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 .
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:
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.
Donato Savino, CEO
Imaging and Speech Technologies
Milano, Via Roncaglia 14 - ITALY
Tel. +39 02 3809 3651
Fax +39 02 3809 3656
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.