AUD per license if we purchased 300 licenses. In order to cover our costs, compensate for the possibility that we might not sell 300 copies and provide some extra funding for NV Access, we would need to charge users a higher price, but this price from Nuance doesn't give us much to work with before the cost to users becomes unreasonable.

Update: Given the demand for this synthesiser, we attempted to negotiate a license with Nuance in 2011. Some clauses in the license agreement concerning distribution and copy protection were quite vague, and when we requested clarification, our contact at Nuance simply stopped responding to our queries, despite several requests over several months. Even despite this, we suspect Nuance would require us to implement extreme copy protection measures, which is an area in which we have no experience nor the time or resources to pursue.

Update: In 2013, we discovered a way to work around the technical issues concerning use of the registry in IBM ViaVoice TTS. Unfortunately, when we attempted to negotiate licenses, we were informed that Wizzard Software was discontinuing sale of the product. It cannot be purchased from any other party. We've contacted IBM several times to request other options, but have not received any useful responses.

Are There Any Legal Options?

As far as we are aware, the only legal option for using NVDA with ETI-Eloquence is to purchase PenVDA, which includes NVDA and a specifically licensed copy of ETI-Eloquence. Unfortunately, PenVDA is quite expensive (at least $120USD depending on where you purchase it). Please note that PenVDA is in no way affiliated with NV Access and its cost does not contribute to NVDA development.

Comments

3. JEkis -- 2010-06-17 13:29

Hello, I have a few thoughts on the situation with eloquence. Let me know what you think.

First, speaking of ViaVoice, you write:

Unfortunately, after spending several hundred dollars on the SDK, we discovered that the Windows version of IBM ViaVoice TTS uses the registry to store its configuration, which makes it unsuitable for use with a portable screen reader such as NVDA.

Many people do not use NVDA in a portable context. For those users who would not have a problem with the registry being used, shouldn't this option be available?

Next, talking about Eloquence itself, you write:

In order to cover our costs, compensate for the possibility that we might not sell 300 copies and provide some extra funding for NV Access, we would need to charge users a higher price, but this price from Nuance doesn't give us much to work with before the cost to users becomes unreasonable.

Allow me to use US dollars merely as an example since it's what I'm familiar with. According to the currency converter at XE.com, $15AUD is just under $13USD so the situation is similar. When I was using Linux a few years back, TTSynth sold for $40USD. I didn't have a problem with the price, and if comments from the mailing list are any indication, neither did most of the other people who purchased it. I think that the user should be able to determine for him or herself whether the price is unreasonable to obtain high quality speech synthesis.

The lack of eloquence speech is one of a small number of reasons why NVDA is not yet my primary screen reader. The main reason is that I haven't yet had the time to learn the new commands, but the lack of eloquence certainly contributes. Give people the choice and I'm quite sure you'd see results. Nothing comes anywhere close to the quality of Eloquence. If you choose to sell eloquence itself, the experience with the price of TTSynth shows that you have some breathing room before you reach a price that many would consider unreasonable. I myself would pay $30 for it before it would even cause me a second thought. If you went with the viavoice solution, many would have no issue with it using the registry. I may be mistaken, but aren't there other features of NVDA which can be turned on that would be considered "unsuitable for a portable screen reader?" I'm thinking of the ability to have NVDA run from the windows logon screen and then automatically start after logon.

4. jteh -- 2010-06-17 14:17

Hi JEkis,

Regarding ViaVoice requiring the registry, you wrote:

Many people do not use NVDA in a portable context. For those users who would not have a problem with the registry being used, shouldn't this option be available?

Many users have expressed a desire to use Eloquence portably with NVDA. It is quite likely that we would sell far less copies if the user could only use it if installed on the system. Remember, we have to buy in bulk (minimum 300 licenses), so we need to be sure that we can sell that many copies or at least make enough extra to cover costs.

Regarding ETI-Eloquence pricing, you wrote:

When I was using Linux a few years back, TTSynth sold for $40USD. I didn't have a problem with the price, and if comments from the mailing list are any indication, neither did most of the other people who purchased it. I think that the user should be able to determine for him or herself whether the price is unreasonable to obtain high quality speech synthesis.

First, note that NV Access is a non-profit organisation, which means that we don't have a great deal of upfront cash available to us, nor can we afford to risk a potentially failed venture like this. Keep in mind again that we have to purchase a minimum of 300 licenses. If we did this for ETI-Eloquence and charged AUD$30, we would have to sell 150 copies before we could even break even on the purchase cost, and that's not including the overhead of setting all of this up, tax, etc. It also doesn't include the cost of the SDK or the cost we incurred by (pointlessly) buying the IBM ViaVoice TTS SDK. We can't even guarantee that we will sell 150 copies, so the price needs to be substantially higher to cover us should this not work out so well.

To give you some background, Wizzard Software charge $5USD per license for a minimum of 300 licenses. (The wholesale cost for TTSynth would have been similar, if not less.) Not only is the per license cost substantially cheaper, but it is also a much lower overall cost and thus much less of a risk for us.

5. JEkis -- 2010-06-17 16:56

Thanks for the explanation. I shouldn't have made a comment without an understanding of the situation. Particularly, I had no idea that the overhead would be quite so high. I responded without thinking it through well enough.

6. Agent Golder -- 2010-06-17 20:18

My opinion is that ther's no need to spend money for that, E speak is much better, doesn't have such restrictions and supports more rare to find languages including Greek. And for older versions of Eloquence fans, a webhesday!

7. travisroth -- 2010-06-18 01:39

Hi, I am just a bit confused. Do both IBM ViaVoice TTS and ETI Eloquence require a 300 license purchase up front? Or just ETI Eloquence? The comments section seem to be combining the two while the main article had them separarted. Given that the IBM ViaVoice TTS SDK has already been invested in, what cost remains to be incurred for being able to make ViaVoice available to non-portable installations of NVDA?

8. jteh -- 2010-06-18 10:38

Hi Travis,

Yes, IBM ViaVoice TTS requires us to purchase a minimum of 300 licenses upfront. Given the cheaper cost per license, this would be acceptable, but its inability to be used portably means we would probably sell less, thus increasing the risk.

9. simon818 -- 2010-06-19 00:46

So I'm curious. How do the people who make PenVDA incorperate eloquence portably? Couldn't something like this be done for the normal, portable version of NVDA? Clearly it's possible if they managed to do it, even if it does cost extra, I'd be willing to pay that price to make it work. Personally I own a kurzweil1000 copy legally and have no qualms about using the sapi4 version of eloquence (personally, I think if they wanted to make it unusable to other applications, they shouldn't have made it sapi4), but I understand the need for eloquence and would probably buy a license for situations where it became necessary. There are ways of packaging applications with virtual environments that include registry keys that pass through to the application, though I doubt something like this would be at all practical for NVDA. Is there no way to legally use something like the jaws eloquence with NVDA? After all, fs got it working portably, and it has nothing to do with sapi4. So did the creator of the old sv games.

I'm sure this has all been thought over, but I thought I would suggest this anyway, because I'm honestly curious.

10. Kevan_GC -- 2010-06-19 14:08

Okay, you can't get ETI-Eloquence, but what about the next best thing: NeoSpeech or DECTalk? If you do that, you can still keep eSpeak, eSpeak is still good.

11. jteh -- 2010-06-21 16:19

Simon: I think you misunderstood the article. It *is* possible to make Eloquence portable, no question. However, this isn't practical because of the higher cost of Eloquence; see my comments above concerning overhead and number of sales.

Kevin, there hasn't been anywhere near as much demand for DECTalk as there has for Eloquence, so we haven't investigated it. I suspect we wouldn't make enough sales to justify investigating it, but that is outside the scope of this article. The same is true for NeoSpeech, although it is a slightly different topic since it is a so-called natural voice.

12. Bugatti16 -- 2010-07-05 11:31

Hello. This is Ryan Miller. In case none of you have discovered, the legal issue with NVDA and ETI Eloquence is very difficult to inforce, at least it is hear on the US. I have asked companies that distribute ETI Eloquence with their product, such as Kurzweil, and they tell me that the legal issue deals with the sale of the product, not its use with third party products, such as NVDA. Jaws started shipping with Real Speak Solo4.0, a SAPI 5 speech synthesizer. When they shipped this, Freedom Scientific informed users that the voices could legally be used with third party products. The same applies for AT&T Natural Voices, Neo Speech Voice Text, and any other SAPI 4 or 5 complient engine. So, my suggestion is that for now, if you want Eloquence with NVDA, go ahead and use it. After all, beyond buying it with a licensed product, the companies don't really care, despite what that Italian man says.

13. dgoldfield -- 2010-08-04 07:23

I have some thoughts on this issue and I welcome comments from the NVDA development team on this. First, do the license agreements of screen readers with open SAPI Eloquence or Viavoice drivers specifically forbid the use of these synthesizers to be used with third party applications? To put it simpler, suppose that I have an openly available SAPI compliant set of voices using Eloquence of Viavoice speech voices. The screen reader which supplies those voices should state, somewhere in the license agreement, that these voices are to be used only with that screen reader. If this is not mentioned in the screen reader's license agreement then I think that NVDA users are within their rights to use these voices with NVDA as a license agreement has more authority than an Italian distributor of these voices. Having said all of that I will admit that, prior to this whole controversy on this blog, I regularly used Eloquence drivers from other screen readers with NVDA. However, I noticed that NVDA frequently crashed when using these drivers, particularly when long URLs were being read. At first I thought this was an issue with NVDA but realized that I did not encounter these crashes when using Espeak. While I initially hated the Espeak voices I was intrigued by this and decided to force myself to get used to Espeak to avoid these frequent crashes. I can honestly say that I prefer Espeak over Eloquence and I now don't miss those Eloquence/Viavoice voices at all.

14. RamboUdin -- 2010-08-21 18:31

Hi, i've never use eloquence since i use NVDA. This is because, i used with JAWS about 3 years. I like to use ESpeak even though i can't understand what it is speaking very much. But i want to ask, if i have IBM-via voice-text to speech installed, could i use it? is this a legal option? another thing, if i receive / have / purchase the driver for eloquence, should i use it? tell me the truth! i'm very confuse! Now, my friend can't lie me anymore after getting the answer. please, help me. Thanks,

15. jteh -- 2010-09-02 12:08

@RamboUdin: As far as I know, there is no legal copy of IBM ViaVoice TTS that is not bundled with some other application. We haven't had any clarification as to whether it is legal to use a copy of the SAPI 4 synthesiser bundled with some other application, but as noted above, it's very likely that this is not strictly legal.

Any Eloquence driver for NVDA is most definitely illegal.

16. Simon -- 2010-09-13 17:32

as far as I'm concerned the synth is there, it works with sapi4, and the companies shouldn't try and control what we do with it after that point. It's one thing to crack a piece of software, it's another to use what's already there and technically designed with an API that works with other software. It would be like apple saying you couldn't play their M4A files in any other media player except iTunes, even though they would play perfectly well with the proper codec. Not going to happen.

17. jteh -- 2010-09-14 08:05

People, your opinions aren't going to change the facts. We've provided the legal information. It's your choice as to what you do with it. Unless you can present a legal argument which indicates that the information we have posted is incorrect, please don't post your opinion on this matter. Thanks.

18. KevanGC -- 2010-10-31 12:09

I got the sapi4 version of ViaVoice TTS for free, and it worked with NVDA! But i deleted the ViaVoice driver because it might be illegal. But yeah, ViaVoice SAPI4 does work with NVDA.

19. RamboUdin -- 2010-11-21 00:34

Some site in the net offers that driver. I'm not going to try that, but i read that comments and said, "wow! how amazing is that?". "If i could use that driver, haha, it is not illegal."!

THANKS!

Could you make driver for dectalk access 32?

NVDA should support many synthesizers!

20. KevanGC -- 2010-11-24 19:37

This is how I did it. Go get the trial version of Zoomtext. You don't need to use zoomtext ever, you just need to make sure you install IBM ViaVoice when you get Zoomtext. If you install correctly, the voices for IBM ViaVoice should appear in the SAPI4 list in the voice settings dialog.

21. RamboUdin -- 2010-12-03 21:57

It is not good! Something error occur.

22. KevanGC -- 2010-12-11 13:30

I had no errors. Maybe u didn't put it on right or something. It might not be legal though, so do it at ur own risk. Hehehe.

23. briang1 -- 2014-05-22 18:08

Well after reading all of that, I decided to look at Dolphins products which I have. They do use a restricted version of Eloquence in that it appears not to be any standard Sapi interpretation. However interestingly, they do have Daniel and Serena as stand alone Realspeak solo, and Sapi5, both of which seem to be working in NVDA. The latter two are in fact stand alone installers and effectively I assume you purchase the right to use them in anything, but not Eloquence.

While some people here love Eloquence, many find it very difficult, I include myself in that area, but voices are intensely personal, an I can see why some are passionate at needing what it offers. Its all very sad that those who hold the legal strings to this cannot be more chritable for the sake of those who cannot see well.

24. dhankuta -- 2014-06-27 15:43

Hi, There is no alternative of mother. Espeak, though robotic speech out; has many superior features than any one else. If there had no espeak, thousands of VI fellows of third world may have compelled to be out of reach in accessing computer in their mother tongue. Myself, with no knowledge of programming have prepared the espeak voices of many languages of Indian sub-continent. Consequently, the access in regional languages is possible. It has nearly 3 times more voices than any so called multilingual TTS! Let me remind a proverb: Those who are hungry enter inside a restaurant near by them and those who are not, move around in search of it so that their stomach may get a tiny place to hold the items to be eaten for joy!