This post is specifically for authors.
It’s about what to do if someone claims they own the copyright to the book you wrote, and they submit a takedown notice to a retailer to have your book removed. (And the retailer believes them!)
I don’t know how many authors have run into this scenario, but this week, it happened to me. My goal in writing this is to warn you so that you can be prepared in case it happens to you. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Earlier this week, I received an email from KDP saying that they wanted to make sure I was the copyright holder to my paperback book titled Falling In Love With Her Husband. I thought I had triggered something in the system when I changed the glossy format to matte for the book. I had heard other authors say stuff like this happened to them when they made similar changes, and that it was no big deal. All you had to do was reply with a, “Yes, I own the copyright,” and all was good.
So I did what had worked for other authors in the past.
But this situation was different. Why? Because in this instance, someone had claimed I had stolen my own book!
Yesterday morning, I got an email from KDP saying this:
Thank you for the information you provided regarding the following book(s):
Falling In Love With Her Husband: A North Dakota Historical Romance
Ruth Ann Nordin (A2D76D4TTMXLJ0)
Prior to your submission, we received a notice and takedown for a book that matches to yours, from a third party claiming that the distribution of the book above was not properly authorized due to copyright infringement
We don’t involve ourselves in third party disputes and because we have not received any communication from the involved parties that the matter has been resolved, we have determined that we will not be making the book(s) available for sale on Amazon at this time.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
Fortunately, I had registered my book with the US Copyright Office, so I have the Certificate of Registration. I scanned it into my computer and then took a screenshot of my KDP dashboard showing the paperback linked to the ebook where you can see the dates of publication and the ASIN numbers for the paperback and ebook version. (Amazon refers to the ISBN as ASIN in my dashboard.)
As a side note, if this happens in the future, I’ll also add links to where my book is on other retailers. I didn’t think to do that yesterday.
So I attached these the Certificate of Registration for Falling In Love With Her Husband and the screen, along with this email:
The person who reported the takedown notice has stolen my book. I am attaching two things. One is the US Copyright Registration form, and the other a screenshot of my KDP dashboard that shows I have published this book originally through CreateSpace and that it was published in 2009. I am the copyright owner of this book. I am the only publisher of this book. I have not given permission to anyone else to publish this book.Please check my KDP dashboard if you need further proof. You can compare the ebook to the paperback to see that I wrote the paperback.My book’s url is this: https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Love-Her-Husband-Historical/dp/1441492461/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=falling+in+love+with+her+husband&qid=1561568183&s=gateway&sr=8-1Please notice the date of publication and the fact that the ASIN is 1441492461. This matches the books ISBN.The stolen book’s url is this: https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Love-Her-Husband-Historical/dp/B01F81R18Y . Notice the the ISBN does not match. Also, notice that this person (who has no rights to publish this book) does not even list out the book title the same way I do. I would never title (2009-04-24) in a title. I don’t know where “CreateSpace Independent Publis (1750)” is, but I suspect it is not in the United States.I live in the United States. I have registered this book with the US Copyright Office. That copyright is effective as of June 19, 2011. I am sending an attachment of the scanned copyright certificate.I’m reporting a takedown notice on the stolen book ( https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Love-Her-Husband-Historical/dp/B01F81R18Y). Whoever uploaded this is an imposter. He/she did not write the book. They have no rights to publish it.Let me know if you need anything else on my end.Thank you,Ruth Ann Nordin
This is what KDP sent me a few hours later:
Congratulations! The following book(s) you recently submitted have been reviewed and were successfully passed:
“Falling In Love With Her Husband: A North Dakota Historical Romance ” ID: PRI-C1Y33J3X85V
The book(s) will soon be published on Amazon. Please allow up to 48 hours for the book(s) to become available in the Amazon Store.
We look forward to offering your book to millions of Amazon customers and wish you the best of luck in promoting and selling your work!
Thanks for using Amazon KDP
As of this moment, the stolen book is still up. I’m keeping an eye on it. Back in 2011, someone stole a couple of my books, and Amazon was refusing to take one of them down. I spent three weeks trying to get them listen to me, but they wouldn’t. So, I had to get a copyright lawyer to contact Amazon for me. Within an hour, the book was removed. Copyright lawyers can do some things I can’t with Amazon. I’ve decided that if that stolen book isn’t removed by next week, I’m going to get a copyright lawyer involved.
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to every author is to register your book’s copyright. In the US, that is the US Copyright Office. (If you live outside the US, I would look up whatever place you have available to do this, if there is one.) I know it takes time to do this, and I realize it can be expensive to many out there. It’s currently $55.00 to file online with the US Copyright Office, and since I make paperback versions, I have to buy two of them and mail them in. So when all is said and done, I spent almost $100 to register one book. If you don’t do paperbacks, you can just file the ebook version. But I would rather pay $100 to have proof on hand that I own the copyright to my own book so that when stuff like this happens, I’m ready for it.
Some people might say that my particular case is rare. Back in 2011 when I had three books stolen, people told me it was rare to have your books stolen. Yet in the following years, I’ve heard many stories of authors who have had books stolen from them and put up for sale on different retailers. (Most of the time, it’s Amazon, but no retailer is immune from this.)
Anyway, what might be rare right now could be commonplace tomorrow. It doesn’t hurt to have the copyright certificate on hand. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but in case you do, it makes life a whole lot easier when you’re trying to prove you wrote the book.
That’s scary that people can actually get Amazon to believe them and take YOUR book down. I wish the copyright office would make it more affordable for authors to register the copyright.
It is scary!
I think the copyright office saw a way to increase revenue and ran with it. Before last year, the cost was $35 if you filed online. Then they put it up to $55, which is what it was to file by mail. I don’t see the prices going down. Maybe after enough authors quit, they will, or maybe there will be something in technology that makes the process go faster. Those are the two cases I can see them lowering the price.
Troll People find so many ways to steal, and steal your peace. I think (I hope) that I could recognize your unique style whatever name is on your book. I would be angry if I had purchased a high-jacked copy of your book. There should be penalties for that, though it’s probably difficult to uphold U.S.A. laws in a foreign country. You certainly handled a horrible situation well, Ruth.
This person took my entire book files and uploaded them so it was almost impossible to tell the difference. I had to give the page a careful look to notice the subtle distinctions. However, if someone were to write a book and claim me as the author, that would be harder to deal with. Amazon and other retailers automatically link up the author’s name to the other books. So if someone with my name were to publish something, it would link back to me, and people would think I wrote it. With the rise in ghostwriters being used, that seems like a sickening possibility. 😦 I think you and others familiar with my work would be able to tell the difference. I’m just not sure how to get retailers to separate out my books from the ones I didn’t write. What a mess.
You should have seen me yesterday. I was so frazzled that I was blubbering like an idiot. 🙂
I would have been freaking out, too. The possibilities you’ve mentioned never would have occurred to me. Still, I admire how you handled it. Your fans will stick up for you.
Thanks, Mary! I always appreciate your encouragement!
Good of you to warn us, Ruth. It’s terrible that someone would try to do that to you. At least you came prepared.
Not having a game plan would make a stressful situation even worse. I hate to come out and say this, but I’m glad my books got stolen in 2011 so that I had that experience to go on. If I hadn’t gone through that, I would have been completely lost on what to do.
And now we won’t be lost. That, in my faith, is known as a mitzvah.