New technologies, and the subsequent advances in those new technologies, present new problems, particularly for laws drawn up and passed years, if not decades ago. In fairness, it's hard to plan for a future that you can't predict, and you only have to take a look at the portrayals of the future (now our present) in the movies of the past to see how bad we are at guessing how things will shake out. Largely we've exceeded our own wildest dreams, though I'm still waiting on my hoverboard from Back to the Future Part II.
Where these changes leave IP rightsholders is in a position that finds them increasingly having to battle to assert their rights in previously unconsidered ways. Audiobooks aren't a new medium by any stretch, but like their textual companions, the digital revolution has brought with it considerable changes to how they're delivered and consumed. Largely gone are the bulky boxsets of CDs or, stretching back even further, cassette tapes; now everything is digital, delivered directly to your varied devices. These new advances present new opportunities for how the material can be enhanced in its presentation, but one such advance is drawing the ire of publishers.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, the parent company of audiobook distributor Audible, over a planned new feature, Audible Captions, that would pair text with the aural recitation of books, allowing listeners to follow along. The publishers assert that Amazon doesn't have the authorization to provide text along with audio, as they're only authorized to distribute audiobooks unadorned. One imagines that including text comes far too close to something like a book itself for the comfort of publishers, although it would seem to defeat the purpose of audiobooks to have to follow along with text as you're listening.
Still, the case highlights the growing problem of copyright law in a time when such additions and alterations are easier than ever before. The problem of piracy and theft are plain enough, but what about instances when streaming services want to enhance the viewing experience of your favorite movies or shows, or want to allow you to do so yourself? What of a world in which greater interactivity demands greater control, and the original works or artists risk becoming subject to the whims of the individual consumer millions of times over? It seems a fanciful idea, but then again, so did much of what we now take for granted in our internet and device-heavy lives.