A while ago, I woke up and checked my email and there it was…
A message from Amazon saying that another author was claiming copyright infringement. My book was taken down, and my account frozen.
I was devastated.
Here I was, making over $1,600 a month with my book consistently for the past 6 months, and now, I was being sued.
My first thought was:
“No way did I copy them. I legitimately wrote that book!”
But then fear and irrational emotions took over.
I was scared and felt sick to my stomach. I spent a week on the brink of a mental breakdown. I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep.
So, I got a lawyer and created a response to prove the claim was absolutely false. In the end, Amazon restored my KDP account.
The claim WAS completely false, and it turned out that it was just a competitor wanting to knock my book off the market.
So I decided to write this post on what to do if YOU are falsely accused of copyright infringement, and what to do in those situations.
- Why false copyright infringement claims are such a real problem
- Tips to restore your KDP account and prove your copyright
- How to protect yourself in the future
Table of contents
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be taken as strict legal advice. As with anything regarding copyright or other legal needs, consider hiring a lawyer.
The Problem with Copyright Infringement on Amazon
Copyright infringement presents a big problem for authors, because Amazon makes it incredibly easy for anyone to claim copyright infringement against anyone else.
That's right, anyone can easily claim that your book is violating copyright, and Amazon KDP will immediately take it down, and likely suspend your account as well.
This is what happened to me, where the accuser was simply upset that I had a book that was outselling his.
Now, I should start out by saying that if you are legitimately pirating or taking someone else's copyrighted work and claiming it as your own, no one can help you.
If you are legitimately infringing on copyright, the victim is totally within their rights to take your book down off of Amazon. And we want to make sure that Amazon continues to make it easy enough to identify these legitimate cases, so that someone can't simply steal your book and sell it as their own without any repercussions.
The problem is that anyone can claim copyright infringement, and Amazon tends to shoot first and ask questions later.
Assuming you have been falsely accused, you can use the following tips to not only reinstate your account, remove the copyright claim, but protect yourself in the future.
Tip #1: Talk to Amazon to Reinstate Your Account
The first step should be reaching out to Amazon to, at a minimum, reinstate your account.
To do this, you need to have solid proof that you are the original copyright owner. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Prove that your work was created before that of the copyright claimant
- Prove that you hold the legal copyright to your book
- Prove that your book is actually significantly different than that of the copyright claimant
If you can provide this proof, it should be a simple matter of reinstating your account. However, in my case, Amazon would still not allow my book to be published.
For that, keep reading the rest of the tips.
And if you have any difficulty reinstating your account, we put together a guide on how to do exactly that:What To Do if Amazon Shuts Down Your Account
Tip #2: Make Sure to File Copyright
If you want your legal claim over your book to be squeaky clean, make sure to file a copyright with the official Copyright Office.
In theory, your work is copyrighted the moment you write it down. However, from a legal perspective, you cannot go to court unless you have filed a copyright.
For that reason, we recommend you file that copyright on every book you publish. See our article about how to file your copyright:How to File a Copyright
Tip #3: Take It to the Copyright Claims Board (CCB)
Originally, it used to cost an arm and a leg to go to court over a copyright, because you needed a lawyer, and lawyers don't come cheap.
However, in 2020, the US government created the equivalent of a small-Claims Court, which will let you settle a copyright claim without a lawyer.
Basically, this reduces the expenses of disputing copyright claims significantly.
Side note: if you are located outside of the US, we don't have specific information for you, but we recommend you look up your local copyright laws, and see if there is an equivalent method.
What is the CCB?
The CCB stands for Copyright Claims Board, and consists of three officers who preside, and have the final decision over, any disputed copyright claims.
Most of the work is done online, and your claim is as simple as putting in a written statement. If a hearing is required, it is done by videoconference, with no travel necessary.
The fees for a claim are $40, with an additional $60 if the case becomes active.
Sounds great, right?
There is one small wrinkle. Anyone can opt out of the CCB, because all copyright claims have the right to go to federal court.
So why wouldn't someone just opt out of every copyright claim?
Theoretically, they could. However, I think this is unlikely. Going to federal court requires a lot more money, and if the claimant is falsely accusing you, they will know that their argument will not hold up in federal court, and they are likely to lose a lot of money.
In that case, the CCB seems like a much more affordable option, not just for you, the author, but for the claimant as well.
Note: in order for your case to go to the CCB, you have to have a filed copyright for your book. This is why it is so important to file that copyright.
Learn more about the CCB on their website:The CCB Website
Tip #4: Lawyer Up
Assuming none of the above work, and you definitely didn't infringe the copyright of someone else, you may need to get a lawyer.
This is the unfortunate, and expensive, option. But it may be necessary in some cases. If someone has falsely claimed copyright of your book, and it is significantly impacting your sales, to the point where you really need compensation for damages, a lawyer could be a good option.
Note that this is something of a last resort, and for most authors will be more expensive than simply rewriting the book (see the next tip).
However, many cases do not even make it to court. If you get a lawyer involved, you might be able to settle your claim outside of court, saving you considerable money.
You will still have to pay for the lawyer's time, though.
Tip #5: Rewrite the Book
This may sound like an excruciatingly difficult option to swallow, but it is what I had to do when my copyright accuser refused to back down.
My lawyer told me that we could go to court, and we would almost certainly win. But doing so would cost a lot of money.
It soon became clear that the cost of rewriting the book was significantly less than the cost of going to court.
So what did I do? I rewrote the book.
There are other options here as well. For example, you could hire a ghostwriter to rewrite your book, which would cost money, but at least it would save you time.
And perhaps this would be a good opportunity to create a “second edition” or a “new and improved edition”, which can be a great way to market said book.
I know many authors look at their older books and cringe, as we tend to improve a lot with each book we write. This could be an opportunity to make that book even better.
That said, this is not the most enjoyable of options, so it is completely understandable if you would prefer to resolve the issue another way.
Tip #6: Build a Publishing Company to Protect Yourself
My lawyer pointed out that all of my personal assets had been at risk over this.
If the person claiming the copyright infringement had won, and claimed damages, they could have gone after my home, car, savings…everything would have been at risk.
It was then that my lawyer recommended I start thinking about my online writing as a business…not a hobby or side hustle. More importantly, I needed to treat it like one.
When we create products of any kind, even books, we are at risk.
That’s why I immediately moved my writing under an LLC and took actions so that I would be able to legally and legitimately separate my personal life from my business.
Basically, I ended up creating my own legal Publishing Company.
Unlike the traditional sense, my publishing company only sells my books, but in doing so, it protects me.
However, if you’re looking to start a publishing company that sells other people’s book, then this same process is absolutely NECESSARY.
So, if you’re thinking of either starting your own company to sell other people’s books, or just to protect your own assets, or both, then be sure to check out my updated Kindlepreneur article:How to Start a Publishing Company
Getting that notice was one of the worst and best things to happen to me. It hurt deeply to receive it, but it also helped to take my writing to the next legitimate level.
If this has happened to you, don't panic. There are legitimate ways to reinstate your Amazon KDP account, prove that you own the copyright, and take legal action.
So, be sure to understand the process and decide if these tips are best for you and where you are at as a writer and publisher.