An insidious form of piracy is on the rise again, and you may already be a victim.
When Vancouver attorney and author Rebecca Merry Murdock checked Amazon listings for her debut book, she found something strange. The listing for her ebook version was not linked to her author page or the print version of her book. Amazon’s support team remedied the problem by linking the ebook to the print version and her author profile.
Weeks later, Rebecca noticed that a search for her book brought up an unfamiliar ASIN (Amazon’s unique catalog number).
An imposter had stolen the content of her book, uploaded it to Amazon, and created an exact duplicate of her real sales page. That imposter had been collecting royalties for the sale of Rebecca’s book. The imposter’s sale page was indstinguishable from the real one, and worse — it was now linked to her official author page.
And as a final insult, the counterfeit page appeared first when customers searched for Rebecca’s title.
Rebecca again contacted Amazon’s support, and was told to contact the counterfeit book’s publisher:
I checked our records and found that the Kindle title “Rocco’s Wings” (ASIN: [redacted]) was published through another publishing company, which is a different channel outside of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
We’re unable to delete the book or have the royalties transferred to you since your book was published through a different channel from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I’m sorry if this may cause any inconvenience.
We recommend that you contact the publisher directly for assistance.
Thanks for your cooperation.
Rebecca holds exclusive rights to the book, which is published under her own imprint, Bark & Howl Press. “If a third party has a separate ASIN, any sales go to their account, not the authorized copyright holder,” she explained. “With all of Amazon’s algorithms for sniffing out fraud you’d think they’d be on top of this one.”
After pointing out to the support team that this was a copyright infringement case, she was referred to Amazon’s copyright/trademark division. One week later, she received notice that the infringing content was being removed, and would disappear from the catalog within three days.
And the stolen royalties?
Although Amazon’s Anti-Counterfeiting Policy states that “if we determine that a seller account has been used to engage in fraud or other illegal activity, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited,” there is no indication that Rebecca will be compensated for months of stolen royalties.
Victims of piracy on Kindle Direct Publishing may be able to claim the royalties from the pirated works.
Can You Protect Yourself from Counterfeiters?
The short, unsettling answer is that you cannot prevent counterfeiting, but you can be proactive about detecting and disabling infringing content.
- Assemble a list of the ASINs for each version of your books.
- Search retailers regularly to ensure that only legitimate copies with your ASINs are present.
- File a copyright infringemment report immediately when counterfeits are discovered.
Don’t bother contacting customer service for copyright issues; go directly to the legal department. Amazon provides an online form for filing a copyright infringement notice, or you can email your own DMCA notice to Amazon’s legal department, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before you file a complaint, be sure that you’re actually dealing with a counterfeiter. Authors often become alarmed when they find listings for their books at inflated prices, or listings for a book that hasn’t been released yet. Understand that third-party resellers often use automated systems that generate listings for books at slightly above or below the official sale price. Generally, these sellers don’t actually have possession of the book; when they receive an order, they simply order a copy from the official source, then ship it at a profit.
The product being sold in these cases is the legitimate product with the correct ASIN, and these third-party resellers are legal and permitted by Amazon. Don’t mistake them for counterfeiters.
A counterfeit book will show an unfamiliar ASIN, and that’s your tip-off to the fraud.