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Major book publishers are challenging Amazon & # 39; s Audible for new speech-to-text feature

Some of & # 39; the world's largest book publishers today filed a joint lawsuit against the audible audio company Audible, which is owned by Amazon, about a new, controversial speech-to-text feature that the literary industry claims to be a violation of the copyright.

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The lawsuit, brought before the Southern District Court of New York, includes the Big Five: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. It also includes the San Francisco-based publisher Chronicle Books and Scholastic, the main publisher of children who hold publishing rights for Harry Potter and The hunger Games.

Publishers have problems with Audible's new subtitle feature, which was introduced last month. The feature uses machine learning to turn spoken words into written words so that users can read while listening to an audiobook. The problem, however, is that Audible does this on the basis of audiobook recordings, which have separate licenses for physical books and e-books. The company apparently does not obtain the necessary licenses to reproduce the written versions of these works.

Because Audible relies on artificial intelligence, the company seems to be trying to distinguish between a newly created piece of text compiled using AI based on an audio recording, and the virtually identical text version of the book from which the audiobook is made . At the time of launch, Audible CEO Don Katz positioned Captions as an educational feature designed for schools, to tell USA today, "We know from years and years of work that parents and educators in particular understand that an audio experience of well-composed words is really important in developing students."

Amazon and Audible were not immediately available for comment.

"Audible's actions – taking copyrighted works and reusing them for their own benefit without permission – are the kind of material infringement that directly prohibits the Copyright Act," the complaint states. “If Audible is not prescribed, Audible will use for itself a format of digital distribution that is not allowed, devalue the market for cross-format products and harm publishers, authors and consumers who enjoy and rely on books. "

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