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Amazon's Audible sued by publishers over new text feature

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Amazon.com Inc's Audible was sued by publishers who claim a mobile-app feature planned by the audio-book company will violate copyrights by automatically converting narrated works into unauthorised text.

[NEW YORK] Amazon.com Inc's Audible was sued by publishers who claim a mobile-app feature planned by the audio-book company will violate copyrights by automatically converting narrated works into unauthorised text.

Audible's licenses for the audio-books don't include text versions, and the machine-generated transcriptions may contain errors that will harm the quality of the works, publishers including CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House LLC and Scholastic Corp said in the complaint filed Friday in Manhattan.

The lawsuit escalates longstanding conflicts between publishers and Seattle-based Amazon. They've previously sparred over issues as diverse as e-book pricing and counterfeiting.

"Audible's actions - taking copyrighted works and re-purposing them for its own benefit without permission - are the kind of quintessential infringement that the Copyright Act directly forbids," the publishers said in the complaint.

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The company said the new feature is intended to engage the "first generation of non-readers in our history" by presenting text with audio.

"We are surprised and disappointed by this action and any implication that we have not been speaking and working with publishers about this feature, which has not yet launched," Audible said in a statement posted online.

The feature, called Audible Captions, could compete with both physical books and eBooks as well as "cross-format" products that may incorporate both audio and text, the publishers said. Audible told the publishers that the new feature could have transcription errors of as much as 6 per cent, or about 18 pages of a 300-page book, according to the complaint.

The companies that sued are all members of the Association of American Publishers, which asked the court for an order that would block the feature from being launched while the case proceeds.

The case is Chronicle Books LLC v. Audible Inc., 19-cv-07913, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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