Publishers sue Amazon-owned app for copyright infringement

Audible

Audible

Five major publishing houses are behind the lawsuit, including Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which filed their complaint with the Southern District Court of NY.

Audible is planning on launching a new feature called Audible Captions, that will convert audiobooks to text, giving people a chance to read the audiobook, as it is being played. Audible customers downloaded almost 3 billion hours of audio in 2018, the company said.

The statement describes the text feature as aimed at children, and says the company will try to help the industry "better understand the educational and accessibility benefits of this innovation".

The complaint filed with the Court today asserts claims of willful copyright infringement against Audible and documents the company's efforts to take for itself cross-format features that incorporate both audio and electronic text, outside of the careful decision-making, financial participation, copyright protection, and quality control of copyright owners.

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But virtually from the moment the proposed feature surfaced, the publishing companies that supply a lot of that reading material made it clear they weren't on board.

The Authors Guild, which has previously teamed up with publishers to confront Amazon, expressed its solidarity in a statement issued Friday. The guild noted that it shares publishers' "outrage" at Audible Captions. Audible is allegedly not getting the necessary licenses to reproduce written versions of books.

In addition to enjoining Audible Captions, publishers in Friday's lawsuit are seeking an undetermined amount of damages "they have sustained and will sustain, and any gains, profits and advantages obtained by Audible" through the new program. Still, it's yet to be seen whether Audible can ultimately proceed with its planned feature.

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