Why Audible Is Being Sued by Publishers

On August 23, seven prominent members of the Association of American Publishers sued Amazon’s (AMZN) Audible for copyright infringement.

Margaret Patrick - Author

Aug. 27 2019, Updated 2:05 p.m. ET


On August 23, seven prominent members of the Association of American Publishers sued Amazon’s (AMZN) Audible for copyright infringement. The lawsuit aims to stop the tech giant from rolling out the Audible Captions service. The plaintiffs include Macmillan Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishers, Scholastic, Chronicle Books, and Simon & Schuster.

In the lawsuit, the publishers refer to Audible Captions as an unauthorized feature being launched by Amazon. They also claim that Audible Captions is repurposing copyrighted works for its own benefit. Besides, the company is not securing the approval of the original authors and publishers. In this manner, they claim that it’s infringing the Copyright Act.

Amazon has expressed disappointment about the lawsuit. It claims that Audible Captions “would allow such listeners to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance. It is not and was never intended to be a book.”

Amazon describes Audible Captions as a technology that can provide users with “machine-generated transcriptions to accompany Audible content.” The company plans to launch the feature in September.

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Audible settles class action lawsuits

In March, Audible offered 12 million free audiobooks and reimbursements to around 8.4 million users to end a class action lawsuit. The suit accused it of violating gift card laws and exhibiting dishonest behavior related to customers’ earned credits. Plaintiffs also blamed the company for charging customers through other payment mechanisms without express consent if a credit or debit card payment wasn’t successful. The company also agreed to pay $1.5 million in attorney fees.

Audiobook market opportunity

IBISWorld expects US audiobook sales to have been greater than $3.0 billion in 2018. The research agency also expects audiobook sales to have risen at a compound annual growth rate of 14.2% from 2013 to 2018.

To leverage this growth opportunity, Audible is entering into deals with content creators and production companies. On August 13, it entered into a development deal with Skybound Entertainment to expand its audio-only original offering for Audible customers.

In May, Audible and Hello Sunshine announced the launch of three coproduced audio-only originals. In February, the company entered into a deal with Broadway Video to produce audio-only comedy originals. To learn more about the Audible–Hello Sunshine deal, read How Can Amazon Benefit from the Hello Sunshine Partnership?


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