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Big Al's Books & Pals 2014 Readers' Choice Awards: Young Adult Nominee

A ruthless murder and a stolen shipment of gold.

At school, sixteen-year-old Nikaia Wales endures the taunts of bullies who call her a “half-breed.” At home, she worries about how her family will react if she reveals her growing feelings for the quiet boy next door.

Those are soon the least of her troubles. Nikaia discovers a hidden cache of gold, and when police find a corpse nearby, her father becomes a suspect. Worse, Elias Doyle is circling, hungry to avenge his brother’s death.

Nikaia desperately searches for clues to save her father. In her quest to find the killer, she learns about the power of family, friendship, and young love....

Author Topic: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?  (Read 2283 times)  

Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #25 on: November 13, 2017, 04:24:58 PM »
I don't use Goodreads and have no idea what goes on there. But as far as Amazon goes, copyright or no copyright, anyone who posts reviews there or on Amazon would have granted Amazon a non-exclusive license to use the review content any way Amazon wishes anyway, since Amazon also owns GR. At the most basic level, Amazon needs that license in order to publish the review. Amazon can't claim any ownership of any copyright associated with the review, but it most certainly would've covered itself in TOS somewhere that it can use posted content any damn way it pleases. I can't imagine Amazon would not have a sweeping clause to make sure of that when it's got millions of people posting God knows what on its site every day.

Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #26 on: November 13, 2017, 04:34:18 PM »
I say just make your own for the blurb. Readers don't care who said them in the slightest unless it's someone famous to them. Quoting "Couldn't put down!" or "B3st b00k ev3r" is just wasting the space with garbage anyway. It doesn't matter if someone actually said the thing or not; the point of slapping something in italics and quotation marks is to convey something extra, in a format the blurb itself can't do. "Stephen King would dine on this novel like five star cuisine" is a way to go because it's illustrative and genre-suggestive.

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2017, 04:35:28 PM »
I'm not advocating not asking for permission. That's up to each author and none of my business. The issue is vague enough that I don't feel it's my place to opine on what others do. I'm just trying to understand what Amazon's policy is about quoting reviews in blurbs, whether with or without the reviewer's permission. And no one has answered that question either.

There used to be something pretty specific in Amazon's TOS/Guidelines about who review content belongs to and I can no longer find it.  The closest I can come to is this under Infringing Content:

"Don't post content or interact with other members of the Community in a way that infringes the intellectual property or other proprietary rights of others. Only post your own content or content that you have permission to use."

I know Amazon will respond to reviewers who contact them about another reviewer plagiarizing reviews by taking down the plagiarized reviews and have banned reviewers who were doing it extensively.  So, I don't know if a reviewer saw a portion of their review being used in a blurb and reported it as plagiarism (or used without permission), what action Amazon would take.

Just my personal opinion as a reader, but I dislike seeing reviews in the blurb itself.  If I want reviews, I'll read the editorial section or, I don't know, the reviews themselves?
A book, I think, is very like a little golden door.
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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2017, 04:48:00 PM »
I say just make your own for the blurb. Readers don't care who said them in the slightest unless it's someone famous to them. Quoting "Couldn't put down!" or "B3st b00k ev3r" is just wasting the space with garbage anyway. It doesn't matter if someone actually said the thing or not; the point of slapping something in italics and quotation marks is to convey something extra, in a format the blurb itself can't do. "Stephen King would dine on this novel like five star cuisine" is a way to go because it's illustrative and genre-suggestive.

That's actually a very good suggestion. :D

Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2017, 04:53:16 PM »
There used to be something pretty specific in Amazon's TOS/Guidelines about who review content belongs to and I can no longer find it.  The closest I can come to is this under Infringing Content:

"Don't post content or interact with other members of the Community in a way that infringes the intellectual property or other proprietary rights of others. Only post your own content or content that you have permission to use."

I know Amazon will respond to reviewers who contact them about another reviewer plagiarizing reviews by taking down the plagiarized reviews and have banned reviewers who were doing it extensively.  So, I don't know if a reviewer saw a portion of their review being used in a blurb and reported it as plagiarism (or used without permission), what action Amazon would take.


That might give some implied answers the question about uses without permission. But what is Amazon's policy about quoted parts of Amazon customer reviews where the author had obtained the reviewer's permission?


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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2017, 05:28:07 PM »
That might give some implied answers the question about uses without permission. But what is Amazon's policy about quoted parts of Amazon customer reviews where the author had obtained the reviewer's permission?



I wish I could point you towards something that answers the question specifically, but I can't.  I think the quote from the Guidelines implies it's okay to use customer reviews in other areas if permission has been obtained. However, even though I am married to one, I am not a lawyer ...

As I recall, the Guidelines used to have language similar to what you spoke of earlier - that reviewers granted Amazon license to use reviews as they saw fit (and would be why they can choose spotlight reviews by whatever terms they wish), but the content of the review remained the intellectual property of the person who wrote it.

At the end of the Guidelines in the help section about Customer Reviews is the following:

"Note: The best place for authors (or publishers) to communicate with their readers is in the Book description, Editorial Reviews and From the Author sections. To learn more about taking advantage of these features, visit Author Central."

I tried to follow the Author Central link, but as I am also not an author, I don't have access.  Maybe there is something more specific there? The Help Pages have become quite the maze to wind through these days.
A book, I think, is very like a little golden door.
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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2017, 11:08:18 PM »
Do people ask for permission to quote Kirkus reviews? The NY Times? Others? (I don't think so).

This really needs to be highlighted because too many people have strong opinions, but no real concept of what today's digital world really allows/disallows. There is a massive amount of [digital] data out there copyrighted, or not, EVERYONE uses it to a greater or lesser degree. If the Reviewer 'owns' their review, then Amazon can't just post it up there without the reviewer giving explicit permission (which as stated above is covered in their TOS). If the author then posts it elsewhere on the Amazon site, then no copyright or terms are being broken it is STILL on the Amazon site and STILL being used to inform and illuminate said product sold on Amazon. In other words, the review is being used for the purpose it was presented. There again it's Amazon's website - they own it. They permit you to post your review and allow you to delete it too. They can also remove it if they don't like it - which means the author might own the words, but have no control over how those words are used after they're published. There are no copyright symbols provided by Amazon (which should tell you something). You can all beat your chests over what you 'think' or 'believe' is acceptable, but there are many others out there who 'think' or 'believe' differently. The trick is is to work out who to listen to and who to ignore. Me, I'm just asking the question and for the record, I don't ask for permission to use anything provided in my reviews, but then nobody has come to me and said 'don't' and nobody has castigated me for using quotes or excerpts. I would LOVE my reviewers to leave their email addresses so I can contact them..... lol :P Then again, there are some 'reviewers' out there who perhaps might not want to be held legally accountable for the things they say out there on the public circuit. We all have a few of them in our world. :D




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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2017, 11:13:06 PM »
<snip>

Just my personal opinion as a reader, but I dislike seeing reviews in the blurb itself.  If I want reviews, I'll read the editorial section or, I don't know, the reviews themselves?

crebel beat me to this (i was a work late and couldn't post).  all i want in a blurb is the blurb.  if i have to open up extra stuff or scroll through filler to get to the meat of the blurb, i'm going to click on another page.

so my basic question to the OP is this. what do you see as the point of adding stuff to your blurb?

Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #33 on: November 14, 2017, 05:44:47 AM »
If the Reviewer 'owns' their review, then Amazon can't just post it up there without the reviewer giving explicit permission (which as stated above is covered in their TOS). If the author then posts it elsewhere on the Amazon site, then no copyright or terms are being broken it is STILL on the Amazon site and STILL being used to inform and illuminate said product sold on Amazon.

This is also true. I think we've been talking about copyrights in this thread with a layman's understanding of copyrights, and it can lead to a lot of misunderstanding beyond the subject matter discussed here. Without addressing the opinions of use, actual copyright claims can only be valid when:

(1) the text is copyrightable (i.e. you can't claim copyright to "Great read!"
(2) the text is published by someone without license or right to publish. I'm not sure if an argument will hold if the claimant says the license applies to a text published on one part of the same webpage on the same website but not another part of the same webpage on the same website, unless there is a specific contract clause to this point.

Are we the publisher of our blurbs, editorial reviews, and author bio? Or is Amazon?

We're publishers of our books because KDP specifically agreed to that. The content on the book page? Probably Amazon.

crebel beat me to this (i was a work late and couldn't post).  all i want in a blurb is the blurb.  if i have to open up extra stuff or scroll through filler to get to the meat of the blurb, i'm going to click on another page.

so my basic question to the OP is this. what do you see as the point of adding stuff to your blurb?


First, I wasn't asking if "I" can put reviews in my blurbs. I'm asking a general question about something which I've seen done on Amazon quite regularly, in fact.

Secondly, I think it's not a good way to devise any strategy based solely on what some individuals said they like or don't like. I don't think it's a reliable strategy to do something or not do something because some people responding to a thread said they don't like something. That's not even data. I can't even understand why you would ask me what's the point of doing something simply because you don't like it, or because you and several others don't like it. Is that how you formulate your strategies?

Now to answer your question, I'm thinking about this because I'm viewing Mark Dawson's Ads for Authors course and one of the advice by him and his guest lecturers on how to write ad copies is to use snippets of your reviews, or strong positive descriptions in your reviews. Granted, he wasn't talking about blurbs, but the essence is the same. I'm curious what the conversion rate would be. If you want an ad (in this case the blurbs) to convert, the way to go is to test things. Not rely on what someone somewhere said if they like it or not like it. People say they don't like a lot of things when asked specifically, but data often shows they do exactly what they say they don't like. This is especially true in the case of advertising.

Look at trad pub books. Many, including Stephen King's or other big time authors. In the beginning of the book, the publisher puts pages and pages of review snippets before you even get to the first chapter. I'm sure most of us don't read through all those snippets. But they've got to be there for some reason. They've got all the expensive market research at hand, and arguably the big name authors don't need these given who they are. And still this is done. It has to be because someone in the sales and marketing department ran some tests and split tests and found conversion rates to be higher when done one way over another.




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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #34 on: November 14, 2017, 06:08:57 AM »
There is a different opinion for every reader out there. We're hearing from three or four when there are millions of others. I would not formulate my marketing strategy based on such small numbers. If everyone does it one way, and you choose to try it another way - and it works, then do it and keep quiet. Let the rest lumber along following the industry self-imposed strictures while you 'earn' the difference. (Which is my mantra on other threads here and elsewhere).

So far, I've not heard any sound basis for anyone's opinion, whether it's legal or courtesy to do it, or not. Most reviewers never look at the book they reviewed again, and if they did and saw they had been quoted, they have the opportunity to object if they want to. My view here is that it is yet another personal marketing choice and those on here who frown on the practice have no right to do so because it is a private matter between the reviewer and the author and Amazon.

Personally, I can't see the point of anyone being the least bothered about it.


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Offline Hal Archer

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #35 on: November 14, 2017, 06:15:51 AM »
I've used review snippets (usually just a line or a few words) in ad graphics I make for posting on FB and Twitter. I use them in the book trailers I make too, which are posted on my website, FB, Twitter, and YouTube. I credit the reviewer by name and state whether the review was on Amazon or Goodreads. I've never had an issue or complaint. I don't ask permission, but these are people who support my books, some of whom I engage with regularly via FB, Twitter, or email (though I didn't know them prior to them finding my books).

I have not used review snippets in my book descriptions on Amazon, but I've seen many others do this. For that, I would contact the reviewer (since I have access to them per above) to ask for permission. The book description, while it can be changed, feels like more of a permanent posting/representation. So, getting permission may be the way I go if/when I do that. [I need to rewrite my book descriptions anyway.]
« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 06:19:17 AM by Hal Archer »

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #36 on: November 14, 2017, 06:56:05 AM »
When ONE reader/reviewer gives a negative review, the pitchforks, tar and feathers come out.  When one or more readers offer opinions in Writers' Cafe threads, they are merely anecdotal and have no weight among the millions of readers out there. *shrug*  I believe I still have the right to frown on practices I disagree with and to express that disagreement when a question is asked.

I have no standing to say using the words of a specific reviewer without permission in an Amazon blurb or another site from where it was originally posted for advertising purposes is legal or not.  I have always been under the impression it is not legal, but again, I am not a lawyer.

I will continue to maintain that I don't like and don't see the point of using review snippets in a blurb. I don't think it's the purpose of the blurb and seeing them there will move me on to another selection. Editorial reviews from professional reviews such as the NYT, Kirkus, etc. or reviews writers choose to add themselves belong in the Editorial Review section and I believe there is at least implied permission to use reviews given directly to authors there.

Will the average customer reviewer notice or care if you use their reviews in any way you please? Probably not.  Is it ethical without permission? In my opinion of one, no.
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Offline Puddleduck

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #37 on: November 14, 2017, 07:07:11 AM »
I've definitely seen people quoting Amazon/Goodreads reviews in the blurb parts of their books. As a reader, that never means much to me. The only quotes that would mean anything to me would be if someone I know and appreciate (like my favorite author) has said something good about the book.

As a reviewer, I used to have an actual book review blog, and I know of at least twice when the publisher quoted something from my (positive, obv) review in the book (in the "things people have said about it" section) or in the book page online somewhere. They never asked to do this, and the reviews weren't written from free copies I'd gotten. (Well, at least one wasn't. Don't remember about the other.) It didn't bother me at all. It seems reasonable that the author/publisher should be able to use snippets of reviews like that, as long as they quote enough to keep context.

But I think book bloggers/reviewers know and accept that this sort of thing might happen and is part of the process. Regular readers might not accept this as part of book reviewing, so some of them might take issue with it. Which is another good reason not to quote from random reader reviews. A third good reason is that people can change their review at any time, and might well do so, and then your quote may no longer be accurate. (Whereas bloggers are probably more likely to stick to what they've written once they've posted it.)

So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know if you may quote customer reviews, but I would advise avoiding it.

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #38 on: November 14, 2017, 07:19:13 AM »
  I believe I still have the right to frown on practices I disagree with and to express that disagreement when a question is asked.
#

Absolutely, as long as it is equally reciprocated and accepted that it is entirely a 'personal opinion' not an industry-wide viewpoint. Mostly, my views are frowned upon and my opinions relegated to absurd or amateurish by others on KBoards. However, the right to voice opinions that go against the majority view does need defending, your opinions are valid (for, or against). My point was that having an opinion does not give anyone the right to look down negatively on others who disagree or do things differently. No offence was intended.

For clarification. I neither agree nor disagree with the practice, but if I choose to do so, I will use a reviewers comments if I think it will help the next reader make a decision or understand more about the book I'm trying to sell. For me it's a marketing decision for selling books. Use it, don't use it - it's a choice, not an ethical dilemma.

The issue of legality is still unresolved, and will probably remain so because it is (in my opinion) too complex an issue and at the same time too petty to ever be defined in law.


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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #39 on: November 14, 2017, 07:55:42 AM »
As I often find myself saying, authors need to stop thinking about CUSTOMER reviews the same way you think about EDITORIAL reviews. Copyright protects anything in written form, including customer reviews. The customer is the only one who can grant you the right to reproduce their comments.

No, you cannot quote a customer reviewer in any sort of commercial marketing without the customer's permission. Fair use allows you to quote them as part of a commentary (for example, if you quoted a review here in order to discuss the validity of a point the reviewer brought up.) But you cannot take another person's words and use them for commercial purposes.

Now if the review comes from someone you provided a comp copy to, that is considered fair game. The traditional relationship between publisher and reviewer is this:

Publisher sends the reviewer a copy of the book.
Reviewer is free to do what they want with that book, including give it away or trade it in to a used bookseller if they want.
Reviewer may or may not write a review.
If the reviewer DOES write the review, publisher may quote from the review so long as they do not alter the review to change the meaning and they cite the source.

That is the implicit deal between publishers and reviewers from time Infinium. If you didn't give the book to the reviewer, you have no business quoting the review in commercial marketing material without permission.

From SBA.gov
Quote
But can you lift quotes from these sites and use them in your marketing? If you check the Terms of Service of most these sites, user-generated content (i.e. reviews) are the property of the person who wrote the review. To use these reviews without permission of the reviewer may infringe copyright laws.


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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #40 on: November 14, 2017, 08:11:32 AM »
Ok, unrelated to this discussion, I really feel it is an error to say everything under the sun ever written is copyrighted, or that it's excepted from copyright because it is short or extremely short. This is simply not true.

To be within the protection of copyright, the material must have some minimal originality and creativity. Length has nothing to do with it.

So in that respect, these two statements are false:

(extremely short expressions would be the one exception, to answer the "great book" discussion upthread).

Length is not the determinative factor. If can be very short but if the material is original, then it's protected. Alternatively, it can be a whole sentence or long but if it's not original and contains no creative thought unique to the writer, it is not copyrightable.

Copyright protects anything in written form, including customer reviews.

To the extent that the review text contains the reviewer's original thought, then yes. But something unoriginal with no unique attributable thought like "Great Read!" is not copyrightable. If you don't believe me, try sending a page with those words to the relevant copyright office and try to register your copyright.

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #41 on: November 14, 2017, 08:19:58 AM »
Do people ask for permission to quote Kirkus reviews? The NY Times? Others? (I don't think so).
Organizations like Kirkus that produce editorial reviews have strict guidelines on what you can and cannot do. Most allow brief quotations. In other words, they give permission for an author to use small parts (without modification, as Julie said). Individual customers writing reviews don't do that. Also, most editorial review organizations require an author to purchase a license if the author wants to use bigger chunks or reproduce the whole thing. Amazon enforces a similar restriction by allowing authors to insert only brief quotes from editorial reviews.

I forget who raised the issue originally, but it seems permissible to use the quote function on these forums for purposes of these forums. That does not allow someone to quote a comment from the forums elsewhere. (When someone wanted to quote me at length in a blog, she got my permission first.)

As far as general practice is concerned, a lot of authors use review snippets in advertising. I'm sure most who do so believe it is legal and appropriate. I thought so at first myself. Now, having absorbed a lot of discussion of copyright, I think it isn't. Sure, as Alexa points out, if there are no monetary implications, someone isn't likely to sue, but something could still be technical infringement even if no one sues over it.

I'm at a point in my life at which I'm trying to minimize my stress, at least over small things I don't need to stress over. That means I wouldn't quote review snippets without permission, not because I think I'll be sued, but just because I'd rather not worry about the whole thing. There are better things to worry about.


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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #42 on: November 14, 2017, 08:20:39 AM »
Fair use allows you to quote them as part of a commentary (for example, if you quoted a review here in order to discuss the validity of a point the reviewer brought up.) But you cannot take another person's words and use them for commercial purposes.


Ok this is beyond my original question which is still about Amazon policy, and I'm not saying I believe one way or another, but how do you define "for commercial purpose" in a blurb? Is it for commercial purpose or is it just informative? The blurb is not exactly an ad you paid for. It's a "book description".

I don't think the answer is clear cut here. One can certainly argue both ways with legitimate support. There are many authors who don't think of the book description or blurb as something commercial. They think they're describing the books. You can make your case that it is because this or that, but I'm pointing out that it is not a clear cut case that everyone thinks or interpret it as such.

And while I'm still speaking in terms of within the Amazon domain and real estate, if it really is an infringement issue, then how do you all feel about a lot of Bookbub ads and Facebook ads running out there right now? Are you guys seriously trying to tell all these authors that they have to stop?

And just in case someone thinks I'm asking for myself, I want to make it clear it's a general question. I have no FB ad or BB ad running at the moment, nor have I ever tried using review quotes in FB or BB ads. But I am interested in finding out the conversion rate comparing to other methods.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 08:24:29 AM by AlexaKang »

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #43 on: November 14, 2017, 08:27:19 AM »
Ok, unrelated to this discussion, I really feel it is an error to say everything under the sun ever written is copyrighted, or that it's excepted from copyright because it is short or extremely short. This is simply not true.

To be within the protection of copyright, the material must have some minimal originality and creativity. Length has nothing to do with it.

So in that respect, these two statements are false:

Length is not the determinative factor. If can be very short but if the material is original, then it's protected. Alternatively, it can be a whole sentence or long but if it's not original and contains no creative thought unique to the writer, it is not copyrightable.
It's true that there has to be some original element to be copyrightable. However, isn't it the more original reviews that people are more likely to use. How much good does putting "Great Read!" in quotes really do?

I think length gets into people's heads because one of the criteria for determining fair use is how much is borrowed, but that's only one of several considerations.

To go back to your original question, Amazon policy is often unknowable. However, it does usually seem to err on the side of caution, so in dealing with Amazon, I would too.

Those who say it is common practice are right; I see it all the time. You are probably right in saying a lawsuit is unlikely. That doesn't mean a reviewer who wrote a positive review couldn't be offended by being quoted without permission. I'd hate to irritate even one person who liked my work if I didn't have to. :) As I said above, for me it also comes down to whether I want to worry about something like that, even if it never happens.

To the extent that the review text contains the reviewer's original thought, then yes. But something unoriginal with no unique attributable thought like "Great Read!" is not copyrightable. If you don't believe me, try sending a page with those words to the relevant copyright office and try to register your copyright.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 08:36:13 AM by Bill Hiatt »


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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #44 on: November 14, 2017, 08:29:05 AM »
To the extent that the review text contains the reviewer's original thought, then yes. But something unoriginal with no unique attributable thought like "Great Read!" is not copyrightable. If you don't believe me, try sending a page with those words to the relevant copyright office and try to register your copyright.

In the context of the conversation, which is quoting customer reviews, I hold my point still valid. Because I presume you are only going to quote a review that is identifiable and says something that is "sellable." Are we actually talking about quoting fifty-nine reviews that only say "Great Read!" I don't think so. I presume we are talking about quoting substantive reviews that would help sell the book.

And if we want to split hairs, even if "Great Read" is not copyrightable, that still won't allow you to use it as a review if you intend to actually cite a source, because now you are getting into potential Trademark and right of publicity laws that restrict your ability to use other people or company's names or likeness in commercial communication.

So you can't say "Julie Ann Dawson called My Book a "Great Read"" and without my permission, not because those two words are copyright, but because you are going to use my name, and thus my reputation and brand, in commercial communication.

And if you are going to just say "A quasi-sort-of-maybe-slightly-famous-kinda E-list celebrity person said my book is a great read" and not even identify the source, what the heck is the point?

A review is only as valid as the source. If you aren't citing the source, the review just as well be a made-up quote.

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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #45 on: November 14, 2017, 08:41:07 AM »
In the context of the conversation, which is quoting customer reviews, I hold my point still valid. Because I presume you are only going to quote a review that is identifiable and says something that is "sellable." Are we actually talking about quoting fifty-nine reviews that only say "Great Read!" I don't think so. I presume we are talking about quoting substantive reviews that would help sell the book.

Not necessarily. FB ads and BB ads have word limits. You can only put so much text on the ad. The idea is to convey immediately the genre and the feel. So there are a lot of FB ads out there where you see stuff like "A thrill ride" -- Amazon Reader. Or "Kept me on the edge of my seat," -- Amazon Reader. I see them in BB ads too but haven't paid attention to how often.

BTW, I don't think it's splitting hair. People can't go away with the impression that everything they've ever written is copyrighted. This is a very fundamental requirement for any written materials to be copyrightable. But once you got something written that meets the originality and creativity tests, then you got something to move to the next step.


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And if we want to split hairs, even if "Great Read" is not copyrightable, that still won't allow you to use it as a review if you intend to actually cite a source, because now you are getting into potential Trademark and right of publicity laws that restrict your ability to use other people or company's names or likeness in commercial communication.

So you can't say "Julie Ann Dawson called My Book a "Great Read"" and without my permission, not because those two words are copyright, but because you are going to use my name, and thus my reputation and brand, in commercial communication.

And if you are going to just say "A quasi-sort-of-maybe-slightly-famous-kinda E-list celebrity person said my book is a great read" and not even identify the source, what the heck is the point?

Yes I am. See my explanation above. People do simply identify the source as "Reader", "Readers", or "Amazon Readers." I think that might be because the customer's on-screen name might look odd in an ad. I guess the point is to say readers call it a "thrill ride" in some form or fashion.

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A review is only as valid as the source. If you aren't citing the source, the review just as well be a made-up quote.

That's one opinion for sure. But as it's been pointed out above, no, I think often people don't care about the source unless it's someone famous. In those cases, the seller's point is just to convey some message or impression in a form different from a book description.

Yeah, it can be a made-up quote, I suppose. As long as it works and converts.




« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 08:46:00 AM by AlexaKang »

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #46 on: November 14, 2017, 08:45:52 AM »
Ok this is beyond my original question which is still about Amazon policy, and I'm not saying I believe one way or another, but how do you define "for commercial purpose" in a blurb? Is it for commercial purpose or is it just informative? The blurb is not exactly an ad you paid for. It's a "book description".

Commercial use is generally considered ANY content that is part of the process of selling an item. A blurb is just as much a commercial use as a book cover. Commercial use extends beyond paid advertising to ANY type of media that's purpose is to sell the product. So the metadata you enter into IngramSpark or D2D or Smashwords or KDP when you set up your book is commercial use. The copy you put on the back cover is commercial use. The copy on your website is commercial use. Paid advertising is only one form of commercial content. Anything related to the production, promotion, and sale of your product is commercial communication.

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And while I'm still speaking in terms of within the Amazon domain and real estate, if it really is an infringement issue, then how do you all feel about a lot of Bookbub ads and Facebook ads running out there right now? Are you guys seriously trying to tell all these authors that they have to stop?

They will have to stop the day some reader sees their name and review being plastered somewhere without their permission. Like a lot of copyright issues, it doesn't BECOME an issue until someone gets caught. People "get away" with quoting song lyrics all the time...until the day they get caught. People "get away" with using "free" art they find online...until the day they get caught. The fact that people are getting away with it does not make it legal. It simply means the individuals have not gotten caught.

And the larger issue is, why would you want to risk the potential negative backlash when you can just ask permission and generate goodwill? I can't understand why one would NOT ask permission first. There is absolutely no benefit to not asking and a hundred potential negative things that can happen if you don't.

As I've said in the past, my day job is contract packaging. So this isn't just an academic argument for me. Terms like "commercial use" have very specific meanings in the marketing industry that aren't up for debate. Anything that appears on the product, or the product description, or in media related to the product, is considered commercial use and is covered by all of laws regarding said commercial use.

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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #47 on: November 14, 2017, 08:49:45 AM »

And the larger issue is, why would you want to risk the potential negative backlash when you can just ask permission and generate goodwill? I can't understand why one would NOT ask permission first. There is absolutely no benefit to not asking and a hundred potential negative things that can happen if you don't.


Well because like Tobias pointed out above, there's no way to contact the Amazon reviewer unless the reviewer is a blogger.

And honestly, just my opinion for whatever it's worth, I wouldn't suggest searching for a private person's contact info. I find it VERY creepy.

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #48 on: November 14, 2017, 09:30:24 AM »
Well because like Tobias pointed out above, there's no way to contact the Amazon reviewer unless the reviewer is a blogger.

And honestly, just my opinion for whatever it's worth, I wouldn't suggest searching for a private person's contact info. I find it VERY creepy.

Lots of Amazon reviewers removed contact information from their profiles because they were inundated by requests from product distributors and self-published authors. Lots of Amazon reviewers still have contact information available. 

If the review you are interested in using for commercial purposes is not by a reviewer that has contact information available, I would say the choices are:

1.  Decide whether using all or part of the review is valuable enough to you and your marketing efforts to leave a comment on the review asking the reviewer to contact you at whatever address you make public already. 

2.  If there is no response to the above and you have no other contact information available, you have your answer.  Don't use the customer's words for your commercial purposes.

I don't think it's as grey an area as some would like it to be.  I appreciate Bards and Sages (Julie) providing at least one authoritative source.
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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #49 on: November 14, 2017, 09:43:35 AM »
And honestly, just my opinion for whatever it's worth, I wouldn't suggest searching for a private person's contact info. I find it VERY creepy.

This ^^^  plus without going into Julie's post in detail I would suggest that there is a distinction between quoting a reviewer such as "Fred Bloggs says....." and copying the content of a review in part, or in full without using the source (which as already stated, unless it's a national celebrity, is valueless) then we are left with the content of the SMA.org link which suggest the user 'may' breach copyright law.... 'MAY' and she doesn't clarify circumstances. Then, there is the issue of using quotes with sources - very clear there that you need permission. No problem. Then there is the issue of quoting in context - no problem so long as the quote applied refers to the product or service and is honestly represented. And so on, bearing in mind that this is also an ARTICLE, not a factual representation of the law, then we get the idea it is a lawyer's view couched in lawyer-speak where 'MAY' isn't 'WILL' or 'DOES' - your own lawyer could probably defend you against it if it EVER managed to reach a court (which is highly doubtful).

If you feel you cannot in all conscience use a review without the written authority from a reviewer, then don't do it.


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