Audible insists Captions copyright lawsuit must be dismissed

Audible insists Captions copyright lawsuit must be dismissed

Lawyers for Audible are insisting a federal court should reject a copyright lawsuit filed by seven publishers against its Captions speech-to-text feature. 

Seven publishers launched a lawsuit last month against Audible's Captions programme, which allows US customers to read along to their audiobooks, arguing the feature violates copyright law, and are also seeking a preliminary injunction to stop their works from being used in the feature, which Amazon's audiobook company had planned to roll out in September. 

Lawyers for the plaintiff publishers say Audible's argument that this is a contract issue rather than a copyright dispute "makes no sense", but on Tuesday (24th September) Audible doubled down on its claim that the issue is one of contract following calls for the case to be dismissed last week. 

In the latest filing lawyers for Audible Inc said: “Audible and each of the Plaintiffs are parties to license agreements for Plaintiffs’ audiobooks. Plaintiffs admit that these license agreements exist. The agreements are directly at issue here, because this dispute arises from Audible’s plan to introduce a new feature for those licensed audiobooks: Audible Captions, which uses speech-to-text transcription to generate audiobook captions from and for the licensed audiobooks to enhance listener comprehension.

"Plaintiffs do not allege that Audible Captions breaches their license agreements, however. Instead, they attempt to allege it infringes their copyrights. But the law is clear: before Plaintiffs can state this copyright claim, they must first plead how and why generating speech-to-text captions for the licensed audiobooks lies outside the scope of their audiobook licenses.”

Earlier last week, Audible had moved to dismiss the case as a contract issue and said if the copyright case proceeds then Captions is covered by fair use. 

It comes as lawyers for Audible and the plaintiffs, including Association of American Publishers (AAP) members Chronicle Books, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster, appeared in court on Wednesday 25th September for a hearing on the publishers' motions for a preliminary injunction. A ruling is yet to be made. As the legal row continues the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors' Representatives have filed a joint briefing in support of the publishers' calls for a preliminary injunction. 

AAP spokesman John McKay said: "We had a good day in court and remain extremely confident in our arguments. We look forward to the court’s ruling, and continue to appreciate the strong support we have received from the creative community, including the Association of Authors Representatives, the Authors Guild and the Independent Book Publishers Association."