Major publishers are suing Audible, citing copyright infringement as they ask a federal judge to enjoin the audiobook producer-distributor's planned use of captions for an education-driven program. The so-called "Big Five" of publishing—Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishers and Macmillan Publishers—are among the plaintiffs in the suit filed Friday in New York, the AP reports. The suit involves "Audible Captions," which Audible announced in July and indicated would be formally launched as students return this fall, with titles including "Catch-22" and ''The Hunger Games." The lawsuit says: "Audible Captions takes publishers' proprietary audiobooks, converts the narration into unauthorized text, and distributes the entire text of these 'new' digital books." Doing such a thing without permission, the suit adds, is "the kind of quintessential infringement that the Copyright Act directly forbids."
Other publishers suing are Scholastic and Chronicle Books. Audible, which is owned by Amazon.com and is the dominant producer in the thriving audiobook market, did not immediately comment. Audible Captions would be available for free to students and also could be used by Audible members who already pay a monthly fee. A video demonstration of the program uses Dickens' "David Copperfield" and shows computer-generated words on the screen of a smartphone as the narrator reads. Users won't be able to turn pages or read at their own pace, the company told the Verge, but Audible founder Don Katz said the program would help young people who struggle to read books. In Friday's lawsuit, publishers contend that Audible has acknowledged that up to 6% of a given book's captions would be erroneous, with mistakes including transcribing the Yiddish expression "mazel tov" as "mazel tough." (Samuel L. Jackson narrated a kids' book that's not for kids.)