How fraudulent DMCA notices can be used to block self published books

I just discovered this true story on the Kindle boards and, seeing as we have a lot of self published authors here, figured you'd be interested in this. Short summary: If someone disagrees with your content and wants your book off the market, they can file a DMCA notice and Amazon (or other online bookstores) will take the book off their listings until both parties (author and complainer) agree to put it back up. Of course, if the reason is just malicious intent, that might never happen. Or the complainer could try to extort money in exchange for said 'agreement'.

I wonder if serials on Wordpress could be targeted the same way. This is really, really scary.

Make sure you've done all your copyright paperwork - though in this case, even the official document wasn't enough.

Well, it looks like Angry Joe, TotalBiscuit, and pretty much every game talking-head I listen to was right about copyright law. I think part of the law, personally, should include the site checking to make sure the claim is legit.

Yup. This also proves the advice that I've always been given is right: formally registering a copyright is unnecessary and a waste of time and money. The copyright is yours as soon as you create something; registering it doesn't change or even legitimise that, and it's unlikely to be of any real value during a dispute. (Posting a manuscript to yourself is also a waste of time.)

I dunno. I get the threat and everything, but I know there's thieves somewhere in my neighbourhood. I'll lock my door, but I'm not going to huddle under my bed. :/

Here's the risk. Be aware. The formal paperwork is like locking your door, but just like your actual one can get kicked in, a determined enough asshole can ruin your day anyway. But why you? Don't huddle, guys.

But yeah, while the copyright works in your favour more than not having one, it ain't magic.

It's not *quite* as grim as that, though it can still get kind of crazy.

If a host receives a DMCA takedown notice they're required to take the offending material down, of course -- that's how they escape liability. However, if you send them a notice that it is your material, they are also required to put it back up. I think you have to do this in a very specific way and I can't for the life of me remember what it is.

The trick is proving copyright, and here's where it gets frustrating. While technically copyrights are automatic at the time of creation, when it comes to legal issues, your best protection is to have a registered copyright with the US Copyright office. This can get expensive, but anything you sell on Amazon really ought to have a registered copyright if you want to defend against that kind of BS.

Someone else also mentioned the 'correct' way to file a counter notice, as well, and couldn't remember it. If anyone knows or does remember, please share!

I'm a little shocked that in the above example, Amazon didn't seem to know (or care) about that method and didn't inform the author about it. Judging by that blog post, they made it sound as if 'both parties must agree' was the only option.

Edit to add: I'll also PM the author in question if anyone remembers the solution.

Amazon has very little incentive to work with indie authors on things like this, and much more incentive to shield themselves from liability if someone files a DMCA claim. Now if you're working with a large publishing house or something, then I'd be willing to bet that things go MUCH differently, but that's probably not a realistic option for most of the folks here ^_^

Here's the page on counter-notices.

I know of Indie authors (assuming they're telling the truth) who have turned down publishing contracts. Those are becoming less and less attractive to many. But that's beside the point and yes, when it comes to legal issues, being backed up by a publisher would definitely be an advantage.

Thanks for the link, ubersoft. Awesome!

Also note that you can contest a DMCA takedown on the grounds that they did it incorrectly. A valid DMCA takedown will be in written form have the person swearing on penalty of perjury that they feel the material is infringing, and contain a valid name and contact information.

Update: After an avalanche of protest emails from writers, Amazon looked at the provided copyright information and agreed to make the book available. They also promised to look into policy changes in case the same happens to someone else in the future.

Happy end!

That's a relief. I've seen fraudlent DMCAs used in all kinds of ways but I never thought something like this would happen.