Author Topic: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers  (Read 587 times)  

Offline Kat M

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So, if anyone has had their rights reverted from a traditional publisher and then had difficulty getting old e-copies taken down from online booksellers, I'd really appreciate hearing from you.

Basically, I've gone through hell trying to get rights reverted from my old big five publisher. Finally, after 19 months (and stacks of emails to two agencies who no longer represent me plus my old editor) my rights have been returned. However, e-copies of my books remain on sale several places, even for the first book which was reverted over a year ago.  Kobo, in particular, are being ridiculous. I received the following email from them this morning.

Quote
Thank you for contacting Kobo. We apologize for any frustration this may cause, but unfortunately we cannot remove these titles from sale based on your request. Despite the rights being reverted back to you, these titles are still in our system under the Penguin Random House account. Even though the titles may legally be yours, we are not able to make any changes to titles in that account without a direct request from the publisher.

For these titles to be removed from site you will have to contact the publisher directly. They will then be able to take the titles down from Kobo themselves.

As I have already been in touch with the only contact I still have at my publisher (my old editor) multiple times over the past year re. taking down copies of my first reverted book and that STILL hasn't happened, I can't believe they'll be any more effective in getting copies taken down now. But how can Kobo ignore my legal rights? Does anyone have any experience with this issue? What can I do if my publisher continues to junk my email requests for help?

Offline elizabethbarone

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That's so frustrating, Kat. *hugs*

Unfortunately, because the books are published through your publisher's account, it does have to be them who un-publishes. Rights reversion is notoriously tricky. I'm so sorry you're going through this. At this point I would definitely get in touch with a lawyer. S/he can give you advice on how to proceed (and can probably speed up the process).

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Online PermaStudent

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I have no experience with rights reversions, but have you tried sending Kobo a DMCA takedown notice?  If you have the rights now, then it is a criminal act for Kobo to keep it up without your approval.
  I write urban fantasy.  There are girls in gowns and glowy hands on my covers.

Offline Kat M

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PermaStudent, I sent Kobo the legal rights reversion documents given to me by the publisher and they sent me the above reply. Would a DMCA takedown notice make any difference when they can already see the rights are legally with me and even acknowledge such in their reply, do you think?

Elizabeth, thank you. I wish I had the money for a lawyer, but I don't :( Not even close. I just don't understand how Kobo can ignore my request because of what sounds like an admin issue. I'm tearing my hair out here.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 07:46:39 AM by Kat M »

Offline elizabethbarone

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Most lawyers won't charge for a consultation, and many of them offer payment plans. Just FYI. I have a tiny budget, too, though, so I completely understand your frustration.

I'd definitely look into the DMCA. It's a more formal way of doing what you already did, and might speed things up a bit.

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Online PermaStudent

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I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that using the language associated with a DMCA shows that you're serious enough to pursue legal action (i.e., "last chance, or you hear from my lawyer").  It will likely get someone's attention, and it's easy enough to put together and send yourself.  If they ignore a DMCA, then I would go to a lawyer.
  I write urban fantasy.  There are girls in gowns and glowy hands on my covers.

Offline brkingsolver

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Try legal aide or something through a university law school. Probably all you need is a letter to your old publisher from a lawyer to get some action. In any case, since going through your contacts at the publisher has proven fruitless, I would direct all further correspondence to their legal department.

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Offline notjohn

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I've been doing this since about 1998, when iUniverse set up a Back-in-Print facsimile option with the Author's Guild. Happily, that was before ebooks meant anything, and my publisher was Doubleday, so the process was handled by return mail. (Three novels in total.) I suppose that now with ebooks they are much stickier. The old rule was that one could demand a reversion of royalties by demanding that the publisher put out a new edition within six months, and none of course was willing to do that with a backlist book by a bottom-list author. But an ebook can be eternally in "print" so that logic no longer applies.

Amazon will never take down a listing for a print edition, because there may always be booksellers with secondhand or remaindered copies. But ebooks ought to come down right away. Alas, this doesn't always happen. When DTP/KDP came along, and CreateSpace, I got my rights back from iUniverse for all those books, some of which were also available as ebooks. The ebooks stuck around for quite a while. (And the danged paperbacks are still there, of course, though I wish they weren't and have unsuccessfully lobbied Amazon to get rid of the listings.)

If there is both a legitimate and a "spurious" listing (that is, the original publisher's listing plus another put up by a bookseller somewhere), Amazon will usually delete the spurious one. I love that term, spurious, which was suggested by a poster on the KDP forums, and have used it several times since. One of my books has EIGHT listings for the hardcover and paperback editions from the original publisher, a university press. Very annoying, since if someone clicks on the Kindle edition, say, there pops up a link to the hardcover edition, which may even be cheaper, and if the shopper checks out that link, the link to the ebook sometimes vanishes.

I also have a couple books on Amazon that I wrote in the nose-to-grindstone years after I got married and before our daughter graduated college, that I wish people would forget about, but Amazon won't take the listings down because they're legitimate. (Nor will Amazon de-link them from my Author Central account!)
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Offline MClayton

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I agree you should send a DMCA. The publisher will be given a chance to dispute it. If they do (I can't imagine they would), that's when you send Kobo a copy of the termination contract.

Offline PhoenixS

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Have you tried escalating to Kobo? Or at least contacting their legal department? Let them know this is not a satisfactory response. This is now a copyright infringement issue, and they do (or at least should) have the authority to unpublish/block e-books (print has other hoops to jump, but e-books are straightforward).

As others have said, I would send a DMCA notice if you can't reach equitable terms with Kobo otherwise. Copy your contact at PRH and their legal department as well so everyone can see who's being tagged.

Late last year BN's systems glitched out and republished 30+ titles from the agent-publisher's account that had reverted rights to one of our authors 5 years previously. I sent a DMCA to BN's legal department and copied the agent-publisher (after giving him a heads-up since I know he didn't repub the books). BN had all the books down within a few days without the agent having to go in and do it himself. 

If your own efforts don't move the needle, then would be the time to bring in your lawyer. IMO.
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Offline Kat M

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2017, 09:53:31 AM »
Phoenix S, that's a splendid idea. I have a DMCA ready to go (thanks to all the great advice here) but I'll write another email first and try to escalate with Kobo because you're right, this is not a satisfactory response. 

Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2017, 10:36:31 AM »
PermaStudent, I sent Kobo the legal rights reversion documents given to me by the publisher and they sent me the above reply. Would a DMCA takedown notice make any difference when they can already see the rights are legally with me and even acknowledge such in their reply, do you think?

The difference is that the DMCA takedown notice comes with legal responsibilities. They HAVE to respond. They have to legally respond to you or risk their safe harbor protections.


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Offline Kat M

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2017, 10:44:59 AM »
Good to know, Julie. Thank you! I sent another email to Kobo attempting to escalate and with a DMCA notice attached too. It took them days to respond in the first place (after they continually erroneously directed me to a writing life email addy in the first place). Ack!!!!

Offline elizabethbarone

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 01:02:46 PM »
Good to know, Julie. Thank you! I sent another email to Kobo attempting to escalate and with a DMCA notice attached too. It took them days to respond in the first place (after they continually erroneously directed me to a writing life email addy in the first place). Ack!!!!

Fingers crossed! Let us know how it pans out. These things can be so frustrating. <3

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Offline ........

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 08:11:39 PM »
So, if anyone has had their rights reverted from a traditional publisher and then had difficulty getting old e-copies taken down from online booksellers, I'd really appreciate hearing from you.

Basically, I've gone through hell trying to get rights reverted from my old big five publisher. Finally, after 19 months (and stacks of emails to two agencies who no longer represent me plus my old editor) my rights have been returned. However, e-copies of my books remain on sale several places, even for the first book which was reverted over a year ago.  Kobo, in particular, are being ridiculous. I received the following email from them this morning.

As I have already been in touch with the only contact I still have at my publisher (my old editor) multiple times over the past year re. taking down copies of my first reverted book and that STILL hasn't happened, I can't believe they'll be any more effective in getting copies taken down now. But how can Kobo ignore my legal rights? Does anyone have any experience with this issue? What can I do if my publisher continues to junk my email requests for help?

Oh boy, what a screwup.

I'd head back to the publisher and get in contact with the royalties department. As rights have reverted, they're now selling a book they don't have rights to sell.

Guess what that means? They don't get to pay you that tiny slice of royalty they used to give you. They need to hand over 100% of the money received!

So, I'd start with demanding a full accounting of all copies sold by them to date (I'm assuming you have all your royalty statements up to last financial year? If not, get those too). I'd then demand 100% of the royalties be immediately paid to you and that your books be taken down from those retailers.

Hit them where it hurts - in the money. Demanding 100% of the money be paid to you immediately will get a response. Don't let them pay you only a portion or delay the payment until the next royalty payment term - they need to immediately hand it over... and also note that this does not remove them from risk of legal action. They're illegally selling something.

I'd also get in touch with any legal department they have and demand the same thing. 100% of royalties paid immediately, full accounting, note that they are selling without rights to do so.

Don't be nice or kind or understanding. Be clear and demanding.

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Re: Rights Reversions and getting books taken down by online book sellers
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 03:28:15 AM »
Quote
Don't be nice or kind or understanding. Be clear and demanding.

This.^^^ They're stealing your money. Don't let them.
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