Defending Your Copyright: What You Need to Know

Recently, I found out the hard way what you can expect in a battle to defend your copyright.

First, let me put a disclaimer here: this information, to the best of my knowledge, only applies in the US. You should check into the regulations within your own country.

summer_fling-200x300I’ve posted extensively on my website about the conflict I got into with Amazon over my right to publish A Summer Fling, but I’ll share the highlights with you here: a short time ago, I updated some information in my bio on a long-standing free short story on Amazon.

The next day, I received an email from KDP saying that prior to my submission they’d received a complaint and takedown notice from a third party and they declined to re-publish the story. A story that had been available for the last three years. I was given four days to prove I was the author of the story in question or face a lifetime ban from publishing on Amazon.

I was aghast. My initial thought was I’d done something wrong with the file changes. I contacted friends, who assured me this wasn’t all that unusual, and that Amazon was getting tougher about establishing copyright due to copyright claim jumping as well as people stealing the pen names of established authors to publish their own stories. Self-published authors may be at greater risk.

This is a good time to state here that in the US, copyright is conferred at the time the work is created, and it is not necessary to register it with the copyright office to claim copyright or even defend that copyright in court. Is *is* necessary, however, if you intend to sue for damages due to copyright infringement. I have since learned that having your works registered will go a long way toward defending your copyright in many cases without going to court–something most of us would probably prefer. I also believe in this age where theft of digital products is on the rise (funny how everyone wants access to the end product but few want to pay the actual creator of these works…), it behooves us as authors to think proactively about our stories.

From the US copyright office:

1. Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship.
2. Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
3. Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
4. The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

Here is the link for the US copyright office.

That said, I was able to provide Amazon with ample proof that I was the copyright holder of the story. I sent in the original draft (written in 2011), as well as links to where it appeared as a free story online during a fest, and then the 2013 Smashwords creation. I also, for good measure, retroactively registered the copyright and provided Amazon with that case number. Satisfied there was no way anyone could contest I was the author of A Summer Fling, I sent the email and dismissed it from my mind.

Only the next communication changed everything. Amazon no longer disputed that I had written the story. The problem was some third party claimed I didn’t have a right to publish the story. WTH?

This was no longer a case of random copyright theft. The number of potential claimants in this case was quite small. Two as a matter of fact. The first party contacted Amazon on my behalf and received a generic email response that told her nothing.

A fourth refusal from Amazon to re-establish the story included a generous invitation to continue publishing with them in the future–and a suggestion to hire a copyright lawyer. In the meantime, I’d been on the phone with Author Central and KDP, and I’d forwarded Jeff Bezos all my communications with KDP–including a statement from a now-defunct ebook retailer (who happened to have closed doors 24 hours before this problem arose) showing they had no publishing rights to my story. Because now I’m suspicious. Highly suspicious.

And then suddenly, I receive an email from Amazon stating ‘on further review’ they’ve decided to reverse their position and put the story back up again. No explanation. I have no idea if it was my loud persistence, the intervention of one of the two possible claimants, or my contacting Jeff Bezos about the matter that resolved it.

I doubt that copyright registration would have made a difference in this case because this was about publishing rights, not copyrights. But I will definitely be registering my previous and future stories with the copyright office as an extra layer of protection.

I will also download copies of *every* agreement signed to allow distribution of my stories. I was fortunate to still have access to a copy of the ARe agreement, even though I don’t know if they were the source of the conflict.

The takehome message here is to be proactive in defending your works. I was facing hiring a copyright lawyer to determine if a free story was being blocked by accident or a malicious attempt to lay claim to all my self-published stories. You can see why I had to seriously consider hiring that lawyer.

 

Bio:

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.

Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series.

If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.

Website: http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com

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Out Now: “Pride Weekend”—a free short story by Charley Descoteaux!

PrideWeekendFS

The Blurb:
Series: Buchanan House, book 2
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 22, 2015
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Overworked cubicle jockey Adam Byron wants to attend Oregon Coast Pride in style but the price of a room at Buchanan House, a popular gay retreat on the central coast, is beyond his budget. So he won’t miss out, he advertises online for someone to share expenses. Corporate drone Silas Grant responds to Adam’s ad, and the two get to know each other via texts before meeting at the coast. They agree on a no-pressure roommate arrangement, yet once they meet face-to-face their attraction is undeniable. Desire might simmer well beyond Pride weekend, no matter how hard Adam and Silas try to live up to their noncommitment pact.

An Excerpt:

Silas

I didn’t lose my nerve, but with how tentative and quiet Adam stayed while I chatted with our hosts and every other guest at the party, I took things slower than I would’ve liked. The last thing I wanted was for him to think I was a player. Maybe he just wasn’t used to being surrounded by a roomful of horny gay men. Or maybe he was naturally quiet in real life. Whatever his reasons, I could respect them, but I wouldn’t be deterred. I would find out what his body looked like, what it felt like against mine, what it tasted like.

And I would ignore the flare of jealousy I felt whenever another man checked out his ass or rested a hand on his arm.

Everyone flirted with everyone else—it’s just the way it worked at parties like that, and it didn’t necessarily mean anything. Except one couple kept eyeing him and whispering. Maybe hoping for a threesome, or foursome. When they started to approach us, after the other guests had left to go gambling or dancing in Lincoln City, I used a ruse to get Adam outside alone. It had worked on me the first time I had drinks at a party, in my sophomore year of high school, and it worked just as well on Adam. If he knew he hadn’t stumbled, he didn’t seem to care. The unquestioning way he let me take him outside had my dick filling before we cleared the porch. I didn’t think I could wait through the sunset, but it was pretty, so I stuck it out.

I wasn’t the only one who felt tortured, a fact that became obvious as soon as I let my arm rest in his lap.

“Do you want another drink?”

He flinched a little when I spoke. Neither of us had said a word for the past hour. Or maybe he startled because I increased the pressure of my arm against his cock at the same time.

“No, thanks. I’m good.”

I don’t doubt that. “How about if we go upstairs?”

He sighed, almost as though he’d been holding his breath and waiting for me to ask. “That sounds good.”

I didn’t really want to let go of him, but, physics. Once we stood and started moving toward the house, things happened fast. Almost fast enough. We raced up the back staircase—there didn’t seem to be time to go through the party room and then the lobby to take the indoor stairs. I pulled him by the hand until we reached the door to our room. Adam’s key was in a pocket without a button closure, so I reached inside and took it. I slipped my left hand back into that pocket while I unlocked the door with my right. Neither operation went quickly or smoothly, but that first handful—the first time I wrapped a hand around his hard cock, even through the fabric of his pocket—was a life-altering experience.

Get your free copy of Pride Weekend!
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  • About Charley<

    Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.

    Rattle Charley’s cages:
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