Standing up to The Man (Amazon)

Jan 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: CG Blog

Kind of. Amazon tried to give us some trouble with the Kindle edition of issue 14.

On December 27, I created the new Kindle release in the online “Shelf”, as they call it. I entered all the information and uploaded the file and cover.

At the time, I noted that Amazon had added an additional step that hadn’t been there when I’d created the issue 13 Kindle. The new step, titled “Confirm Content Rights”, has 2 steps:

A. Enter the territories for which you have all rights necessary to make the content available for marketing, distribution and sale [2 choices: ‘Worldwide rights – all territories’ and ‘Individual territories – select territories’]

B. I confirm that I have all rights necessary to make the content available for marketing, distribution and sale: [has a tick-box which says “I confirm that I have the right to upload this content”]

I noted this new step but didn’t have a problem with it: after all, we DO have all necessary rights to distribute the content of Crossed Genres issues, so I had no compunctions about indicating that. I completed the upload and selected “Publish”. A note appeared in My Shelf saying the title would be reviewed and I should check back in 48-72 hours. This review period is also a relatively new addition to the process – items used to go through immediately. But even so, I’d seen the review period the past couple of issues, and since each issue had eventually been published without problems, I didn’t think much of it.

On December 28, I received the following email from Amazon, reproduced exactly except for email addresses and Title information (and I bolded the section that caused the most consternation):

Alert from Amazon DTP

From: Amazon.com Customer Service ([EMAIL REMOVED])
Sent: Mon 12/28/09 1:27 PM
To: [EMAIL REMOVED] ([EMAIL REMOVED])
Cc: [EMAIL REMOVED] ([EMAIL REMOVED])

Dear Publisher,

We are contacting you regarding the following title(s) you have uploaded for sale through the Kindle store:

Crossed Genres Issue 14 by [TITLE INFORMATION REMOVED

We are interested in making your title(s) available for customers to purchase in the Kindle Store, but we would like to first confirm that you are certain you are authorized to sell the title(s), and if you are certain that you are, receive documentation from you confirming your authorization. Please reply to [EMAIL REMOVED] within 10 days, with your confirmation and with appropriate documentation of your e-book rights for your title(s).

Specifically if you are not the author of the title, please confirm that you have all rights necessary to distribute the title in eBook format, and provide any written documentation you have from the author or other copyright owner of the title (such as a contract or other written authorization) which gives you all rights necessary to distribute the title in eBook format, or any other documentation or evidence you have of your copyright ownership (such as a copyright registration number).

If you are the author of the title(s) and you have retained the eBook rights to the title(s), please confirm that you are the author of the title and that you have retained the eBook rights to the title, and provide any documentation or other evidence you may have of your ownership (such as a copyright registration number).

If the title is also published in physical format, and you are affiliated with or otherwise have a relationship with the publisher of the physical book, please explain your relationship with the publisher of the physical book and provide any documentation you may have of your relationship.

We look forward to making the title available to Kindle customers as quickly as possible.

Thank you,
Amazon.com

I had two initial reactions to this: One, why would they have added the “Confirm Content Rights” section to the creation process if they were going to do this? and Two: They expect us to send them copies of our private, signed contracts?

I have no idea if other companies do this, or try to. But the second I read this, I knew there was no way we would ever send them the copies. Those contracts are private legal documents between us and our contributors, and frankly none of their damned business. Showing Amazon those documents would do absolutely nothing to further indemnify them from responsibility if we did publish something without legal right. I talked with Kay about this and we agreed on all points.

On Tuesday the 29th, I sent back this reply (Again, exactly as sent except without contact information):

RE: Alert from Amazon DTP

From: Bart Leib ([EMAIL REMOVED])
Sent: Tue 12/29/09 1:09 PM
To: [EMAIL REMOVED]
Cc: Kay Holt ([EMAIL REMOVED])

Hello,

My name is Bart Leib. I am co-owner of Crossed Genres magazine (http://crossedgenres.com). The title your email mentioned is issue # 14 of our monthly magazine.

Crossed Genres is a registered Sole Proprietorship in Massachusetts. We license the rights for all the writing and art we publish from the authors/artists, just as any magazine would.

I must confess I’m somewhat bemused by this email. You actually want us to send you copies of our licensing contracts? Up to this point you’ve published Issues 5 through 13 of our magazine on the Kindle, without needing this, and I’d like to know if something has changed to cause you to make such a request now. Has there been a complaint about us? To our knowledge we have never broken a law or copyright with our publications and know of no reason why anyone would think we had.

Moreover, when I entered the appropriate information for this title on the Kindle site on My Shelf, under section 2 (“Confirm Content Rights”), I was required to indicate and confirm officially that “I have all rights necessary to make the content available for marketing, distribution and sale”. I fail to see how that could be insufficient enough for your company that you would then make this further request: if that indication wasn’t enough, why have it at all?

Crossed Genres will be happy to provide a written statement declaring that we have the legal right to publish any work we upload for publication on Kindle. But we do not intend to provide copies of our signed, private, proprietary business contracts; no one could expect Amazon to disclose its own contracts, so neither should Amazon expect anyone to share documentation of that sort. Crossed Genres has done nothing to warrant any suspicion and we feel the request for our private contracts is inappropriate. If this means Amazon is unwilling to publish our magazine on the Kindle any longer, we will rely on our other avenues of digital publication.

Sincerely,

Bart R. Leib
Co-Owner, Crossed Genres
http:/crossedgenres.com

We were absolutely serious about our willingness to abandon Kindle, by the way. Just in case anyone was wondering. We honestly had no idea how Amazon would respond; on the one hand, we’re small potatoes and they might not care enough to give us more trouble, but on the other hand this could have been some new policy that they were going to be hard-assed about.

We were pleased (and a bit relieved) to have Amazon choose the former. On Thursday the 31st, after not hearing anything, I checked and discovered that, according to My Shelf, the issue had been published. A quick check of Amazon.com found the Kindle edition available to purchase. When I checked my email, I found this waiting:

Alert from Amazon DTP

From: Amazon.com Customer Service ([EMAIL REMOVED])
Sent: Thu 12/31/09 9:17 AM
To: [EMAIL REMOVED] ([EMAIL REMOVED])
Cc: [EMAIL REMOVED] ([EMAIL REMOVED])

Dear Publisher,

We’ve published your Kindle book labeled:

Crossed Genres Issue 14

It’ll be available for sale on our website within 24-48 hours.

Thank you,
Amazon.com

We didn’t want to deal with an argument with Amazon, so we’re happy to have it essentially go away. But I have to wonder: why did they ask in the first place? How did the people who read my email react? Did they drop it because we’re small potatoes, or because it was a fight they didn’t want to to be part of (or some of both)? I have lots of theories and no answers. I’d certainly be curious to hear speculation if you’ve got some.

And now I get to wonder: next month when I submit issue 15, am I going to hear about this again?

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  1. […] gotten the proof of the anthology, but I’m expecting it on Monday; Earlier I blogged about standing up to the Man (Amazon); I’m going to bed. Post title from “Dig A Hole In the Ground” by Fred […]

  2. […] on January 2 I posted about Amazon’s absurd email regarding our right to publish CG content. Go read that post for […]

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