Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

January 11, 2018

Alert: Copyright Infringement By the Internet Archive (and What You Can Do About It)



Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has issued an alert on copyright infringement by the Internet Archive. Other professional writers' groups taking notice include the UK's Society of Authors, which has posted an alert on its website, and the USA's Authors Guild and National Writers Union, which have alerted their members.

I've reproduced SFWA's alert below. Although this seems to be the first time widespread attention has been paid to it, IA's massive scanning project is not a new endeavor. See this 2013 article from Teleread's Chris Meadows.

I've commented on my own experience at the bottom of this post.

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From the Legal Affairs Committee:

INFRINGEMENT ALERT

The Internet Archive is carrying out a very large and growing program of scanning entire books and posting them on the public Internet. It is calling this project "Open Library", but it is SFWA's understanding that this is not library lending, but direct infringement of authors' copyrights.

We suspect that this is the world's largest ongoing project of unremunerated digital distribution of entire in-copyright books. An extensive, random assortment of books is available for e-lending—that is the “borrowing” of a digital (scanned) copy. For those books that can be “borrowed,” Open Library allows users to download digital copies in a variety of formats to read using standard e-reader software. Unlike e-lending from a regular library, Open Library is not serving up licensed, paid-for copies, but their own scans.

As with other e-lending services, the books are DRM-protected, and should become unreadable after the “loan” period. However, an unreadable copy of the book is saved on users’ devices (iPads, e-readers, computers, etc.) and can be made readable by stripping DRM protection. SFWA is still investigating the extent to which these downloadable copies can be pirated.

These books are accessible from both archive.org and openlibrary.org. If you want to find out if your books are being infringed, go to Internet Archive's search page and search metadata for your name. You have to register, log in, and "borrow" the books to see if they are there in their entirety. A secondary search on Open Library's search page may turn up some additional titles, but will also show books that are in the Open Library database that have not been infringed.

If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, you can provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. Alternatively, you can use the SFWA DMCA Notice Generator to create a DMCA notice for you. As a temporary measure, authors can also repeatedly "check out" their books to keep them from being "borrowed" by others.

A DMCA notice must include:

• Identification of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
• An exact description of where the infringed material is located within the Internet Archive collections;
• Your address, telephone number, and email address;
• A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
• A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the owner of the copyright interest involved or are authorized to act on behalf of that owner; and
• Your electronic or physical signature.

The Internet Archive Copyright Agent can be reached as follows:

Internet Archive Copyright Agent
Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415-561-6767
Email: info@archive.org

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Here's my personal experience with the Internet Archive and Open Library.

Four of my books have been scanned and are available for borrowing. One (The Lady of Rhuddesmere) is out of print in all editions, but still in copyright. The other three are in copyright, "in print", and available for purchase in digital, print, and/or audio formats.


When you borrow a book from IA or Open Library, you can either read a photographic scan of it on-screen via the Internet Archive BookReader, or download it as an EPUB or PDF. The "borrows" are said to expire after 14 days.

On January 1, to test all of this, I borrowed and downloaded Passion Blue. The PDF is the photographic scan rendered page by page (rather than double-paged, as in the on-screen reader). The EPUB is an OCR conversion and is full of errors--weird characters, garbled words, page headers and footers in the text, and the like.

I also sent a DMCA notice for Passion Blue. I emailed the notice on January 1, and a second notice on January 9. As of this writing (January 11), I've received no response.

I'll update this post as I get more info.

January 3, 2018

Book Promotions International, or, How Not to Get Your Book Into a Library

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Hot on the heels of the infamous Christmas writing contest spam comes another spam solicitation aimed at separating writers from their money.


The link leads directly to PayPal.

So if you're not already ROTFLing at the sheer chutzpah of this, um, offer, why would it be a terrible use of money?

First and most obvious, because once you sent your payment, you'd have no way of confirming that a) this person had actually bought your book, or b) actually donated it.

And second, because this is not how books get into libraries. Some libraries don't accept donations at all (my local library among them; when I was doing book reviews, they declined my offer to donate brand-new direct-from-the-publisher hardcovers). Even if they do, there's no guarantee they will actually shelve the donations, especially if the books aren't professionally packaged. Where donated books will probably wind up is in the annual Friends of the Library book sale.

So is this a scam? As cartoonish a ripoff as it seems, it's hard to say--the line between scammery and simple cluelessness can be difficult to discern. G.E. Johnson does seem to be a real person; her activities as a book promoter appear to consist of posting book cover images on Facebook and Pinterest, and offering vaguely-described "marketing":


As with the library spam, the link goes directly to PayPal. Ms. Johnson's webpages don't include testimonials, but I did find this, from a discussion thread on Goodreads--I'm guessing it was unsolicited...


UPDATE: Did you think that Ms. Johnson's attempt to sell authors a completely unverifiable promise of a book purchase was just a one-time, ill-advised spamstravaganza? You would be wrong.



Here's the diamond:


Rock salt, anyone?
 
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