This is just an update on the scenario I recently ran into when someone stole one of my paperback books, published it as if they were me, and then claimed that I stole the book.
My paperback book is safe and sound on Amazon, and I got the scammer’s stolen book removed!
That’s the short and sweet of the update. But I thought I’d share some other things that are going on in my mind right now regarding the importance of protecting our copyright.
As it turns out, there is an alarming trend where thieves or scammers (whatever you want to call them) are taking paperback books and publishing them. Their goal is to get people to buy that book and make money off of it. This, in turn, will make it so that the legitimate author does not get paid. It’s a scam. Another author shared this blog post detailing it on Facebook. But to make long story short, I’m not the only one who’s been hit by this. The thing that made my situation unique was that the scammer actually sent Amazon a takedown notice on my own book. (For those unaware, a takedown notice is basically a “copyright infringement” claim. You’re accusing another person of stealing your work.)
As a quick disclaimer, Amazon is not the only retailer that is vulnerable to scams. I remember last year (or was it two years ago?) when scammers were taking a lot of Kindle Unlimited (KU) books and publishing them on Apple. (Most authors in KU can’t have that ebook anywhere but Amazon.) In that scenario, the scammer was pretending to be the publishing house for those books. These authors found out about this, and as far as I know, they were able to get rid of those scammers. I haven’t heard of anything since. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on. It’s just that I’m not aware of it.
Anyway, I know most authors won’t heed my advice about registering the copyright of your books based on the cost, but I still highly recommend it. The paperback book that was stolen from me makes me $0 a year. But it’s my book. I wrote it. The characters are a part of me. The story means something to me. To see someone steal my characters who were in my story was a lot more painful to go through than any of the income losses I’ve taken over the last few years. It was like someone came after one of my kids. I had to fight to protect it, just as I’d fight for one of my kids.
To me, paying $55 to protect one of my books is worth it because it was my first line of defense against the scammer. A second line would have been contacting a copyright lawyer. Back in 2011, I hadn’t registered any of my books with the US Copyright Office because I didn’t think anyone would steal them and try to sell them. But I was wrong. I had three books stolen and put up for sale by someone pretending to be me. These were the ebook versions. Amazon did remove two of those books, but they weren’t removing the third one because I had only published it on Smashwords. It was only a few pages long, and it wasn’t a romance. I saw no point in having it on Amazon. It cost me about $100 to get a copyright lawyer to contact Amazon in order to get that book removed because I didn’t have a Certificate of Registration to prove I was the copyright holder.
I guess you could argue that since I have over 90 books total out there (and all copyrighted) that I have paid way more over the years than I would pay a lawyer, and you’d be right. Seeing a lawyer would be cheaper. But these books are going to outlive me, and their copyright will extend beyond my lifetime. Someone is going to have to deal with my books after I die, and if I can make their life easier by having registered my copyrights, then that is a gift I gladly give to them. Also, I don’t know which book(s) the next scammer will pick. It’s in my best interest (and my estate’s best interest) to protect all of them.
I don’t think I’ve seen the last of these scammers. They hit me in 2011 and again in 2012 (2012 was under a pen name’s books). And they’ve now hit me again. I’m not negative. I’m actually a positive person. But I am a realist. If this has already happened to me three times now in the past 11 years since I first got my feet wet with CreateSpace (which used to be Amazon’s paperback publishing platform) and in the past 10 years that I’ve been in ebooks, it’s likely that I’ll have to go through this again.
All I can say is that having registered my copyright made things a lot easier than they did when I didn’t. This time around, I scanned in the Certificate of Registration I got from the US Copyright Office and sent it to Amazon. Amazon kept the paperback up. After that, I went to the copyright infringement form on Amazon’s site and filled it out on the scammer’s copy of my paperback book. I was able to give Amazon the registration number for the book that came from the US Copyright Office. (There was no option to scan the form in again and send it to them.) It took a week, but the scammer’s copy is now gone. I appreciate the fact that Amazon worked with me on this issue, and I truly believe one of the reasons they did was because I had registered my book with the US Copyright Office.
I’m sharing this information in case anyone needs it in the future or will run into someone who will need this information.
Wow, it’s amazing what dishonest people will do. *sigh*
I’ve heard horror stories about scammers pretending to be the IRS, offering grants/lottery winnings, retailers, and other stuff that you wouldn’t normally expect. These days, I don’t trust any source unless I can go directly to the site and see it for myself. Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just authors who get hit. 😦