Book Publishers Sue Amazon's Audible to Block Coming Audiobook Captioning Service

Date : 08/23/2019 @ 10:36PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Amazon com (AMZN)
Quote : 1794.16  -27.34 (-1.50%) @ 12:59AM

Book Publishers Sue Amazon's Audible to Block Coming Audiobook Captioning Service

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By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg 

Seven U.S. publishers have filed a lawsuit against Audible, Inc.'s audiobook subscription service, alleging its plan to offer real-time captioning of some audiobook titles violates copyright law.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in New York, said the publishers didn't give permission to publish a text version of their titles to Audible, noting that the text rights require a separate agreement. The publishers are asking the court to block the captioning service and are seeking damages.

"What's at stake is the viability of the publishing industry and the ability to rely on copyright law," said Maria Pallante, chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers, which isn't party to the lawsuit. She said Audible's behavior was inappropriate.

A spokeswoman for Audible didn't respond to requests for comment.

Audible in July introduced Audible Captions, which it said will enable users to see lines of machine-generated text as they listen to audiobooks. On its website, Audible said the offering is intended to help children learn.

Audible Captions will be "made available free with a curated bundle of selected titles" to more than 150,000 public school students this September, according to the website.

The plaintiffs include Penguin Random House, which is 75% owned by Germany's Bertelsmann SE; CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster; HarperCollins Publishers, which is owned by Wall Street Journal publisher News Corp; Macmillan, a unit of closely held German company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH; Lagardère SCA's Hachette Book Group; Chronicle Books, LLC; and Scholastic Corp.

In the lawsuit, the publishers states that Audible Captions was subject to error, alleging that by Audible's own admission "up to 6%" of the text may have errors. The lawsuit noted this would translate into 6,000 mistakes in a 100,000-word book.

The proposed text presentation, the lawsuit said, would harm the reputation of publishers "as trusted and valued stewards of their authors' works." The lawsuit also said the reputations of authors as "careful and thoughtful writers" would also be damaged.

The lawsuit noted Audible already offered a similar service called Immersion Reading, which enables users to access a book's text together with the audio version. But the Immersion Reading feature requires the purchase of the Amazon Kindle edition of the e-book as well as the audiobook, the lawsuit said.

Write to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 23, 2019 17:21 ET (21:21 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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