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NYC Litigation Blog

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Publishers Sue Audible for Copyright Infringement

A copyright grants the holder certain exclusive rights such as the exclusive ability to reproduce or display the protected work. When someone uses the work protected by copyright without permission, this is referred to as “copyright infringement.” It happens often and is perpetrated on big and small scales, by individuals and by companies. Amazon’s audiobook branch, Audible, was recently sued by a group of big U.S publishers for copyright infringement.

Publishers Sue Audible for Copyright Infringement

On August 23rd, seven members of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) filed suit against Audible in an attempt to block the planned launch of a new feature called “Audible Captions.” HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and other top U.S. publishers filed the copyright infringement suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that the new feature, which will display text to Audible listeners in real-time as the book is being read to them, violates copyright protections associated with the works.

AAP asserted that Audible is trying to provide users with text in addition to the sound of the books without having the authorization of the copyright holders and despite only having the legal right to sell audiobooks. The publishers assert in the lawsuit that the harm they suffer if this Audible feature proceeds will be threefold.

  • First, the publishers argue that the feature has a wide margin of error for translating the audiobook into text. The text is supposed to be generated based on Audible transcription technology which the publishers claim is not dependable. In fact, it is possible that up to 6% of the text could include errors. The publishers assert that this would cause them irreparable harm as both authors and publishers alike invest significant amounts of time and financial resources to make sure they are putting out quality works that are free of errors.
  • Second, the publishers argue that Audible Captions would be a way of directly competing with the product publishers in both digital and print forms. They base this on the idea that readers might see Audible Captions as a replacement for using other Audible features, which actually require users to buy both the audiobook and the digital version of the book.
  • Third, the publishers argue that Audible Captions would devalue the price point of their product. They base this on the possibility that consumers would not see the value in buying the print or digital version of a book if they have the option of reading it along with the audiobook free of charge.

In a statement released by Audible, the company expressed its surprise and dismay at the lawsuit. Audible asserts that there was no intention to create a book replacement. The company also disagreed with any assertion that Audible Captions violates any legal rights, copyrights included.

New York City Copyright Attorney

Copyright infringement is all too common. If you suspect that the exclusive rights you have as a copyright holder are being violated, Attorney Thomas M. Lancia will work with you to help make sure that the infringement stops and will work to enforce your legal rights. Contact Attorney Lancia today.

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