Audible to delay parts of speech-to-text feature as court hearing looms

Audible to delay parts of speech-to-text feature as court hearing looms

Amazon's audiobook company Audible has agreed to delay parts of its disputed speech-to-text feature until permission and licensing issues are resolved. 

Audible has planned to rollout “Audible Captions” which allows US customers to read along to their audiobooks in September, a feature that Association of American Publishers (AAP) member companies including the Big Five say is a violation of copyright law. 

The group, including Chronicle Books, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster, filed against the feature in a lawsuit on 23rd August calling for a judge to stop Audible from including their works in the programme launch without their permission. 

But in a stipulation filed in a federal court on 28th August, Audible agreed to exclude works from the publishers until a judge rules on publishers' calls for a preliminary injunction. The hearing, originally set for 5th September, has been moved to 25th September. Audible has until 13th September to respond to the suit. 

In papers filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Audible said it "will not enable its 'Captions' feature for all audiobooks for which publishers own, or are the exclusive licensee of, the text or audiobook rights" until the 25th September court hearing. 

The Captions feature will transcribe a book's audio to create a text that will run along side the narration. Reacting to the suit last week, Audible said: "This feature would allow such listeners to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance. It is not and was never intended to be a book. We disagree with the claims that this violates any rights and look forward to working with publishers and members of the professional creative community to help them better understand the educational and accessibility benefits of this innovation.”

The Bookseller has contacted Audible for comment.