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DancingMaenid
03-06-2015, 04:47 AM
I came across this earlier, and I didn't see any discussion here. I thought it would be interesting to share.

Becca Mills, whom I wasn't previously familiar with, is a self-published author. She writes here (http://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/) on her website about an ongoing problem she's been having with what appears to be a fraudulent DMCA claim against her novel. Her novel was blocked on both Amazon and Smashwords because someone claimed that the book contained material stolen from a previously-published work.

On it's own, the claim doesn't seem that bizarre. It's the type of thing that could be either true or fraudulent. DMCA abuse happens, but so do legitimate cases of plagiarism.

What makes this case odd is that around the same time her book was blocked for copyright infringement, a "fan," Kushal Das, contacted her on her website expressing disappointment that the book was no longer available on Amazon. Mills spoke with Das via e-mail, initially so that she could send him a PDF of the novel, but became suspicious of him after he started talking about DMCA fraud and offering his assistance in helping her resolve it.

A little investigation connects the e-mail address used by the DMCA complainant to an erotica ghostwriter...named Kushal Das (who also appears to have been accused of taking people's money and not following through on his commitments as a ghostwriter).

It's unclear if Das intended to scam Mills for money or if he was just messing with her.

Unfortunately, the case is ongoing since Amazon won't reinstate the book unless the involved parties come to an agreement, and that looks very unlikely to happen here. I hope the author is considering talking to a copyright attorney.

Mills did get an idea of how her novel might have been connected to a previously-published work:


Based on what a Smashwords rep said, I think I know how Rajesh Lahoti/Kushal Das showed evidence of prior publication of the material in my book. Apparently, they pointed Smashwords to a 2011 blog post that contained material from Nolander. Now, I don’t think blogs are a good form of evidence. Here on WordPress, when I revise one of my posts, the platform doesn’t add an “edited” line. The post just keeps the original date. If that’s the way most blogging software works, it’d be very easy to use a blog post to “prove” prior making-public of someone else’s writing: you’d just delete the contents of an old post and fill it up with someone else’s book text. Then it’d look like you’d written the book yourself, years earlier.

So, the complainant's evidence appears to be a blog post that may or may not have actually been published on the date it says it was. This seems like it should be verifiable. I would imagine that the blogging site would be able to check the history of the post, but I'm not web-savvy enough to know. I hope that a copyright lawyer would be able to get to the bottom of this. But it's scary to think that it can be so easy for someone to make a fraudulent claim in the first place, and self-published authors are vulnerable since we don't have the might of a publishing company's legal team behind us.

I'm not very familiar with what's required to make a DMCA claim against something. Smashwords provided Mills with the complainant's name and e-mail address, but it isn't clear if the complainant would have had to provide any other information (like a phone number or address), or if that information would have been verified in any way. If anyone can use a fake name and anonymous e-mail address to make a claim, then abuse seems very easy.

Really odd case, all around. Thought it would be interesting to see what others think.

Weirdmage
03-06-2015, 05:32 AM
I've read about this. And it seems to go against the experience several people, including at least one publisher I know of, has had with trying to get plagiarising content removed from Amazon.
In the case of the publisher the e-book release of one of their titles was several days late because someone had uploaded an ARC of the book to Amazon before release date. This was with actual title and author, just an illegal upload. And even then it took a bit of time to get it sorted.
When it comes to self-published authors, I've seen several people say they have had problems removing plagiarised content from Amazon. I am talking about the full books, with or without changes in title and author. Every author I have seen talk about it has been frustrated by the hoops they have had to jump through to prove their case (, and none of them has gotten any money from the sales of the plagiarised version as far as I know).

So, taking this story at face value, I would say this is a major change in policy on Amazon's part. However, since this is the only instance of this I have heard about, it would surprise me if this became a problem.

Thewitt
03-06-2015, 05:47 AM
Though Becca has resolved her issue, the problem is with the DMCA law and the way that it's written.

There is no real burden of proof on the part of the submitter. If he files a proper DMCA complaint, the ISP or in this case Amazon, has 24 hours to take down the content in question or they are in violation of US Federal Law.

They need to notify the content owner, but that's their entire obligation in the matter.

The content owner can counter-file and if the paperwork is done correctly, then the ISP must put the material back up within 14 days. The problem is that Amazon apparently only considers themselves on the complaint side of the process.

The way the law is written, they can be severely punished if they do not take the material down. There is no such punishment for not putting the contested material back up again.

It's a horrible law, poorly written and rarely well executed.

Oh and there are no teeth for its use outside of the US, so though the complaint came from India in this case, Amazon is the only one at any risk here. If they don't take action, they are in violation of Federal law. The content owner has virtually no recourse if Amazon refuses to put the material back up after a counter filing.

In Becca's case, the guy who submitted the DMCA complaint and the guy who contacted her and offered to help her get it resolved are one in the same. He appears to be running some sort of scam...

Twick
03-13-2015, 12:36 AM
Yikes! That's a neat bit of extortion. Of course, if it catches on, I suppose Amazon will have to do something when about 50% of their content is being yanked for bogus plagiarism charges.

RedWombat
03-13-2015, 03:37 AM
It's definitely worrisome, and I bet we'll see more of it in the future. The sort of thing that author's organizations--SFWA, RWA, HWA--could conceivably be useful in addressing.

J. Tanner
03-13-2015, 04:05 AM
It's definitely worrisome, and I bet we'll see more of it in the future. The sort of thing that author's organizations--SFWA, RWA, HWA--could conceivably be useful in addressing.

Seems like a good fit for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.