In a December 27 letter, lawyers for Audible and a group of seven major publishers reported that a settlement to end a closely watched copyright lawsuit over Audible’s proposed Captions program is within reach.
“Since at least October 22, 2019, the parties have been engaged in earnest settlement discussions to address this complicated, multi-party dispute with potentially significant implications,” Audible lawyer Emily Reisbaum reported to judge Valerie Caproni. “[A]s of the date of this letter, there are only a few outstanding issues requiring further negotiation,” Reisbaum noted, asking the court to again suspend consideration of two pending motions until January 13, 2020, “to allow for the prompt, complete, and mutually agreeable resolution of this matter.”
Reisbaum added that the parties have exchanged multiple drafts of “settlement documents” and were engaged in further discussions by phone and email during the week of December 23.
Since a September 27 hearing, the parties have written the court multiple times asking Caproni to refrain from ruling on two pending motions while talks were underway. But the December 27 letter is the first to explicitly mention a negotiated settlement since early October, when Caproni rejected a bid by Audible to have the matter referred to a magistrate judge for settlement discussions, after the publishers rejected the idea. Audible attorneys have since maintained their contention that an Audible proposal first presented to the publishers in October “moots” the lawsuit, with subsequent letters alluding only to the parties discussing a "potential resolution."
Although neither side has shared details of any proposal, an AAP spokesperson told PW that Audible has not presented a proposal they believe "moots" their lawsuit.
First filed in August of 2019 by seven publishers, the suit claims that Audible’s proposed Captions program, which scrolls a few words of an AI-generated transcription alongside an audiobook’s narration in the Audible app, is blatant copyright infringement. Audible, on the other hand, contends that the program is designed to enhance the audio experience, and is protected by fair use.
The two motions still under consideration include a motion for a preliminary injunction, filed by the publishers, which seeks to block Audible from including the plaintiff publishers’ works in the Caption programs until the broader copyright question is decided.
Audible, meanwhile, has countered with a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that because the parties have valid license agreements, the case is fundamentally a breach of contract case, and the copyright case is therefore defective.