Saturday, June 15, 2013

How to start taking ownership of your stolen words


DISCLAIMER:  I am not a lawyer and the following should not be taken as nor substituted for professional legal advice.  This is only a compilation of information that is readily available online.
If you think someone is publishing your work without your permission, there are steps you can take to protect yourself before -- but not instead of -- going to a lawyer. 

If the infringing work has been published on Amazon by the Kindle Direct Publishing program (KDP), you can notify Amazon directly. 

On the book's Kindle listing page, all the way down at the bottom, past the reviews and everything else, is a box with four Feedback options.

The fourth option is "Do you believe this item violates a copyright?"  If you believe YOUR work has been infringed, click here for additional information.  Remember:  You cannot report a violation of anyone else's copyright, only your own.  And no one else can report a violation of your copyright;  you must do it yourself.

Clicking on the link will take you to the page on Amazon's Terms of Service with the information on reporting a copyright violation. 

In addition to the physical address for mailing notification, there is an email address:

The sooner you initiate the reporting, the sooner the infringing work can be removed from the Amazon site.

Be prepared to provide evidence of your ownership of your words.  Did you write someone an email and they published it without your knowledge?  That's infringement; you may need to provide a copy of the email.  Did someone copy a page from your blog and publish it on KDP without your permission?  That's infringement; provide Amazon with a link to your blogpost.

If you gave someone verbal permission to use your work but there is no written evidence of that consent, then there is no valid contract and they have no legal right to publish your work.  That is infringement.

If you have any evidence of written permission, even if it is just an email to the person saying "Yes, feel free to use my story in your collection," that may not be sufficient legal standing for the person to continue to publish your work.  If the infringer is offering the work for sale, there should (and in some cases must )  be a written contract that spells out all the specific details of how the work is going to be used, where it is going to be published, how the copyright holder will be compensated, and what derivative rights are involved.

One of the downsides of instant digital publishing is that many people are using this marvelous technology without understanding the fine legal points of what it means to put something into the public marketplace.  Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's free for the taking and publishing.  Just because there's an informal agreement doesn't mean that agreement will hold up in a court of law.

And speaking of courts of law, the laws pertaining to copyright differ from one country to another.  Amazon is a U.S. company, but it operates and sells in many countries and its KDP program likewise crosses many international boundaries.  You absolutely must get professional legal advice regarding any further steps, but contacting Amazon/KDP immediately is one step you can take on your own.

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