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Audible Settles with Publishers in Audible Caption Lawsuit

Remember that lawsuit from last August over Audible’s new captioning feature, the feature that everyone is publishing was soooo absolutely certain was infringing on copyright?

Well, the publishers didn’t win the injunction they wanted, or the summary judgement that many assumed would occur, but it has come to a close – in a settlement.

PW has published a letter (PDF) that Amazon’s law firm sent to the judge overseeing the case.  The letter does not reveal any juicy details, but it does say that the parties had reached a settlement. The letter asked the judge to give the parties until 21 January to submit settlement documents to the court for its consideration and approval.

This was a curious case. I was just about the only one following the case that wasn’t convinced it was a slamdunk for the seven publisher plaintiffs. Instead, I thought this case had an excellent chance of following in the footsteps of Google Books and expanding fair use. Like Google Books, Audible Captions was a transformative use that did not replace any existing format, so it seemed to me that Audible could win this case on its merits.

As the case dragged on for months with no ruling or injunction, it seemed I was right. And they way the judge pressured both sites to work out a compromise suggested that this was not nearly as clear cut as some would think.

We will have to wait for the settlement to be announced before we know more, obviously.

Audible did not answer my emails asking for details on the details of the settlement or how it would affect Audible Captions, and PW reports that the AAP had no comment at this time.


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Allen F January 16, 2020 um 2:09 am

I’d place a bet that if this had gone to court and been ruled on it would have opened up other things to that ruling that certain people will very not want to see set in stone.

Like that agency pricing that Apple and the big 5 thought would hamstring Amazon; they got their agency pricing, but it hurt the big 5 and Apple far more than it did Amazon. (I actually got a laugh out of the big 5 later trying to place the blame for agency pricing on Amazon when Amazon was the one that had never wanted it in the first place.)

Disgusting Dude January 17, 2020 um 6:24 am

The case that came to mind was the Random House Peanut Press lawsuit from 2002.
RH wanted a summary judgment that the print contract from tbe 70’s granted them digital rights, too.
The judge declined and signaled an inclination to rule ebooks were a separate product that didn’t exist at the time and so required a separate contract.
RH settled and pretended the case never happened.

Marilynn Byerly January 20, 2020 um 11:51 am

This is the flip side of the text-to-speech rights grab by Amazon Kindle. In that case, since TTS hadn’t really been defined by a court case as either a separate right or not and a case was more expensive than the value of the right, Amazon ended up offering an opt-in for the author/publishers. I imagine this settlement will be the same.

For anyone interested, here are two articles on the TTS lawsuit.

An overview of the case:

Amazon’s settlement:

Bill Rosenblatt January 21, 2020 um 9:26 am

Marilynn, I think you hit the nail on the head. This was about publishers getting a license fee for the captions because (as I presume) Audible’s competitors, e.g., pay one. Then it was about weighing a license fee against litigation costs, including the inevitable appeals if this case went all the way to trial. In that light, I wouldn’t expect that the details of the settlement will be made public.

Episode 303 – Meaning, Street Teams, and Amazon Ads | Sell More Books Show January 22, 2020 um 6:01 am

[…] #5: That’ll Teach ‘em News #4: An Audible Groan (1) News #4: An Audible Groan (2) News #3: Challenge Accepted (1) News #3: Challenge Accepted (2) News […]

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