Audible was recently sued by seven publishers who allege that the audiobook publisher’s new “Captions” feature, which scrolls machine-generated text along with audio narration, violates their copyrights. Audible agreed not to enable the feature “for all audiobooks for which Publishers own, or are the exclusive licensee of, the text or audiobook rights” until the court rules on the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction.
Audible also notified its self-published authors that their work won’t be appearing in Captions soon, either: “we have chosen to wait until the outcome of the proceeding to release [Captions]. In the meantime, we are working to roll out Captions for public domain titles to over 150,000 US high school students in support of our educational focus. We look forward to a full rollout of Captions once the legal proceeding is resolved.”
Audible filed their reply to the suit on September 10, arguing that the disagreement with the publishers is a contract dispute, not a copyright one, and that the court should accordingly dismiss the case: “Plaintiffs have come to this Court with the wrong claim. Each Plaintiff granted Audible a license to its copyrighted works, and yet now alleges that Audible Captions infringes those licensed works. But the law is clear: by agreeing to those licenses, Plaintiffs waived their right to sue for copyright infringement as a result of licensed conduct.” Audible says if the publishers are unhappy and want to take action, “they must do so as contract counterparties claiming breach, or carry their burden to prove some relevant limitation to the scope of the licenses they granted.” In case the court doesn’t agree with that defense, Audible also argues that Captions is “quintessential fair use,” mostly citing its educational value. The publishers have until September 20 to respond, and a hearing is scheduled for September 23.
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