Audible nears settlement over controversial AI captions feature

Brittany A. Roston - Dec 31, 2019, 2:45pm CST
Audible nears settlement over controversial AI captions feature

Back in August, Audible was sued by a handful of major publishing houses that took issue with its then-newly introduced AI-powered captions feature. As first revealed in July, Audible wants to introduce a captions feature that shows scrolling text in a window as an audiobook plays. The feature would prove useful for users, but raised questions over whether the company has the right to reproduce and deliver the text.

READ: Amazon’s Audible sued over AI-powered audiobook captions plan

Audible Captions, as the video below demonstrates, is a feature that would involve showing the auto-generated text for an audiobook as it plays. Users would only have access to a few lines of text at a time with the current words being read shown as white text. Users could read along as they listen.

There could be some benefits to this feature — for example, someone who doesn’t know a particular word could tap it in order to see the definition of it. This experience would be notably different from reading an ebook in the sense that users wouldn’t have access to all of the text at once.

Several publishing houses weren’t happy about this feature when it was introduced, however, arguing that Amazon didn’t have the right to reproduce text from the audio and provide that to its customers. According to a letter from Audible’s legal team recently published by Publisher’s Weekly, the company has been in ‘earnest settlement discussions’ with the publishing houses since October 22.

The letter asks the court to pause the case until January 13, 2020, giving the companies time to work out ‘a mutually-agreeable resolution.’ The terms of this proposed settlement haven’t been disclosed yet; it’s unclear whether Audible will be able to proceed with the feature and whether doing so will require it to pay for additional licensing rights.


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