IBPA Backs US Publishers Association in Objections to ‘Audible Captions’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Amazon-owned Audible faces new pushback from publishing industry players, with 27 companies adding their names in support of the seven plaintiffs in the Association of American Publishers’ lawsuit.

Image – iStockphoto: Light Field Studios

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

IBPA’s Bole: Transcription Illegal Without Permission, Pay
The service organization that classifies itself as the largest publishing trade association in the United States, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), has added its membership’s objections to the “Audible Captions” functionality that’s now the subject of a seven-publisher lawsuit mounted by the Association of American Publishers.

“Many IBPA members have expressed concern over being pulled into the Audible Captions program without their consent.”Angela Bole, IBPA

The IBPA has filed a complaint with Amazon-owned Audible’s legal department, naming 27 independent publishers that are, like the seven large-publishing-house AAP plaintiffs, resisting the “Captions” development as an alleged copyright infringement.

Critics of Audible Captions say they make an unlicensed use of protected intellectual property, providing no payment or notification to rights holders and creating an unacceptable level of potential inaccuracy in delivery, too, as the system generates text from an audiobook’s narration.

Audible maintains the Captions are a service, supporting educational and accessibility interests. As Michael Cader has reported at Publishers Lunch, independent authors who produce audiobooks through Audible’s ACX program have also been told the company won’t activate Audible Captions on their copyrighted work until the legal process has

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the IBPA is a nonprofit organization that today, with 3,000 members, including independent publishers, small presses, mid-sized publishers, and some self-publishing authors n its membership base.

Angela Bole

In addressing the IBPA membership and asking for input on the issue, the organization’s CEO, Angela Bole, is quoted, saying, “Despite myriad well documented publisher and author concerns, Audible has continued to push its Captions program forward without proper due diligence.

“IBPA strongly agrees with AAP’s position that it is illegal for Audible to transcribe the audio for books under copyright without the permission of the copyright holders and without providing any compensation.”

In its letter dated Monday (September 9) and made available to Publishing Perspectives today (September 10) IBPA’s CEO Angela Bole says the following:

To: Stas Zakharenao, Head of Legal, Audible

Re: Independent publishers seeking exclusion from the Audible Captions program

“Dear Mr. Zakharenao,

“The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) supports the Association of American Publishers’ (AAP’s) lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the Audible Captions program.

“Many IBPA members have expressed concern over being pulled into the program without their consent. We hope to help those most concerned by broadening the number of publishers excluded from the program while the legal issues are being resolved.

“Thus, we respectfully request that works from the 27 publishers listed at the end of this letter also be excluded.

“IBPA is a 501(c)6 trade association serving the independent book publishing community since 1983. IBPA’s mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. Our vision is a world where every independent publisher has the access, knowledge, and tools needed to professionally engage in all  aspects of an inclusive publishing industry.

“In accordance with this mission and vision, we run educational and cooperative marketing programs, as well as advocate on behalf of independent publishers within the book industry at large.

Our headquarters are in Manhattan Beach, California, but our 3,185 members are situated nationwide.

“IBPA sees benefit in something like the Audible Caption program, but not without proper permission from the copyright holders and proper compensation to the creators.

“We hope you will honor our request to exclude works from these 27 publishers in the short-term, with an aim to reconfigure the program for the long-term benefit of all.”

Bole tells us that Audible has responded to the IBPA with the following statement:

“We have received your request.

“As we had not determined a specific release date for the full Captions program when the lawsuit was filed, we have chosen to wait until the outcome of the proceeding to release it.

“In the meantime, we are working to roll out Captions for public domain titles to over 150,000 US high school students in support of our educational focus.

“We look forward to a full rollout of Captions once the legal proceeding is resolved.”

The question of Audible Captions’ use on public domain works, as Bole notes in her correspondence with us, “has never been in contention.”

Audible: ‘We Look Forward to a Full Rollout’

A view of Audible Captions in action from the company’s video demo using text from Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield,’ which is in the public domain. Image: Audible

The 27 publishers formally requesting exclusion from Audible Captions through the IBPA are based in many parts of the United States, including New York, Texas, Washington state, California, Kansas, Maryland, Indiana, and New Jersey. They are:

  • Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd
  • Authors 4 Authors Publishing
  • Bridge Publications, Inc
  • BZCE Publishing
  • Citrine Publishing
  • City Owl Press
  • Dexterity
  • Dudley Court Press, LLC
  • Encourage Publishing
  • Fawkes Press, LLC
  • Hansen Publishing Group LLC
  • Histria Books
  • Ideapress Publishing
  • I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?
  • LaunchCrate Publishing
  • LifeTree Media
  • Mountain Brook Ink
  • Mythology Press
  • Our House Publications
  • Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC
  • Seatales Publishing Company
  • Secant Publishing, LLC
  • Shawn McHatton
  • Sic Semper Serpent Books
  • SPARK Publications
  • Square One Publishers
  • Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC

As we’ve reported, following the filing of the AAP lawsuit, instead of an originally expected September 5 hearing—which was in place because of an anticipated rollout  of Audible Captions on the 10th—a hearing now is set for September 25.

In the interim, Audible is to file its response to the AAP’s initial suit by Friday (September 13), and the plaintiff-publishers will need to answer with their filings by September 20.

The new hearing on the morning of the 25th is to be held in Judge Valerie Caproni’s court at the Southern District of New York.

The 10,000-member Authors Guild has also backed the AAP’s legal action against Audible.

More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, and more on the Association of American Publishers is here. More from us on the Independent Book Publishers Association  is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.