August 23, 2019. The worlds largest audiobook platform Audible, has been sued for copyright infringement over their new feature called "Audible Captions". The lawsuit was filed by seven members of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishers, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan Publishers. The lawsuit is also supported by Authors Guild.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
What is the "Audible Captions" feature?
The Audible Captions is a transcription feature that converts audiobooks to text and displays the text to listeners in real-time as they are listening to the audiobook.
The alleged issue:
Question arises.. With Audible Captions does audience get the ebook version for free?
The issue, is that there are separate licenses for the distribution of audiobooks and physical books. Audible acquires proper licenses for distributing audiobooks, but not the text versions of the works. We assume that Audible claims that because the text from the audiobooks will be generated by artificial intelligence, the new text will be similar but ultimately different from the words of the physical books. The AAP also stated the following: “Essentially Audible wants to provide the text as well as the sound of books without the authorization of copyright holders, despite only having the right to sell audiobooks,”
The AAP Complaint
The lawsuit claims willful "copyright infringement,” and highlights Audible’s alleged efforts to “take for itself cross-format features” without authorization from, compensation to, or quality control by intellectual property owners.
The AAP President and CEO Maria A. Pallante said: "We are extremely disappointed by Audible’s deliberate disregard of authors, publishers, and copyright law. In what can only be described as an effort to seek commercial advantage from literary works that it did not create and does not own, Audible is willfully pushing a product that is unauthorized, interferes and competes with established markets, and is vulnerable to grammatical and spelling inaccuracies —it is a disservice to everyone affected, including readers.”
According to the complaint, “Audible Captions takes Publishers’ proprietary audiobooks, converts the narration into unauthorized text, and distributes the entire text of these ‘new’ digital books to Audible’s customers.” This conversion of audio to text, constitutes the creation of unauthorized derivative works in violation of the Copyright Act.
This conversion of audio to text, constitutes the creation of unauthorized derivative works in violation of the Copyright Act.