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Ask HN: Help, I think Amazon is stealing my ebook (amazon.com)
212 points by latch on Aug 12, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

For what it's worth, it's not Amazon, but a highly scammy-seeming Amazon merchant: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/seller/at-a-glance.html?ie=UTF... ("Amazon Digital Services, Inc. US")

It's hard to believe Amazon lets merchants have "Amazon" in their name, but there it is.

If you don't get a reply from someone at AZ in a timely manner, I imagine you could go ahead and file a DMCA takedown as the copyright owner. They're making your copyrighted material available for download without your permission— This is exactly what it's for.

Actually, "Sold by: Amazon Digital Services" only means that it's a digital file delivered via the Kindle ditribution platform. For example, our book http://www.amazon.com/Programmare-Python-Italian-ebook/dp/B0... lists ThinkCode.TV as the publisher but it's still sold by Amazon Digital Services. This is true regardless of whether the book is self-published or not (e.g., http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B004IYIUN8/).

What's happening here is that someone took the freely available book and published it via Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, http://kdp.amazon.com/). Violations like this happen all the time and Amazon hates them. Simply contact them with a DMCA notice and they'll remove it right away.

It used to be common for people to publish no longer copyrighted classics and other freely available content through KDP. Nothing illegal about it, but people were so eager to make a quick buck for no work that it quickly got out of hand. The Kindle Store was inundated with such content, so Amazon had to become much more selective about it.

PRO Tip: Always include a message in your free ebooks (unless you allow commercial use) that if the digital copy of the book was sold, and not obtained for free, the reader should ask immediately for a refund and let you know about the violators. Most scammers are too lazy to go into the book and change it.

Thanks...I'm glad the company named is cleared up.

I did send a takedown notice on the 6th and haven't heard anything back.

Re the pro-tip..I did stick the license at the top..but, ya, that isn't very clear. In The Little MongoDB Book, I very clearly state that "You should not have paid for this book"

Why don't you telephone them? There is a telephone number given, along with detailed instructions of what to do in case of a copyright violation.

I'm a little surprised you'd write a blog post and get HN involved before picking up the phone.

It's 2011. Who picks up a phone? Phones are for texting, web surfing, and posting on HN.

I see... thanks for the correction. Why the hell does that merchant page exist, then?

"2.4 stars over the past 12 months (16 ratings)"

"Amazon Digital Services, Inc. US has not provided return and refund policies for display on Amazon. Please contact Amazon Digital Services, Inc. US to request a refund or get information about policies that may apply"

Highly confusing.

It is usually recommended to send a friendly email first, but I would skip that step with Amazon since they have an entire department and process built around receiving and acting on copyright claims under the DMCA.

You need to email copyright@amazon.com

The template to use is something like this:


You need to sign it, either physically or by dropping an image into the claim document (do it as a Word document or Google doc). Remember that it is a legal document, so you must be sure ('in good faith') that the claim is accurate, which may require that you either purchase a copy of the infringing book or downloading the sample to confirm that it is your content.

You can get more information at the bottom of this page:


(note: while I have sent out DMCA requests previously, I have never had to send one to Amazon, but the process is similar to dealing with other service providers)

Amazon Digital Services Inc, is, in fact a subsidiary Amazon.com. Here's a lawsuit filing, which cites this corporate entity as being domiciled in delaware:


More than once in the past, I've seen Amazon sell things on its own store using its own merchant "seller" accounts. This is a convenience for smaller divisions within amazon that want to sell using Amazon.com without setting up custom code on the Amazon.com store system (presumably.)

For instance, here's the page for the Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Special-Offers-Wireless-Reader/...

Which contains the text: "In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon Digital Services. Gift-wrap available."

Here's a kindle game they developed, with Amazon Digital Services as the creator:


Delaware lets you search corporations online: https://delecorp.delaware.gov/tin/GINameSearch.jsp

This let me confirm they exist (file 3892327) but doesn't show ownership or other info about them.

I see that you've released the book using the Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported" license, so it looks like Amazon is clearly in error here. Have you contacted them according to the instructions here? http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/102-5493...

There's a telephone number there-- I imagine you should be able to get this cleared up quickly.

I notice that on the Code Better page, http://codebetter.com/karlseguin/2008/06/25/foundations-of-p... , he says "I’m excited to finally release the official, and completely free, Foundations of Programming EBook.".

This could be interpreted, as there is no contradictory license statement on that page, as "this book is free-libre".

If "Amazon Digital Services" (which, if not originating with Amazon, has to be a Trademark violation that could lose Amazon their Trademark right if not challenged) counter the DMCA notice with such a statement I think that would leave the matter unresolved and Amazon wouldn't, IIRC, be obliged to take down the material. You'd have to lawyer up instead.

IA(quite obviously I'm sure)NAL.

But who would seriously interpret it that way, other than as a pedantic legal defense? ;-) When the newspaper says "Toy Story DVD Free Today!" it'd be odd to interpret that as assuming you could sell your own copies of Toy Story. I don't think authors necessarily have to stoop to defining everything in legally precise terms if the general term fits the case and, particularly, since copyright law is on their side already even if they say nothing.

All I'm saying is that it could be sufficient defence against a DMCA. He should IMO edit the page to state the license.

>if the general term fits the case//

The general term "completely free" means that I'm able to do absolutely anything with it without paying.

    The general term "completely free" means that I'm 
    able to do absolutely anything with it without paying.
In a court of law, it doesn't mean squat, unless the work itself has been released in public domain and even then, in some countries public domain doesn't apply or is limited.

That's why there's a copyright law that is applied implicitly and that's why releasing works should be accompanied by a real license that explicitly says what you're allowed to do.

The reason "completely free" does not mean anything is because it is ambiguous. If it refers to price, that doesn't mean you can redistribute it.

     that it could be sufficient defence against a DMCA
No it wouldn't.

>In a court of law, it doesn't mean squat //

This is more or less what I've been saying.

>because it is ambiguous //

Ambiguity was my claim initially if you read back.

Clearly you have a handle on DMCA take down notices that I don't. How, if an ambiguity in license isn't sufficient, does the DMCA protect from malicious take down notices. If what you say is true then it appears that one can simply submit a DMCA take down notice and the carrier is always required to remove the content without and need to demonstrate that it is infringing.

Obviously it's fine to remove content that is questionable, within ones ToS, but we're not looking at that.

Downvoters please explain how I detracted from the conversation. Thanks.

1. The ebook, page 3 clearly states the license as: > The Foundations of Programming book is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are basically free to copy, distribute and display the book. However, I ask that you always attribute the book to me, Karl Seguin, do not use it for commercial purposes and share any alterations you make under the same license.

2. Amazon would not bother to challenge the DMCA over that license. This is getting attention because Amazon refuses to take any action.

1. My previous post: "there is no contradictory license statement on that page".

First thing I did was dl it to check the license given in the book after I noticed there was none given on the web page other than "completely free".

He muddies the water further in your quote, "free to copy, distribute and display the book. However, I ask that you always attribute the book to me, Karl Seguin, do not use it for commercial purposes". So I can't use it at work but I can sell it. Of course that wasn't what he meant to say but that's what he did say. So which license applies "completely free", "NC use, but otherwise free" or NC-BY-SA?

2. As I understand it a DMCA take down notice is only effective if it is unchallenged, if there are some grounds to challenge it then there is no need by the receiver to take down the material. Lawyers then earn money arguing the legal niceties and a judge decides and if necessary injuncts the service provider to remove the material.

Amazon may of course choose independently to take the material down but I don't think they are obliged too. If they were then any challenge, even one that was clearly bogus would require material to be taken down.

Do you think these reasons are reasons for me not to have posted? Downvotes should be used to show that a comment isn't furthering the conversation or adding to it any way.

Did I not, by pointing out potential problems with licensing, further the conversation.

It's kinda orthogonal to the discussion but I think Amazon and "Amazon Digital Services" have acted very poorly, just in case you felt my comments endorsed them in some way.

It's the NonCommercial part that they are breaking. You can sell Creative Commons stuff on Amazon's KDP if it allows commerical reuse (obviously you'll have to turn off the DRM option)

Um, that's exactly what Michael said.

Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement

If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please provide Amazon.com's copyright agent the written information specified below. Please note that this procedure is exclusively for notifying Amazon that your copyrighted material has been infringed.

    An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest;
    A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed upon;
    A description of where the material that you claim is infringing is located on the site, including the auction ID number, if applicable;
    Your address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
    A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
    A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner's behalf. 
Amazon.com's Copyright Agent for notice of claims of copyright infringement on its site can be reached as follows:

    Copyright Agent 
    Amazon.com Legal Department 
    P.O. Box 81226 
    Seattle, WA 98108 
    phone: (206) 266-4064 
    fax: (206) 266-7010 
    e-mail: copyright@amazon.com 

    Courier address: 
    Copyright Agent 
    Amazon.com Legal Department 
    410 Terry Avenue North 
    Seattle, WA 98109-5210 

Thanks, I'll try snail mail. However, I did send a DMCA takedown notice to copyright@amazon.com (the address they have registered for such complaints).

Perhaps take this under advisement ...

You might want to consider creating a blog post outlining carefully the situation, the steps you've taken, and the responses you've had. Be careful to state only what you have concrete evidence for, and/or mark very clearly bits that are supposition or deductions.

Mark things clearly with the date and time - make your records of the progress (or otherwise) public. After a few days, start to publicize the page.

Be visible.

When the whole episode is over you will have a documented story of your interaction with Amazon - this could be priceless to those that follow.

I wrote down my story so far: http://openmymind.net/2011/8/12/Amazon-Is-Selling-My-Free-Eb...

Not sure what the purpose of waiting a couple days are to be public about it.

Thanks for the suggestion.

  "Not sure what the purpose of waiting a
   couple days are to be public about it."
If someone had a dispute with me, I'd appreciate a couple of days to clear things up before they chose to escalate it by going public. This is something you need to decide on - do you want the whole thing to be public, which might make someone on the other side be more cautious about what they say, and possibly just "lawyer up" instead of negotiating in good faith.

But I'm not in the USA.

Yes, please do that. It would be read by everyone else who has encountered this problem and help them resolve it too. I can spread it around eBook and writing sites.

I should have pointed out that on the 6th of august I sent a DMCA takedown notice to copyright@amazon.com (the address they have registered for such complaints) and haven't heard anything since.

You may want to send a letter via certified mail, return receipt requested, to the address provided http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/list/a_agents.html

You're not the only one, it's been noticed before by a bunch of SFF writers here: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012933.html

Includes suggestions to file DCMA takedowns, and generally how much amazon doesn't care.

I wonder, in idle speculation, if a three strikes law would remove their internet connection for three instances of trying to sell a copyrighted work where they don't have a license to distribute it.

I wonder, in idle speculation, if a three strikes law would remove their internet connection for three instances of trying to sell a copyrighted work where they don't have a license to distribute it.

Surely you know better than to think that corporations are held to the same standards as individuals ;).

I assume you've contacted Amazon? Have they responded? A little more info would be useful...

yes, on august 6th i sent a DMCA takedown notice, based on one of many templates I found online. I wasn't sure how long it should take, but it seems like 1-3 days is what people consider reasonable.

I also found a number of article suggesting that Amazon has ignored DMCA notices in the past, which is what caused me to escalate it.

I just looked at the Amazon sale page and saw it had one review from the author saying that he is the copyright holder, then refreshed the page and the review was gone.

So it seems that Amazon is aware of the problem and is deliberately continuing to distribute his book while concealing any information about the copyright challenge.

I read this e-book when it first came out. It is excellent. Probably the best thing I read that year.

I agree wholeheartedly - OP, I am sorry this is happening to you, but I am so glad that you wrote this book. It takes a lot to make me want to stand up and cheer after reading a book! :)

This happened with a report my research group put out. The work was paid for by the U.S. government, and posted free on our web site.

Some publisher downloaded it, slapped on an ugly cover, and started selling it on Amazon.

We talked about whether to do anything about it, but in the end decided not to. At this point, the details are a little hazy, but it was some combination of "meh", "we did the research on the public behalf, so as long as the information is available, we're happy", and "our legal advisor says it would cost more to pursue than this rinky-dink report can justify".

PDF of the work in question: http://securebuildings.lbl.gov/images/BldgAdvice.pdf

I would just leave a review with the link to the free copy.

Great book, read it awhile ago. As you've probably figured out, there's been a lot of articles written about content publisher spam and content harvesting...

Seems like Amazon needs to get their systems together to deal with this stuff quicker, much like YouTube.com.

Hmm is this also happening with Learn Python The Hard Way?


Available for Kindle on Amazon but no mention on the official site?

zed confirmed that the book is official: http://twitter.com/#!/zedshaw/status/102019632772288512

Looks like this is a common problem and Amazon's starting to take it seriously: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/amazon-cracks-down-...

Perhaps you could sell a 99 cents version on Amazon?

I appreciate the thought, but I'm pretty strongly opposed to charging for tech books (http://openmymind.net/2011/3/31/Why-I%27d-Never-Charge-For-A...) and having to charge just so someone else can't isn't right.

Think of it this way; at $0.99, the buyer is paying for Amazon's distribution services and nice formatting, and getting the content for free!

No, seriously, I have a Kindle, and I would much rather pay $0.99 for a nicely formatted book managed by their backend than hunt down a poorly formatted free version. Plus it is easy for you to update the book.

$0.99 is hardly profiteering, and I feel like in standing on principal you eliminate a possibility everybody would be happy with.

Yeah, though I think $.99 is kind of steep for this feature, it is probably worth some money to me to get the cross device sync feature that having it be on the kindle platform provides. I can read from my phone, my kindle, my browser and it saves my place. I think that's honestly worth more like... $.25 or $.10 to me instead of $.99 but it's definitely worth something.

Of course, if they provided it for free, I'd be happy, too :)

The 99 cents is arbitrary. Basically any number low enough to keep you from getting scammed. I was "yes, helpful" vote number 154 this morning. Hard to imagine too many others buying it.

The charity idea is a good one too. Or you could create a beer fund for your fan base. :-) Or follow Knuth's example for people who find errors.

I suspect this will all be resolved to your satisfaction shortly. Please keep us informed.

Why not make it available for $0.99 and then donate the proceeds to charity?

Send Amazon a DMCA takedown notice and alert the seller as well.

The link is now dead. I think that means you succeeded!

Great promotion opportunity. Run with it.

It's a pretty old book that I'm not sure people should still be reading, let alone pay for. But, if you want promotion, you could always read The Little MongoDB Book (http://openmymind.net/2011/3/28/The-Little-MongoDB-Book) it's also free though....(and I'm constantly keeping an eye on Amazon for it now).

I will. See - it works!

i dont think they will sell anyway... out of the 16 feedbacks they have received... 63% are negative...

Great, ordered it!

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