There's been a Disturbance in the Force...
Amazon's been asking authors of published works to prove that they are the copyright holders. In fact, it's happening in increasingly large numbers, to folks who've had books published for years.
One poster from the Kindle Digital Platform wrote:
"A friend of mine had one of his boxed book sets pirated. 3 of his books are available on a book pirating website. Amazon has discovered this, shut down his publishing account and are requiring him to prove he owns the rights to his own books. How can we do this? He didn't copyright them, but did include a copyright page at the beginning of all 3 books."
That poor bastard was the victim of the Double Whammy. First, he's pirated, and then, to rub salt into the wound, the mere act of him being pirated causes Amazon to question the legitimacy of his publishing the Boxed Set! Talk about ignominy. Another wrote:
"We are trying to publish a couple of books on KPD which my husband wrote in 2012. They have told us we need to prove we have publishing rights, but don't help with insight as to how to accomplish this. Say they can only respond to publisher!"
That one goes on to say that she can't get anywhere with Amazon because they don't accept that her husband is the publisher. What the hell do you do, if you're in that situation?
Now, the only way that this would be occurring is if someone else--we'll call that thief Darth Dickhead--files a claim, with Amazon, that your work is actually their work. So...how do you prove that you're you? How do you prove that you wrote your own book?
This is simply a newer, digital form of a type of thievery that's been around forever, known as claim-jumping. If you're unfamiliar with the term, claim-jumping is when someone else claims to own or have rights to property that you have already claimed as your own.
The bigger and easier-to-answer question is: how can you easily prevent this from happening?
The simple answer is, you can't. Any idiot--any Darth Dickhead--can click a button on Amazon's website and claim that your Intellectual Property--your book--is theirs. In this day and age, the sound of a Light Saber swooshing has been replaced with the sound of a click. The click that will deprive you of your rights.
Click below, on "Read More," to answer the question, "How Can You Protect Your Books?"
How Can You Protect Your Books?
The answer isn't even hard. As we've previously explained in various articles on our site, you can take $35, go to the US Government Online Copyright Registration office, and register your copyright. Not done with your book? Then wait until it's in a final draft form, and then register it. You can always send the good folks there a copy of your finished book later. After all, how much damage can Darth do, if you can point to the US Copyright Office, and show them your copyright? Send them a copy of your copyright registration?
Mere copyright registration, in and of itself, may not be Darthphylactic--but how much do you want to bet that it nips Copyright Claim-jumping right in the bud?
We've been encouraging folks for years to register, but many read the various and sundry urban myths about copyrighting and ignore the simplest way. They believe the "poor man's copyright" myth--that if you take a copy of your book, seal it in a large manila envelope, and send it yourself, you're good. (Bull. That would become an exhibit in any lawsuit, but in and of itself--it's not a copyright. Not even close.) Or, they send a copy to a buddy. OR...(just give it up, at this point.) What's the TL/DR (too long, didn't read) comment here? It's that unless a copyright attorney told you how to do XXX to copyright your book, aside from the regular copyrighting--don't do it. Don't believe the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet. Hell--don't believe THIS article! Go forth and read the US Copyright Office's FAQ, which you can find right here: https://eco.copyright.gov Seriously, please: read the information for yourself. Don't believe self-appointed GURU's, not even me.
Just take $35, register it, and sleep better at night. How hard is that? Are you on a budget? Fine. Forego less than two weeks of Starbucks, and register your copyright. Buy a carton of generic, Reservation cigarettes, instead of smoking your usual brand--and register your copyright. Use cheaper gas, in your car, for two weeks, and then register your copyright. Bag your lunch--instead of eating out. Typical lunch costs these days, especially if you're in an urban setting like NYC, SF or Chicago, and you might save $35 in 4 days. And--want to guess what I'll say next? Yessirreebob: register your copyright. (Sensing a theme here?)
Think about that $35 this way: how much is that, compared to a single hour of legal advice? In NYC, you can pay $400/hour, for a good IP counsel. Even if you're in an area with relatively cheap legal services, an hour won't be a penny under $75.00. Think about that $35 as simply a form of insurance--that you expend instead of paying for a lawyer to straighten out a mess entirely of your own making.
After all, what's the one common element in both those KDP threads? That neither author/publisher registered their copyrights. Here's another thought--what if Darth Dickhead checks the copyright registry, for any book that he targets? After all--if he's going to claim-jump, he has to be smart about it. He can't make claim after claim that's repeatedly demonstrated to be false; Amazon (and other vendors, mind) would figure out that he's scum pretty damn quick. My theory is that they check for existing registrations, before they claim-jump.
So--how's that $35 fee sounding now? Pretty cheap, eh?