Audible Asks Court To Throw Out Lawsuit Over Book Captions

Amazon's Audible is asking a federal judge to dismiss a copyright lawsuit over its upcoming speech-to-text feature, which will allow people to read along while listening to books.

“Audible Captions is a quintessential fair use,” the company says in papers filed Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan. “Audible Captions is not a book of any kind, much less a replacement for paper books, e-books, or cross-format products.”

Audible's argument comes in response to a lawsuit filed late last month by seven large publishers. They claim Audible's captioning service infringes their rights by “taking copyrighted works and repurposing them for its own benefit without permission.”

The publishers have asked for an injunction prohibiting Audible from releasing the service.

Audible counters in its court papers that its service is permitted under fair use principles for several reasons, including that its purpose is educational.

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“After listeners purchase an audiobook ... Audible Captions can help listeners understand it by looking up unfamiliar words, accessing reference materials, or simply verifying and focusing on what they are hearing,” the company writes. “This will facilitate access for listeners who have difficulty engaging with audiobooks (or literature in general).”

The company adds that the captioning service “may break through troubling and persistent barriers to access that are reflected in declining reading rates.”

Audible also says its licensing agreements with the publishers precludes them from suing over the captioning feature.

“The law is clear,” Audible writes “By agreeing to those licenses, Plaintiffs waived their right to sue for copyright infringement as a result of licensed conduct.”

Additionally, Audible argues that the publishers aren't entitled to an injunction before trial, because they haven't shown that Audible's captioning feature will “irreparably harm” their sales.

The company adds that the captioning feature can always be disabled in the future, should the publishers prevail on their copyright claims.

Caproni is expected to hold a hearing in the matter on September 25.

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