Major book publishers have filed a lawsuit against Amazon-owned Audible over a new speech-to-text feature that they claim violates copyright law.
The seven publishers that jointly filed the lawsuit in the Southern District Court of New York on Friday include the Big Five, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, as well as Chronicle Books and Scholastic.
Audible's Caption Feature
Audible's Caption feature was initially unveiled last month and is set to go live in September in partnership with public schools in the United States.
It uses machine learning to transcribe spoken words into written ones so users can read the text while listening to an audiobook.
The problem is that Audible is doing this based on audiobook recordings, which have separate licenses to ebooks and physical books.
The company neither appears to be getting the necessary licenses needed to reproduce the written versions of these recordings.
Book Publishers Accuse Audible Of Violating Copyright Law
The plaintiffs, who are all members of the Association of American Publishers, argue that that the new feature is tantamount to a copyright infringement, claiming that the law gives them the right to control the distribution of the books in different formats. Since audio is a different format from text, they reason that Audible needs a separate license.
Audible, however, could be doing something different and it could use this as a legal basis for the use of the controversial feature.
Different From Flipping Pages When Reading A Book
It reasoned that Caption is different from a book as listeners cannot read at their own pace or flip through the pages as they could when reading an eBook or a print book.
Instead, users would have to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text while they listen to the audio performance.
"We disagree with the claims that this violates any rights and look forward to working with publishers and members of the professional creative community to help them better understand the educational and accessibility benefits of this innovation," Audible said in a statement following the lawsuit.