Authors Guild Sides With Publishers In Battle Over Audible's Captioning Service

The Authors Guild is backing seven book publishers that have gone to court in an attempt to prevent Amazon's Audible from releasing Captions, a new speech-to-text feature that allows people to read along while listening to books.

“Authors and their agents will bear the loss of a valuable right and revenue stream, along with a loss of control of their work, if Audible is permitted to proceed with its Captions feature,” the Authors Guild writes in a proposed friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan.

The Authors Guild is seeking to weigh in on a copyright lawsuit brought late last month by Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and Chronicle. They argue that Audible's captioning service infringes their rights by “taking copyrighted works and repurposing them.”



The publishers are seeking an injunction that would prohibit Audible from launching Captions.

Audible has asked Caproni to reject the publishers' request and to dismiss their lawsuit. Among other arguments, Amazon says its captioning service is a “quintessential fair use,” given its educational purpose. '

The company says the captioning service will include functions that help listeners to better comprehend material. “Audible Captions can help listeners ... by looking up unfamiliar words, accessing reference materials, or simply verifying and focusing on what they are hearing,” the company wrote in papers filed earlier this month.

The Authors Guild calls Audible's argument “unfounded” and “self-serving,” arguing that the captioning feature will create “an unauthorized version of the entire text” of audiobooks.

“Audible is seeking to make an end run around the Copyright Act under the guise of helping individuals with their reading,” the authors' group writes. “This, Audible should not be permitted to do, especially where Audible is depriving authors of the income they would otherwise receive from an actual license of such rights.”

The publishers also ask Caproni to reject Audible's argument.

Hachette and the others say they will face “irreparable harm” for numerous reasons, including that the written form of their books “will be devalued when offered by Audible as a free add-on.”

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