Is an audiobook a book? What about the captioning of an audiobook, for hearing impaired or for a quick reference? An ongoing legal battle between Audible and several major book publishers reckons with the definition of what a book even is.
Image via Publishers Weekly
How Audible’s new Captions technology works is it scrolls a few words of AI-generated captioning to accompany an audiobook’s narration. Audible responded last week with a motion of their own, calling for the publishers’ suit to be dismissed. The legalese of the motion is a tad complex, but here’s the gist of the latest development.
Audible claims its technology constitutes fair use. The motion to dismiss explains this claim as follows:
After listeners purchase an audiobook—and Plaintiffs and their clients are compensated—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. This will facilitate access for listeners who have difficulty engaging with audiobooks (or literature in general).
Thus, Audible’s lawyers argue, Audible Captions is in line with the purpose of copyright law: “to expand public learning while protecting the incentives of authors to create for the public good.”
In our previous coverage of this ongoing story, we wrote that publishers were angry with Audible because they didn’t give the audiobook platform permission to publish text versions of their titles because e-books require a separate licensing agreement. Audible’s lawyers also argue that claims they have not breached their licensing contract because the user of Audible Captions never has full access to the complete text of the title they’re listening to:
Audible Captions is not a book of any kind, much less a replacement for paper books, e-books, or cross-format products.
The Captions in action / Image Via Publishing Perspectives
Though the encrypted text is cached on the reader’s device, Audible’s lawyers highlighted the fact that the reader never has direct access to it, so the captions cannot be used except in tandem with the audio recording. Since they’ve paid to license the audio version of the publisher’s titles, and since the text generated by Audible’s technology is not a book in any sense, Audible argues there should not be an issue.
Audible’s lawyers make a convincing argument, and it’s definitely interesting to see how crucial the concept of what a books is to this debate.
Featured Image via The Daily Beast