Protecting Your Work

From Booklife:

The recent suspensions of authors from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for “copyright infringement”’ provide a powerful lesson on the importance of protecting one’s work. During this year’s BookLife Indie Author Forum, I took part in a panel discussion devoted to copyright issues. Last year, I also facilitated a roundtable discussion by the Independent Book Publishers Association, during which we talked about the hot topic of KDP suspensions for copyright infringement.

Case in point: I have an author-publisher friend who had a book on Amazon since the CreateSpace days without incident. For years, this book had been in publication, and the author owned the copyright. Several months ago, the author received an email from KDP saying that the book included copyright or trademark infringement and that their entire account would be suspended. For a publisher, this is a major problem.

The author’s inquiries about the reason and requests for further documentation and resolution were ignored. He contacted KDP on a regular basis, and, because of his persistence, the account was magically restored, and the book is live again. Compared with some of the other horror stories I’ve heard, my friend should be happy.

Another author told me he spent over $20,000 in legal fees for two books after KDP suspended his account for “copyright infringement.” His requests for clarification were ignored, and no resolution has been provided. Is anyone safe?

If you’re anything like me, you might think that the solution is simply to use publishing sites such as IngramSpark (my favorite), Draft2Digital, or Kobo, which also distribute your title to Amazon. Wrong. One author used one of these providers and shared that Amazon said that the company would have to contact the publisher, which was him, and then the distributor. When he contacted the distributor, the distributor contacted Amazon, which responded that there were no problems with the book and that it was available for purchase. When the author checked, it was not. This problem has still not been resolved.

As problematic as this is, just imagine if you had multiple books. All of your titles can be suspended if your KDP account is frozen. What happens to your royalties during this time? And if you spent money on Amazon ads, you would be paying the same entity that is holding your royalties during the suspension. If you were to continue advertising, on or outside of Amazon, you could lose money indefinitely.

The terms and conditions say Amazon can terminate without cause and keep the royalties owed, including any sales of inventory on hand. The terms only permit dispute resolution through the American Arbitration Association. Ever call the American Arbitration Association? One person was quoted an arbitration fee of $1,725 plus legal fees and an estimate of five to 10 months for resolution. Ouch! This amount is cheaper than the $20,000 I quoted earlier, but many authors cannot afford $1,725 in legal fees.

Here are some of the things that can get your KDP account suspended: using two different ISBNs for the same book format—i.e., one ISBN on IngramSpark and one on KDP (but using separate ISBNs for the paperback, hardcover, and e-book versions is fine); rights reverting to you from a previous publisher but have not been cleared by KDP; having a metadata change that implies a change in rights ownership; changing your imprint name (If you use a publishing provider such as IngramSpark, you can add an imprint name to your dashboard. This means that you need to check which one you use for each book you publish to avoid it defaulting to the wrong one); someone reports you for copyright infringement (even if the claim is not valid); or a bot error that is beyond an author’s control.

What can you do once your account is suspended? The answer varies depending on what triggered your suspension, which, according to some of those affected, is hard to get a clear answer from Amazon about. Here are a few things you can provide:

1. A screenshot of your ISBN account showing your name as owner and the imprint name with your book’s ISBN displayed

2. Approved copyright documentation from, not just the application (which can take up to eight months to receive)

3. Invoices and bank statements for editing costs from both your end as the publisher and from the editor’s end

4. Similar invoices and statements for cover design

Link to the rest at Booklife

5 thoughts on “Protecting Your Work”

  1. using two different ISBNs for the same book format—i.e., one ISBN on IngramSpark and one on KDP

    Now at first I thought that sounded crazy, because it’s a waste of an ISBN. However, apparently there’s enough confusion re: eBooks and ISBNs that the ISBN agency issued a white paper, “E-Books and ISBNs: a position paper and action points from the International ISBN Agency.”

    Some publishers have decided that they only need to identify the generic (.epub) file rather than the derived formats that are sold downstream, over which they may have relinquished control. In some cases this is dictated by their current computer systems that may require new records and complete metadata to be rekeyed for each ISBN which they issue.

    As a result of this diversity of practice, the situation with regard to e-book identification is extremely confusing, especially further down the supply chain. Some publishers are identifying each product separately, in line with ISBN guidelines. Others are assigning ISBNs only to generic, non-tradable .epub files with the result that different formats may share the same ISBNs. (Comparisons have been drawn with using the same ISBN to identify both hardback and paperback formats of a printed book).

    Downstream users often do not know whether or not an ISBN uniquely identifies the version they require. Some wholesalers and retailers are assigning their own ISBN-like proprietary identifiers which, in some cases, have been found to duplicate other publishers’ existing ISBNs.

    This state of affairs is reminiscent of the printed book supply chain in the early 1960’s, when each trading partner was assigning and transmitting their own product identifiers with chaotic results. … The solution was agreement on a standard book trade numbering system, the ISBN.

    So they acknowledge the problem. Here is their solution, which an author might use as back up if they reach a human at the KDP offices:

    The International ISBN Agency continues to recommend that publishers should assign ISBNs to each e-book format separately available. Publishers should supply their ISBNs to downstream intermediaries and channels if they are creating their own formats. There will, however, be instances of compressed supply chains where an e-book in a particular format is available exclusively through a single channel (e.g. Kindle). In those circumstances there is no requirement for an ISBN, unless the publisher needs it for control purposes. (A simple guiding principle is that a product needs a separate identifier if the supply chain needs to identify it separately).

    Long and short of it: don’t use an ISBN for Kindle ebooks unless you have to.

    Let the giants fight it out until there are clear, understandable rules for all the players. Which may not happen any time soon, given that the bigger publishers apparently have outdated software that can’t cope with the multiplicity of ebook formats.

  2. The moral is that Amazon is not your friend. It is not peculiar in this regard. Neither is any other big corporation. But Amazon also is the 900 pound gorilla in the room.

      • Sure. But it is possible for Amazon simultaneously to protect itself from legal exposure while also providing a meaningful and transparent system for authors to appeal. Does anyone think they are going to do this? This most likely would require a human being to be in the loop, and this human being would expect to be paid. The financial return for Amazon would be minuscule, not coming anywhere close to covering the cost. The beauty of being a monopoly is not having to care about stuff like this. Amazon and self-publishing is well into the enshittification cycle. It isn’t going to get better for authors.

        • I’m working on some ideas that might provide a way to deal with inaccurate claims of copyright infringement regarding an Amazon author’s book.

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