Author Topic: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover  (Read 10590 times)  

Offline Angela Ackerman

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Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
« on: April 28, 2014, 09:15:09 am »
Hi guys,

I have a situation I sure could use help with. I am trying to track down contact information for an author who appears to have taken the cover of my book and used it for his own. I own the copyright, and while he did make a few alterations, I believe it is clear his intention is to fool my readers into thinking his book is somehow part of my bestselling series.

My book: http://www.amazon.com/Emotion-Thesaurus-Writers-Character-Expression-ebook/dp/B00822WM2M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-2&qid=1336606906

His book: http://www.amazon.com/INTERNET-MARKETING-THESAURUS-Internet-Marketer-ebook/dp/B00JRG30ZA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1398698247&sr=1-1

Not only has he used our cover, but he's also gone the added mile to call his book a "thesaurus" to further make it seem as if his book is somehow a part of our series, or that it is affiliated somehow. His book is not a thesaurus in any sense of the word, has no teaching content, and simply is a list of dictionary definitions like "HTML" and "Website." Another red flag? The book starts off with a legal disclaimer, telling me he's trying to safeguard himself from angry readers when they discover the book has so little value.

We have three books in this series so far, establishing a clear brand through our covers & titles:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Emotion-Thesaurus-Character-Expression/dp/1475004958/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336606906&sr=1-2
http://www.amazon.com/The-Negative-Trait-Thesaurus-Character/dp/0989772500/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1CM34J3532JP98FPGMBV
http://www.amazon.com/The-Positive-Trait-Thesaurus-Attributes-ebook/dp/B00FVZDVS2/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1446ZP4QKADD40NWY8XP

Obviously, it's important I get this book taken down--I would hate for our readers to be taken in, thinking this book is somehow part of our series. My co-author contacted Writer Beware, and they suggested contacting Amazon because they are trying to crack down on fake book content, which I have done. They are going to investigate the book, and encouraged us to talk to the BBB.

Of course want to contact the author to get this book taken down. Matt Phillips is listed on the cover, but it also names Jay Burke at Amazon as a co-author. Jay has another book, [email protected] Success Secrets: 11 Tactics to Sell More Books, Make More Money and Dominate, published 2 days after the Internet Marketing one. So whether these are two different people, or the same guy writing under a pseudonym, I don't know.

I have tried searching for both people, but am coming up empty. There are no amazon author pages, and no mentions I can find online of either book as a guest post or review that links to the author. I did find one link through the image to this site: http://insidetips.howmuchismywebsite.com/tools-and-resources/internet-marketing-thesaurus-words-terms-phrases-every-internet-marketer-should-know/ and it is paired with yet another book published in April 2014 by a Geoff Thomerson, making me wonder if this too is the same person. 

I feel like I'm running in circles.  :(  Does anyone have any other ideas on what else I can try to track down the author of a book?

Thanks so much,

Angela

« Last Edit: April 30, 2014, 09:10:41 am by Angela Ackerman »
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    Offline Ann in Arlington

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #1 on: April 28, 2014, 09:16:35 am »
    locking while under review.


    After discussion, the thread is unlocked.

    My initial reaction is this is something you need to take up with Amazon, but no doubt some others will have some ideas of responsible ways to deal with the situation.

    A caution, however: there will be no nastiness allowed.  So if you have constructive suggestions for Angela, that's fine. If all you want to do is badmouth the other person, that's not. 
    « Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 03:11:39 pm by Ann in Arlington »
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    Offline kcochran

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #2 on: April 28, 2014, 04:00:56 pm »
    I don't think a bookcover design itself can be copyrighted (but I am no expert).  Now had you been able to trademark or service mark the look of the cover that might have been different.  Also, I don't think it is technically piracy unless it has the exact content of your book.  Because of this, you might want to be careful about your remark on that page (to protect yourself).

    On the plus side, you are much higher up in the rankings than their book so that is good.  I would also write something in your description to tell people to make sure they look for the "writers helping writers" emblem (if that is a copyrighted image of yours) to ensure they are getting a genuine book that belongs to the series.  Then if that person uses your copyright image you of course can take action at least to get them to remove that image.

    I write mysteries so of course I couldn't resist trying to find this guy or guys.  But alas, none of the imprints really showed up on Google other than on Amazon. 

    I would definitely contact Amazon though and see if there is anything they can do about it.

    I hope you are able to get it all worked out.
    Kelly Cochran
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    Offline Silly Writer

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #3 on: April 28, 2014, 04:16:06 pm »
    Angela,
    That truly sucks.
    On the bright side, I had your first book and didn't know you had two others out. So I bought both in print!
    Hope you get this situation handled to your satisfaction.

    Offline ricola

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #4 on: April 28, 2014, 04:48:57 pm »
    I don't think a bookcover design itself can be copyrighted (but I am no expert). 

    Of course it's copyrighted!

    Offline Keith Soares

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #5 on: April 28, 2014, 04:59:20 pm »
    I would think that Amazon would *want* to help you with this.

    You - author with proven track record and sales

    The other party - obvious attempt to lift your style and questionable sales

    The thing I would make sure to do is to SPEAK to someone at Amazon, not just get in the endless queue of email threads. Make sure someone is looking into this and doing something about it. Amazon controls their entire product database and can easily turn off a single product or an entire vendor if they think it is warranted or in their best interest (or both).

    It is unfortunately commonplace. In my 'day job', I've seen my entire company website ripped off and repurposed. I've see entire brands lifted to try to make a quick buck before anyone finds out.

    From what you describe, it sounds like this person may be a serial offender, taking simple content and putting it in association with a known success to make some money. Usually, in my experience, these people tend to run and hide when confronted, so I expect any direct confrontation will result in the book disappearing. However, the serial offenders typically crop up again, doing the same thing to someone else later on.

    Good luck with it all
    K.
    « Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:02:01 pm by Keith Soares »
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    Offline Speaker-To-Animals

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 05:07:42 pm »
    Quote
    Of course it's copyrighted!

    The exact book cover can be copyrighted, but it's not the same book cover. It's a completely different cover that uses all the same elements and the same general look and feel. Pretty sure that can't be copyrighted. That's something that I believe can be trademarked if it identifies your brand. I'm not sure if the fact that it's a separate field (internet marketing vs. writing) would affect that. You'd also have to have done so, there's no automatic trademark in the way there's an automatic copyright.

    Looking at the sales rank, I wouldn't put a great deal of effort into worrying about it.

    Edit: btw I don't want to imply this is morally ok. It's not. It's one thing to take a few general ideas, but this is a hardcore copy job. I just don't know if you have actual legal recourse in the court of law sense.
    « Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:13:13 pm by Kat S »

    Offline Angela Ackerman

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #7 on: April 28, 2014, 06:11:17 pm »
    Hi everyone,

    Thank you so much for responding (and all the private messages!) I really appreciate it. Yes, our cover is copyrighted, and while his is not exactly the same, my understanding is for it to be classified as a derivative work, there needs to be the element of originality to the other person's cover. I don't know that one could say that there is an original element here, especially since he also chose to call his book a "thesaurus" (and it clearly is not, either creative or otherwise) which makes it appear this was very likely an attempt to cash in on our brand.  (I'm not an expert in this area or what recourse exists for this situation and would likely need a professional to weigh in on where things stand.)

    The suggestion that our readers look for the WHW logo is a really great one--thank you (and yes, that also belongs to us). We are currently applying it to The Emotion Thesaurus cover (digital copies are up to date, but the print still needs to be updated) as we commissioned that logo when we created our website and released our two new books. I'm going to fast track that.

    @Keith, I talked to Amazon on the phone for the exact reason you stated...I didn't want my request to be lost, and I find talking to someone in person at Amazon is usually the best way to make sure your communicating the exact issue correctly. They said they'd get back to us in a day or two, and so when they do I'll post here to update. That way, if someone else runs onto something similar down the road, all the info is here. (@Kcochran, just so you know, I actually haven't said anything on his page regarding the book--a few others started a discussion of their own accord, and it was actually one of our book readers who discovered this book and brought it to my attention.)

    Speaking of, here are some useful links for this situation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work
    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/08/2011/not-a-good-week-for-harper-collins-cover-art-rip-off/

    I hope this helps. :) Thank you all again, really appreciate it!

    (@L.L. ROTF, too funny. Thanks and I hope you find them just as helpful as the ET--let me know how it goes! )
    « Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 06:13:13 pm by Angela Ackerman »
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    Offline KarlYork

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #8 on: April 28, 2014, 06:13:08 pm »
    It is a bit of a pain, but I don't think there's very much you can do about this. Of course, it's probably worth flagging it up with Amazon to see if they might decide to take some action.

    But if you do not have any of that "branding" registered, then your next step would be the common law tort of 'passing off'. This probably wouldn't work because the other man is not misrepresenting his product as being yours, or related to yours. The two books appear to be in different niches. This being the case, Amazon might not be too concerned because of the so-called "moron in a hurry" scenario; any man or woman wishing to buy your book would read the title and see that it is entirely different to that of the other book.

    It's definitely not "cool" that he practically lifted your design elements (the blue of his is different to yours if you check it out using a colour identifier program like Pixie). At least he won't sell many copies, as his Look Inside bit ends just as you reach the Contents page! lol. Your energies and talents are probably best spent on your next book, or keep plugging away at marketing and promoting this one.

    Refs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passing_off & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moron_in_a_hurry


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    Offline Silly Writer

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #9 on: April 28, 2014, 06:16:16 pm »

    (@L.L. ROTF, too funny. Thanks and I hope you find them just as helpful as the ET--let me know how it goes! )

    Helpful is an understatement! My 2nd book is so much better because of you! I just wish I'd known of it when I wrote the first one  >:(

    Offline ricola

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #10 on: April 28, 2014, 06:19:31 pm »
    There is a very clear copyright infringement in this case.  That's like rewriting Harry Potter and changing all the character names and using different words but keeping the plot exactly the same.  It doesn't have to be the precise same thing for infringement.

    Offline Chrisbwritin

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #11 on: April 28, 2014, 06:27:53 pm »
    Angela- Sorry to hear this happened, and I hope you get it worked out. I don't have anything useful to add, but wanted to say that I also have the E.T. and thinks it's FAB and recommend it every chance I get.

    NYT Bestselling Author Chloe Cole, USA Today Bestselling Author Christine Bell

    Offline Michelle Maibelle

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #12 on: April 28, 2014, 06:30:38 pm »
    I've been wanting to get your book for awhile now! Hope this whole thing gets resolved for you.


    Offline fallswriter

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #13 on: April 28, 2014, 06:31:15 pm »
    And now I've discovered your books! Have bought all 3!!!! Hope you get where you want with the Zon!
    This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.~Neil Gaiman

    Offline Cheryl M.

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #14 on: April 28, 2014, 07:09:40 pm »
    Oh no, ladies. That's awful. I'm a big fan of the thesauruses!

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    Offline Christa Wick

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #15 on: April 28, 2014, 08:06:42 pm »
    Totally nothing to do with the cover issue, but i was hoping you'd appify your books (particularly if they could operate as a plug-in to word processing programs). :D

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #16 on: April 28, 2014, 08:43:29 pm »
    I'm sorry to hear of this, Angela. I have all three of your thesauruses (love them, by the way) and might easily have mistaken this for one of yours, based on that cover. It's a clear attempt to piggyback on your brand but I don't think there's much you can do, aside from notifying Amazon. I've seen a couple cover copyright violations on Amazon in the past and have noticed they were removed eventually - presumably as a result of complaints. Hopefully Amazon will act quickly on this one.

    Offline AshMP

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #17 on: April 28, 2014, 09:26:34 pm »
    That sucks, but sadly I have to echo others and say there is very little you can do. These things, unfortunately, happen. A while ago I was looking for a stock photo for my book and came across an amazing piece on a big, expensive site. I always google search the images I like, so I did that with the image and it turned out there was already a Big 5 book with the cover. I could have bought it, and truthfully almost did buy it, but ultimately changed my mind. It would have been perfectly legal for me to do so, I would have been well within my rights and although the covers would have been practical mirrors of each other, there would have been nothing the publisher or writer could have done.

    I hope you get the resolution you want!

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    Offline Melody Simmons

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #18 on: April 28, 2014, 09:55:06 pm »
    Of course covers are copyrighted!  And Amazon is very helpful in this regard.  I've had a stolen cover from an author who did not pay me or respond to my emails removed from Amazon as well as from Barnes & Noble.  You just have to go through the proper legal procedures and provide a DMCA Takedown notice, and they will investigate the matter.  Start here:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/reports/infringement

    Oh, and that is the advantage of using well-designed, composite covers made up of several images!  No one can point to a stock website and simply say "but I purchased the image there" - because no one will have the exact composite cover for sale...
    « Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 09:57:19 pm by Melody Simmons »

    Offline SWF

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #19 on: April 28, 2014, 10:56:28 pm »
    Wow, that is pretty blatant. I don't know the legal specifics but I can't see that Amazon will allow it to stay up.

    On the bright side, I think I'm the third person on this thread who loved your first book and didn't know you had more out. :D

    >>trots back to Amazon to order the rest of Angela's books<<


    Offline Pete Joison

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #20 on: April 28, 2014, 11:37:37 pm »
    Oh, and that is the advantage of using well-designed, composite covers made up of several images!  No one can point to a stock website and simply say "but I purchased the image there" - because no one will have the exact composite cover for sale...

    Well put Melody. Totally agree.

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    Offline Paul Huxley

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #21 on: April 29, 2014, 03:18:14 am »
    I just have to say that I don't think there is enough similarity between the two covers for it to be illegal. They are trying to rip you off, no question, but the covers are indisputably different. If anything the cover has been retro-engineered, which is entirely acceptable (from a legal standpoint). Your title cannot be copyrighted, much like anyone can call their cereal corn flakes, even though we know that they aren't 'Kellogg's' Corn Flakes.

    It's unfortunate but not unlike the hundreds of copycat Twilight rip-offs. Check the sigs of all the authors on this site and see if you see an original cover (including mine).

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    Offline Angela Ackerman

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #22 on: April 29, 2014, 10:01:05 am »
    Thank you all for weighing in, and pointing me to links to follow up on. I am hopeful that Amazon will assist with this--they have been pretty good in the past with fixing issues, not that there have been many. I agree, creating a cover comprised of several images is smart. We bought rights to the word scramble for the ET and had a designer do the rest. I think the WHW logo being added will help too. We're in process of having that added to all our covers as I said, and only have the ET print version left to do. We just need to wait until the start of next month because the book will be pulled from Amazon, and at the end of the month is when we see bulk orders come in from various other retailers so we want to make sure those aren't affected.

    Even though I don't know if I can force the author to change the cover, I do feel so much better just coming to you guys for help. Sounds like I am not the only one who has seen this happen. It is weird what people do sometimes. Another guy is selling a book that is a list of Amazon reviews for The Emotion Thesaurus...and who would buy that? Makes no sense.

    And holy gosh, thank you for the kind word about this series--you guys are the best! So glad you're all getting good use out of them and that they help out with brainstorming when you need it. I hope those of you who grabbed the new books find them just as helpful as the Emotion Thesaurus--let me know how it goes :)   

    have a great day :)

    Angela
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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #23 on: April 29, 2014, 11:58:13 am »
    For those who are saying that covers cannot be protected by copyright: this is fundamentally false. And in this specific case, we are talking about more than copyright. This is a trade dress issue, which falls under trademark. I don't know if the OP has formally registered the trade dress, but like copyright it isn't a requirement to enforce (though like copyright you miss out on a lot of additional protections if it is not registered). Considering the strong branding Angela has for this product line and that this is an obvious attempt to misdirect customers to a competing product, I would think it would be worth contacting an attorney if Amazon doesn't come through.

    Offline Oscar Arias

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    Re: Need Help Tracking Down the Author Using a Stolen Cover
    « Reply #24 on: April 29, 2014, 01:23:48 pm »
    There is a very clear copyright infringement in this case.  That's like rewriting Harry Potter and changing all the character names and using different words but keeping the plot exactly the same.  It doesn't have to be the precise same thing for infringement.

    Well, so much for that idea...

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