On Amazon, An Uneasy Mix Of Plagiarism and Erotica
Unlike traditional publishing companies, self-publishing programs like Amazon's Kindle Select lack the keen eyes of publishers, leaving room for copyright violations — and plagiarism.Sharazade is also an entrepreneur, publishing erotica for other writers, including a story she put up on Amazon recently called Taking Jennifer, which climbed the charts.But a book from the mysterious erotica author's collection stood out."I was being beaten by a book with an un-grammatical title," Sharazade says. "I mean it's one thing to be beaten by My Sister's Best Friend, but, you know, My Sister Bestfriend.""I took a sentence from the description and put it in between quotes and dropped it into Google, and Bram Stoker's Dracula came up." Shar says. "It was word for word Dracula."Sharazade contacted Amazon, hoping the company would take the plagiarized material off its site. But nothing happened.
In a statement to NPR, the company said it "worked steadily to detect and remove books that violate copyright." Amazon's agreement with authors indemnifies the company for damages against copyright violations. Once you agree to the terms, Amazon isn't responsible.Unmasking a Digital Pirate on Amazon"You can get on some forums, one is called WarriorForum, where they discuss all sorts of marketing things," Penenberg says. "How to make money on the Internet is the idea behind it. The guy that I heard was pirating [...] got onto these forums where they sell you a collection, a zip file full of stories that have been ripped off the Internet and repackaged."
Penenberg says there are a growing number of authors who have published 30 to 50 books under different pen names. Though Amazon eventually shuts them down, deciding on what qualifies as copyrighted material makes the issue complicated. Penenberg likened this type of publication to spamming.
"All you got to do is steal some content ... and if there's shame attached to erotica that makes it even easier because people are less likely to report it," Penenberg says. "So you just post it once, Amazon doesn't see it for a while and you get four or five months of royalties if you do that enough, you can make some good money."
Amazon's Plagiarism Problem
To be fair, Amazon isn't the only ebook store grappling with plagiarism. In addition to her collection of Kindle ebooks, Eve Welliver offers five plagiarized works through Apple's iBookstore. "Supposedly Apple hand-checks all the erotica, which is why it takes forever for your books to show up there, but somehow she got through," Sharazade says.
A warning to would-be self-publishers and online writers.