Amazon Self-Publishers Eye Emerging Legal Arena to Fight Piracy – Bloomberg Law


When Nick Singh’s self-published book “Ace the Data Science Interview” debuted on Amazon, he thought he’d evaded a big piracy risk by eschewing e-books and only releasing hard copies.

Singh’s guide to getting hired at Big Tech firms landed among Amazon’s top 3,000 best-selling books, but his success also put him in the crosshairs of counterfeit book printers that have proliferated on the online marketplace.

Less than a year after the book’s release, Singh said he spends several days each month pushing requests through Amazon’s take-down system for illegitimate listings, and he estimates he’ll lose 20% of his revenue this year to accounts hawking bootleg copies of his book.

Singh’s saga underscores broader copyright challenges that self-published authors face when publishing both physical and digital books with Amazon, a vertically integrated powerhouse that authors don’t always find responsive to or proactive about infringement claims. A new small-claims court could provide a fresh avenue for authors to recover revenue lost to counterfeit sales. But Amazon’s restrictive author contracts and the sheer number of third-party sellers on the platform spur questions about how effective any after-the-fact legal remedy can be.

“They’re the only vehicle—not only are they the publisher, they’re the seller,” said Katie Sunstrom, senior counsel at Mudd Law, of the dilemma Amazon authors face. “You’re beholden to them in two ways.”

Piracy Problems

Piracy and counterfeiting are by no means new issues to the book industry, but self-published authors often find they lack the resources and know-how to pursue individual sellers that are profiting from knockoffs of their work.

In 2019, the Authors Guild submitted comments to the Department of Commerce that said e-book piracy alone is an industry worth roughly $315 million annually. The group reported an “explosion” in counterfeit hard-copy books, especially among commercial nonfiction and fiction titles—educational textbooks have historically been the main book-piracy target.

Overseas and domestic counterfeit publishers can easily use their own printing presses, hire print-on-demand services, or go through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing arm to produce and sell bogus copies of popular books directly to consumers on Amazon, the group said.

Authors can take a hit on both fronts. Self-published author Parth Detroja has seen sales of illegitimate copies of his book “Swipe to Unlock” undercut sales of the legitimate copies—which he can identify based on the quality of the paper and printing and the size of the book, among other indicators.

Under his publishing contract with Amazon, Detroja said, it’s hard to understand why the company allows other sellers to ship poor-quality, illegally printed copies of his book to Prime-eligible warehouses, which often positions the copycat as the default choice for online shoppers in a hurry.

Matt Harrison, a self-published author and computer scientist, saw that an Amazon seller uploaded an e-book version of his …….


RSS Feeds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts