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The Authors Guild Files “Friend of the Court” Brief in Audible Captions Case

On September 23, the Authors Guild, together with the Association of Authors’ Representatives, filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief supporting the American Association of Publishers in their lawsuit to prevent Audible from releasing its new “Captions” feature. Captions would display text synced with audiobook narration, without the permission of the author or publisher who has the legal right to control how the book is distributed to the public. Rights are divisible under the copyright law, and authors may license electronic text and audio rights to different entities. Audible’s plans to create text renditions of the audiobooks usurps the authors’ right to separately license rights to different formats. The Guild’s brief addresses the impact the Captions program might have on authors and their representatives, both by depriving them of licensing fees for the ebook rights in their work, and by discouraging others from entering into exclusive licenses for ebooks at all, since “an ebook publisher seeking to acquire exclusive digital rights may be deterred by audiobook publishers like Audible whose two-in-one product would threaten to whittle away the ebook publisher’s exclusive rights.”

The Guild and AAR also argued that the Captions program will be injurious to authors’ reputations because the automated text renderings contain multiple errors in the text and lack proper punctuation and paragraphs: “Authors and publishers put enormous effort into line editing, copy editing, and proofreading each book they publish. Audible effectively undoes all of this important work with its Captions feature. Authors thus face a significant threat in the loss of control of their work and harm to the value of their work.” 

A hearing on the preliminary injunction was held today. Judge Valerie Caproni was well-prepared and asked thoughtful questions about harm to authors’ reputations, divisibility of the markets, and fair use. She will issue her opinion at a later time.

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