Okay, I’ve got a story. It’s a sort of scary one. I think independent/self-publishing authors need to know about it, and telling it carefully and correctly is also important for my own situation, so I’m going to take my time and lay it all out in order.
Pressed for time? You can skip to the bottom for the TL;DR summation.
On Friday, February 27, 2015, I noticed that my bookmarked Amazon.com link to my first novel, Nolander, was yielding, “We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.” I went to my Amazon dashboard and discovered the book had been blocked.
In my spam folder, I discovered an email from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing arm, informing me that someone had sent in a DMCA notice. In response, Amazon had summarily blocked Nolander from sale.
“DMCA” stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” It’s a Clinton-era U.S. law that lays forth a process for dealing with copyright infringement online. If you find material online that infringes a copyright you hold, you can send the hosting website a DMCA notice; in order to be in compliance with U.S. law, the hosting website has to remove the material and notify the person who posted it.
When I heard a DMCA notice had been filed against Nolander — which is a completely original work — I assumed a reader had reacted badly after reading the book in a boxed set and then finding it available as a standalone. It could be confusing to find the same material in different places, after all. A vigilant reader might think something fishy was going on. So I wrote back to KDP, sending them my U.S. copyright registration info and assuring them that Nolander was my work.
Soon after, I found an email notification from Smashwords as well. That one was a little more informative:
Hi [my real name redacted],
I have just unpublished your book Nolander, formerly found here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/272292
As we received a DMCA Notice and I was able to verify that the text in your book, published on Jan. 07, 2013, matched the text of a book made public on August 2nd, 2011.
If you have any questions or can give me critical information about the book, please do. Per our policy, the book needs to remain unpublished until Smashwords is given consent by both parties to republish it.
Thank you for your understanding.
*[name redacted] – Smashwords Support Team*
This was mystifying. I could imagine a vigilant, informed reader emailing Amazon about copyright concerns, but hunting around on other retailers for the book and contacting them? That seemed strange. I started to get a little worried.
I poked around on my hard drive and found a finished draft of Nolander dating from March 29, 2012. It’s the one I sent my husband so he could help proof the manuscript. I have it in mind that the book took about three months to write and a month to edit, so I probably began writing it in November or December 2011. August 2011 was situated conveniently before my writing would’ve begun.
Still, I figured Ockham’s Razor dictated this was an instance of boxed-set-related confusion. I’d seen such confusion arise for another author, though that confusion didn’t progress to a DMCA, so far as I know. Perhaps, I told myself, the Smashwords rep had been using a form letter and had neglected to replace “August 2nd, 2011” with the correct publication date for the boxed set.
I wrote back to Smashwords with the same info I’d sent Amazon. Then I proactively contacted the other platforms where Nolander is available, hoping to head off any further take-downs.
Also in my email was a notification for a pending comment on my website (I have to personally approve comments from first-time commenters):
February 28, 2015 at 3:21 AM
I can’t find Nolander on Amazon. The link is returning “Page Not Found”. I only found a Print Edition on Amazon which cots $15 ! But I find Nolander on other stores like B&N.
Have you removed your book from Amazon? Sorry but I only download or buy books from Amazon. Please consider your decision again.
You can see the comment toward the bottom of my books page on this site. I approved the comment and responded:
February 28, 2015 at 7:31 AM
Hi, Kelvin. Yeah, someone apparently sent Amazon (and Smashwords also) a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. That means they think the book infringes on a copyright. But I am the copyright-holder for the book, so I assume this is some kind of mix-up. The book will be unavailable until Amazon figures out what’s going on. Very annoying!
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you a PDF. Kindles can display those.
Folks who know my email address might notice I typed it wrong, but Kelvin tracked me down anyway. I got this email on Saturday:
Regarding Your DMCA Problem
Kushal Das <email@example.com>
Sat 2/28/2015 12:10 PM
I am Kushal, who posted on your blog with the screen name Kelvin. I have experience with various aspects of online business including DMCA process, hence I thought about contacting you.
Since you are saying that there has been problems both at Amazon and Smashwords, are you sure that it’s a mix-up? That would be quite unlikely. I don’t know about Indie Fiction Authors but in case of Webmasters, YouTubers and Indie Non-Fiction Authors, DMCA process is often abused. Are you sure someone is not deliberately doing this? Anyway, if the problem does not get resolved then you can let me know what Amazon is saying and I will see what can be done.
Paranormal authors with unique story telling angles are damn hard to find, so I don’t want you to go through this. A malicious DMCA attack can end a person’s career (happened with many YouTubers).
That’s why I am concerned. I hope you won’t find it creepy.
If possible, you can send me a pdf of Nolander.
P.S: I don’t live in USA. I live in India but I am currently going to take the GMAT and I use this email address to communicate with various American B-Schools.
“How kind!” I thought. I set it aside to respond later. That’s the great thing about indie publishing: people come out of the woodwork to help you. It’s amazing.
At that point, KDP got back to me:
As stated in our previous communication, we’ve received notice from a third party regarding copyright concerns over B007R6PPZA Nolander (Emanations, an urban fantasy series Book 1) by Becca Mills. We don’t involve ourselves in third party disputes and therefore have removed the availability of the book through our systems until this matter is resolved.
Here you will find information on the party that submitted the notice:
If a resolution is reached, before we may take any appropriate action regarding the book(s), all involved parties must contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, my proof of official, pre-publication U.S. copyright was not going to be enough. In order to get Nolander restored, both the DMCA complainant and I would need to write to Amazon giving permission. This was alarming. What if Rajesh Lahoti never responded? All they’d have to do was ignore my queries, and Nolander would never appear on the Amazon storefronts again.
A friend I spoke to about the situation pointed out how easy it would be to make my April 2012 book appear to rip off material from an August 2, 2011 book – all someone would have to do is take a book published August 2, 2011, stick a bit of Nolander into it somewhere, upload the new file, and then point Amazon/Smashwords at the new version. It doesn’t take much for a book to appear to be in copyright violation, right? Anything that’s not fair use is a violation. I bet a single paragraph would do it. Who knows? Maybe less.
This too was alarming.
I dashed a quick, neutral email off to Rajesh Lahoti saying I’d been informed of the DMCA notice by Amazon and asking for more info about their copyright concerns. I was still hoping this was an honest mix-up.
Then I turned back to Kushal Das’s generous email offering to help me with my “DMCA problem.”
Reading it again, I began to have some doubts. If Kushal was already a fan of my writing, why had they been trying to download the first of my series from Amazon? Hadn’t they already read it? And it sure was coincidental that they had emailed me about Nolander’s absence from Amazon the very day it happened.
So I wrote a careful response, trying not to give away anything new and yet not wanting to assume the worst of someone who was quite possibly a genuine good Samaritan:
Hi, Kushal. Thank you for the lovely compliments! I’m so glad you like my writing. :)
Here you go – attaching Nolander. This is actually the brand-new revised copy, which I’m just now having formatted. If you’d like a copy of the older edition, which is the one you would’ve read, just let me know. I have that too. I’m planning to make the new edition available on my website for existing readers to download, if they choose, rather than pushing an update through Amazon.
>> P.S. Hmm … I’m getting an error when I try to send this, so I’m going to try without the PDF attached. I can send the attachment later from home – have done it before, so I know it works. Maybe this café’s router balks at large attachments, or something.<<
If I get the book back up on Amazon, that is. Yeah, I didn’t want to sound alarmist in commenting on my website, but I am concerned about the situation. All I know is the name and email address of the complainant. I’ve written to that person asking for more information about their concerns. Hopefully it is just a misunderstanding.
I’ve never heard of malicious DMCAs being used against an author. If this is malicious, I guess I’ll have a real gem of an experience to share. :-/
At any rate, thank you so much for offering to help. It’s not creepy at all. Quite the opposite – it’s extremely kind and generous, and I’m grateful! I’d appreciate hearing any ideas or wisdom you have to share.
Good luck on your B-school apps! I’ve gone through the applying-to-grad-school thing. It’s tough and stressful, I know!
All the best,
The thing about not being able to attach the PDF was the only fib, here. I’ve been working on revising Nolander for the last few months. Bringing Solatium to completion was a tough but very good experience. It (I hope) made me a stronger writer, and I figured Nolander could benefit from my improved skills. Maybe I could do something about all those “it starts off slow” responses! But free book or not, the last thing I wanted to do was put the new version in the hands of someone I had doubts about.
Then I started poking around.
Since, based on the email address I was sent, the DMCA complainant appeared to be a writer, the first thing I did was check Amazon and Smashwords for books by Rajesh Lahoti. No one has published under that name. I Googled it and didn’t come up with anything notable.
Then I Googled Rajesh Lahoti’s email address, “email@example.com.”
Nothing showed up … except for this, the hit at the top of the results:
Clicking on the link in the Google results led me here: http://gotoanswer.stanford.edu/?q=The+Ultimate+KINDLE+EROTICA+GHOST+WRITING+Service%3A+Best+Quality%2C+Best+Price
The link has functioned on and off this morning, so here’s a screenshot of where it led when I clicked on February 28:
goto: answer is a search engine that indexes material posted on technical forums (according to its front page, http://gotoanswer.stanford.edu). Google seems to have indexed one of its search-result pages, creating a snippet based on what that search was returning at the time. All but one of those forum posts have since been deleted, so when I clicked on the link, I got the above: a mostly blank page, with just the one remaining post. But the author and location of that post caught my eye:
The email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” suggests that Rajesh Lahoti writes erotica, and I (and a bunch of other people) once had a run-in with some Warrior Forum members over on the Kboard Writers’ Cafe. So I followed that “… Ultimate KINDLE EROTICA …” link. It led to a Warrior Forum page on which a member going by “Ghost Author” had apparently posted a thread offering to ghostwrite erotica and had later deleted the posts: http://www.warriorforum.com/warriors-hire/1015285-offer-removed.html
Curious, I clicked through to Ghost Author’s profile: http://www.warriorforum.com/members/ghost-author.html
(I’ve saved and screen-shotted these pages, but to save space, I’ll hold off as long as the links still work.)
There I noticed the link in Ghost Author’s signature, which leads to an ad for his ghost writing services: http://www.warriorforum.com/warriors-hire/1016548-rave-reviews-best-kindle-erotica-ghost-writing-service-content.html
And what do you know? Ghost Author also goes by “Kushal”:
I scrolled down to the thread of queries and responses from Warrior Forum members interested in Kushal’s services and found these comments:
First name and last name: Kushal Das. So, the person who’d emailed me with the kind offer to help me with my “DMCA problem” apparently owns the email address from which the DMCA take-down notice was filed.
Honestly, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. When I went looking for some possible connection between Kushal Das and Rajesh Lahoti, I wasn’t expecting to find they were the same person. Talk about hitting pay dirt.
So, this person files a dishonest DMCA, gets my book taken down from two sites, and then contacts me, offering to help me deal with it. But why? I’m not a big seller. There’s little monetary potential in stealing my books and none at all in stealing a free one.
A vendetta, maybe? As you might imagine, I looked around for any connections between Kushal Das and past run-ins I’ve had with people. I couldn’t find any. Couldn’t find any connection between his name and me or my books, any connection between Warrior Forum and me or my books, any connections at all.
I was mystified. Why was Kushal Das targeting me?
The evening of February 28, I sent Kushal Das a PDF of the current (not the revised) version of Nolander. Why not? It’s been available as a free PDF download from Smashwords for years.
Then I sat tight and waited for him to email me back. I figured I might never hear from him. Maybe he only contacted me because he wanted the satisfaction of hearing that I was worried. But there was the chance that he wanted something from me. Maybe this was some sort of scam. If so, finding out what he wanted would be good.
On the morning of March 1, Kushal Das emailed me.
Re: Regarding Your DMCA Problem
Kushal Das <email@example.com>
Sun 3/1/2015 8:16 AM
Thank you for sending the pdf. I would just like to say one thing about your problem though – please don’t try to upload the new version of Nolander on Amazon without sorting this DMCA thing first. Otherwise, it will get ugly.
You said you have got the complainant’s details. Is the person providing a real looking US/Western Country address and contact details? Abusing DMCA is a serious offence which can result in prison time. So, 99% of the time DMCA abusers use fake name and addresses based in countries like India, China or Russia. It’s because they know you won’t dream of suing someone in those countries. To add to the problem, big sites like Amazon and YouTube don’t verify the complainant’s identity at all. Anyway, in the next couple of days, it be clear where this is heading.
Thanks again for sending the updated novel. Am looking forward to reading it.
There wasn’t much here to work with. “[I]t will get ugly” sounded like a threat, just as “you can let me know what Amazon is saying and I will see what can be done” had sounded like some kind of solicitation. But it was all vague.
RE: Regarding Your DMCA Problem
Becca Mills <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sun 3/1/2015 9:51 AM
Hi, Kushal. Wow, I hadn’t really thought about potential problems with uploading a revised edition right now. How come that would be bad? Would it upset Amazon?
It’s distressing to hear that companies like Amazon don’t make any effort to verify the complainant’s identity. I hadn’t realized that. It seems like that would open the door for all kinds of abuse. Some angry person using a fake name to file spurious DMCA notices against their ex-spouse — that kind of thing. And you’re right – I can’t think of any way to confirm the info Amazon sent me about the complainant. It could be fake, for all I know.
Well, I’ve written to the complainant. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m still hoping this is a real reader who’s misunderstood the situation.
All the best,
I got the word out on Fb and my blog that Nolander was down due to an errant DMCA notice. Since I wanted to keep the dialogue with Kushal Das open, I kept most of what I knew out of those posts.
On March 1, a friend suggested I send Amazon and Smashwords a DMCA counter-notice. A counter-notice is a way of saying to an internet service provider (ISP), “Hey, this material doesn’t infringe anyone’s copyright, and I take responsibility for it.” After receiving a DMCA counter-notice, an ISP is supposed to restore the content within ten days—the matter is no longer their problem.
Of course, Amazon and Smashwords are not ISPs. They’re retailers. It could be that they aren’t bound by the requirement to restore the content they’ve taken down. Retailers can decide what products they want to sell, right? If they want to make those decision capriciously, who’s to stop them?
At any rate, I began drafting the counter-notice, using models I found online.
In researching the issue, I found that Kushal Das (not surprisingly … he/she should know) had been quite right in saying that DMCA notices can be and are used as weapons. Here are some articles and resources on the phenomenon. As you can see, none of them are quite like what’s happening to me. These abuses of the DMCA were motivated by ideology, commercial interests, and so forth. But what could motivate Kushal Das to attack a free book?
This morning, I sat down to my computer to think some more about the problem.
It occurred to me that filing a DMCA counter-notice is risky because, as I understand it, my counter-notice will be forwarded to Rajesh Lahoti/Kushal Das. Do I really want a document containing my full name, mailing address, and account-associated email address in the hands of this person?
I decided I would have to send the notice as “Becca Mills,” with my rented private mailbox as my contact info. It’s not optimal, but I don’t see another path forward.
I very much resent the idea that I might be forced to give identifying information to someone who has behaved fraudulently. Needless to say, I’ve frozen my accounts at the credit bureaus. What a drag.
At first I intended to tell this story after it had all been resolved. That’d be so much more satisfying, wouldn’t it? I planned to keep stringing Rajesh Lahoti/Kushal Das along by email until I figured out what’s motivating all this. And it sure would be nice to be able to report that DMCA counter-notices do work on ebook retailers.
But then I thought better of waiting. Trying to engage with a scammer is asking for trouble, and every day that goes by is a day Nolander is not getting into readers’ hands. The book was getting about twenty downloads a day and generating decent sell-through to the next in the series. Now my business model is in serious jeopardy (Amazon accounted for 68% of my writing income last month, and Barnes & Noble, where Nolander is free through Smashwords, accounted for another 5%).
Last but not least, indie authors need to know about this. And here’s the TL;DR: wholly fraudulent DMCA notices can be used maliciously against independent authors, and registering for U.S. copyright and submitting proof of copyright is not going to suffice as a defense.
Depending on how Amazon and Smashwords react to my counter-notice, we’ll see how well equipped online book retailers are to handle this form of fraud. It seems obvious to me that “you two go sort it out among yourselves” is not an appropriate position when the DMCA complainant is acting in a fraudulent, malicious way. Hopefully Amazon and Smashwords will see it that way as well.
P.S. Just after posting this, I got another email from Kushal Das:
Sorry for the late reply, have been very busy today. To confirm, yes, if you upload the new version, it will seriously create problems. Amazon might block it outright. Or even if the new version goes live, if the person who filed the complaint points out the new uploaded version, Amazon will then block it. Amazon will also automatically assume that you are trying to game the system by uploading a slightly modified version of the “plagiarized book”. 3 copyright blocks result in automatic KDP account termination, without any hearing or recourse. So you don’t want to reach 2 blocks.
Very few people realize how shockingly easy it is to abuse DMCA. Since complainants’ identity is never verified (unless you are complaining against a huge best selling author like Dan Brown), anyone holding a grudge against an author can ruin his /her book. Indies are especially vulnerable. It either happens if someone holds a personal grudge, like you pointed out or someone online finds the author’s religious or political views offensive. At least in case of YouTube, most DMCA abuse is related to religious, political or human rights (like gay rights) views.
Please do keep me updated. If it doesn’t get resolved within next couple of days, I will see what options are available for you.
One thing, since I live in a complete opposite time zone, I might take 12 – 24 hours to reply. Hope you don’t mind.
I wish you the best.
The guy’s good, eh? (Or “the person,” I should say — I keep reminding myself I have no way of knowing who Kushal Das really is, including their gender.) The information about Amazon being provided above might well be true and genuinely helpful. And it’s all so personable. If I hadn’t found that connection between Rajesh Lahoti’s email address and Kushal Das’s Warrior Forum presence, I might’ve packed away my suspicions.
I wonder what “options” Kushal Das would’ve offered me in a few days? Maybe a Nigerian-prince-style suggestion to send along my account numbers? Or maybe nothing. Maybe the point is just to have an inside view of my reactions as I watch my nascent writing career wither way.
P.P.S. Nolander is back up at Smashwords! A big thank you to Smashwords for a quick, personal, and effective response.
Based on what a Smashwords rep said, I think I know how Rajesh Lahoti/Kushal Das showed evidence of prior publication of the material in my book. Apparently, they pointed Smashwords to a 2011 blog post that contained material from Nolander. Now, I don’t think blogs are a good form of evidence. Here on WordPress, when I revise one of my posts, the platform doesn’t add an “edited” line. The post just keeps the original date. If that’s the way most blogging software works, it’d be very easy to use a blog post to “prove” prior making-public of someone else’s writing: you’d just delete the contents of an old post and fill it up with someone else’s book text. Then it’d look like you’d written the book yourself, years earlier.
Ebook retailers need to be on the lookout for this sort of thing, IMO.
Editing to add: At this point (March 4, 2015), quite a few people have told me that the major blogging platforms allow you to set the publication date of a post to whatever you’d like, including in the past. This means ebook retailers and other carriers of digital content need to be awfully careful about using blog posts as evidence of prior publication. Blog posts should be examined by folks with expertise in dating them, not accepted as prima facie evidence.
March 5: A sad update — KDP refuses to unblock Nolander.
Somewhat later on March 5: Good news! Nolander is back up Amazon. Thanks so much to everyone who helped me deal with this. :)
March 7: Aftermath for Nolander, and thoughts on how retailers could react to fraudulent DMCA notices more effectively.
245 thoughts on “Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse, or “How a Scammer Got My Book Blocked with Very Little Effort””
The paperback version is available. Hope the confusion is cleared up soon.
Thanks, Kilian! Yeah, they only blocked the ebook. It’s odd. An oversight on Amazon’s part, perhaps.
Amazon Kindle and Createspace don’t talk to each other much — when the Spots: the Space Marine thing happened… Just last year? (Use of DMCA-ish complaint based on attempt to trademark “space marine”), the physbooks stayed available. Eventually, that takedown came to the attention of enough people that the EFF took some action w/Amazon on the author’s behalf. Perhaps you could contact them if Amazon doesn’t take action?
Thank you for the suggestion, A.Beth! I have an email to EFF drafted, actually. But I’d like to give the process at Amazon more time to work. It’s a huge entity, so it’s a little ponderous, but they’ve always done right by me in the past.
Interesting about the Createspace/Amazon non-communication. That’s sort of strange. And yeah, I remember the Spots thing. Jeepers.
Gah, I’m so sorry you’re going through this–I’m an enthusiastic fan of your writing and hope many more people find it.
Thanks, kali! :)
I’m so sorry you’re having to sort out this mess! It’s awful! But, from what I understand in my own self-publishing, a “copyright” in your material doesn’t really mean a thing, it’s to keep people honest in not stealing your work.
You talk about “registering” a copyright. If this is possible, how does one go about doing so?
Hi there! Thanks for the support. :)
The U.S. has a government bureau dedicated to copyrights. It’s called the United States Copyright Office, and you can find it online here: http://www.copyright.gov/. Registering your U.S. copyright on a book doesn’t takes about 15 minutes, and you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to do it. I went through the process a couple months ago. At that point, it cost $35. FYI, the website doesn’t seem to work well with Chrome.
I always figured having official proof of copyright would be all I needed to clear up any doubts, but apparently it’s not. It’s quite disturbing.
I certainly am happy that you wrote about your experiences and hope you’ll let us all know when you finally get it resolved. Some people are so nasty!
Yikes. That is some scary stuff. Now I wanna look up international copyrights. Hope this gets cleared up soon.
Thank you rwfoster! Yeah, international copyrights. Yet another thing to learn all about, eh? :-/
You’re welcome, and indeed.
So scary. What is his/her/its game? Sending happy vibes your way.
Thanks, Kristy! The game … the general thought over on Kboards seems to be “blackmail.” I guess there’s no way to know.
Thanks for sharing this. I have
E a headache just reading what this person has put you through. What a scumbag.
Thanks, Charlene! Seriously, I wouldn’t mind a beer right now. Darn it! ;)
It’s actually even easier than that to load a past post into Blogger – you can set the date of the post to any day you please. If it’s a date in the past, it will publish accordingly (ie in the middle of your 2011 posts if it’s dated 2011). As such, it seems incredible that publishers wouldn’t consider that and be automatically suspect of blogs as previous publications!
Wow, Cindy. Now that is worth knowing. Jeepers!
Wouldn’t Blogger / WordPress / a webhost provider have records via their own servers of when a post was actually made, as opposed to when it was apparently posted? Which it could be petitioned to provide? Also would the Wayback Machine and equivalent sites be useful?
Leanne, that’s exactly the kind of thing I wish Amazon (and other retailers) looked into when they received a DMCA notice. Authors who are *clearly* the victim of fakery should be offered some suggestions on how to proceed.
Definitely check the Wayback Machine! It might contain an earlier copy of the blog post, showing that they edited it to include your material.
Thanks, Samantha! Wayback is a great idea for situations like this. Wish the retailers would do that kind of check …
That would require they do work. I don’t think any host that uses such responses checks anything. Unlike most other legal setups, you’re guilty until proven innocent with DMCA claims.
I’m sure the person-hours required to actually check evidence in DMCA claims are a bit part of the issue for retailers like Amazon. I can tell the Smashwords rep who worked with me spent a lot of time on the case.
You could perhaps issue a DMCA of your own to this rogue’s host – Blogger? – regarding the content of the post infringing upon your own copyright, requiring them to provide the true date of its posting? To then supply to Amazon?
This absolutely sucks. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it.
Thanks, Elizabeth! :) It’s definitely made better by all the support.
This is seriously scary! I’m glad you’ve got it partially resolved. Hope you can get Amazon to listen to you.
Thank you, Marianna! I hope so too … big time!
This is totally crazy. Amazon’s whole policy around copyright and DMCAs is the worst. I hope you get this resolved ASAP, and I really hope Amazon finally looks at their policy and changes it. Sharing.
Thank you, David!
[…] Becca Mills posted on Monday about a recent encounter she had had with Amazon's and Smashwords' DMCA policies. That encounter […]
Reblogged this on Writing, Reading, Books, and Stuff and commented:
This is scary!
Thanks, Tamie! Yeah, “scary” is the word. Frighteningly easy, apparently.
This is so scary. I’d love to know more about what you did with smashwords to resolve the issue. It’s there any way to avoid this?
I didn’t have to do much with Smashwords, truth be told. I sent them a DMCA counter-notice, which I constructed using models I found online (they’re linked in the above post). On a friend’s advice, I added a paragraph to it mentioning that the DMCA-filer had contacted me under an alias and directed them to this blog post for a detailed account. Smashwords took it from there. They were really on top of it. Great company.
Ways to avoid it … I have no idea. No idea at all. :( I think we should all be doing the things that will allow us to prove our copyright claim in court: filing for official U.S. copyright at http://www.copyright.gov, keeping early drafts of our work so that we can show how it developed over time, showing early work to others who can then vouch for it. But that’s clearly not enough to deal with a fraudulent DMCA notice.
Reblogged this on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors and commented:
This is scary, folks. All self-published authors are vulnerable to this. The post is long, but it is a must read.
Anyone (for any reason) can decide to post a DCMA Takedown Notice on your book and get it removed from Amazon, Smashwords, etc. This author has registered her copyright with the US Copyright Office, but this has not been good enough, which is especially alarming because that should be our ultimate protection from stuff like this.
At the time I’m writing this (March 3, 2015), Smashwords has put her book back up. Amazon, however, has not. I’m going to keep track of what is happening.
This is something that should make us all sit up and take notice of what is going on. More importantly, we need to band together and support each other when stuff like this happens. I urge you to share this with other authors. The more people we tell, the better our chances are of protecting more authors (and even ourselves) from stuff like this happening.
My thoughts and prayers are with Becca during this horrible time.
Thank you, Ruth Ann!
This is so scary. I shared this so others can be aware it’s happening. I hope and pray this gets resolved in your favor (and soon).
Thank you for helping me get the word out, Ruth Ann. If enough people hear about this, hopefully someone will figure out a good way to prevent it … or nip it in the bud quickly when it happens, at least.
Reblogged this on Sheryl Nantus and commented:
A caveat to all the authors out there putting their works up on Amazon and Smashwords – watch your back! :(
Thank you for reblogging, sheryl!
Terrifying. Thanks for the warning.
:) Hey, love your avatar!
Thanks. I thought it matched my ambitions of being a horror novelist. Yours is very nice too.
Thank you! I took it myself, while bird-watching. Yeah, I’m a total geek. :)
Speaking to the choir here. Whovian, History buff, and fan of J-Pop.
LOL … excellent! ;)
I work for a website that frequently receives what can be generously called “half-assed” copyright complaints that we must reject for not conforming to the letter of the DMCA. Nearly all return with “HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME JUMP THROUGH HOOPS!!!!”
Now you know why those hoops are there.
Hoops = good, IMO. This stuff is too important not to cross the Is and dot the Ts. Er … wait. ;)
Thank you of providing this info. It’s scary but I’d much rather be aware of such threats and counter-strategies.
My pleasure, Russ — awareness is half the battle, eh?
wow, your post is a regular whodunit thriller in itself. It is a shame someone would do you this way. If people who do this worked a legitimate job, they could make so much more and be a benefit to society. I wish you the best of luck in this.
Ain’t that the truth, Ann!
Thank you for sharing. This is something that all writers who wish to published independently need to be aware of.
I agree, J.C.! Thank you.
Wow, I’m so sorry this happened to you. Reading your post made me want to run for the vodka!
I posted your link on my Facebook author’s page. Glad Smashwords resolved this and hope that Amazon soon does.
Thanks, Debra! Pass me a martini, would you? ;)
Reblogged this on Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions and commented:
This… this is…
Never heard of anything like this in my life but it’s terrifying!!!
Spread the word, folks. Spread the word.
Thank you, Ileandra!
Reblogged this on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and commented:
Scary, scary story here. I did not realize how easy it is to sabotage someone’s copyright. Good luck, Becca! Amazon, wake up!
You’re more than welcome, Becca. Hope you get this cleared up soon!
You and me both, Ruth!
Reblogged this on A Keyboard and an Open Mind and commented:
So… this is basically terrifying.
Thank you for reblogging, Emily!
Reblogged this on Thea Atkinson.
Thank you for reblogging, Thea!
reblogged. fascinating and frightening!
There is a way to check the source code on websites/blog posts to verify the actual publication date. I had to do it years ago to prove people had plagiarized me. I don’t remember how to do it, but I don’t recall it being too difficult to figure out. If you google it, you should be able to figure it out how to do it and screen shot it. (Of course, it may not pick up editing dates, so if the post actually was from the actual date but content was edited later, that may not show up. I don’t know.)
Honestly, at this point, I would consult with a CR attorney and request assistance in drafting an email to Amazon. They know the language to use that will push buttons and get a higher level of response.
Excellent advice, Michelle — thank you! I’ll definitely look into the dating issue, and the lawyer … yeah, it might come to that. :(
What an incredible blog post! I am so in awe of how calm you sound, how centered and sweet while all of that was going on… I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to pull off a fraction of your grace under fire. It’s a terrifying tale and I’m so grateful you shared it. If there’s no defense (or barely one at the moment), at least we are all a little more aware of the danger–and that’s something.
Thank you, Becca. And to whoever is doing this to you, if karma doesn’t get them, something will. That kind of malicious behavior has earned them a special slice of misery as far as I’m concerned!
Thanks so much, Renee! I’m glad I *sound* calm and centered, anyway! ;)
Your experience scared the crap out of me! How aweful something like this has happened to you. It’s a threat to all indie authors. Re-blogging this.
Thanks for your support, Tima!
Becca, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this article. I am an author (hybrid, but my publisher is digital first) and I have of course had my books pirated a time or two, but I didn’t know stuff like this without their happening! So being only moderately informed about DMCA I really appreciated you sharing something like this happening to you. It’s really scary! Ugh. Fraud (no matter what form really ticks me off) but with books it’s personal! Wow. I read this out loud to my hubs, too so he would see what’s out there. Again, Thanx for Sharing and I’m so sorry this happened to you! I hope you get Amazon worked out very soon!
Thank you, caszarek! Yeah, it’s wild and woolly out here to an extent I didn’t fully grasp.
fascinating, mystifying, frustrating! I hope this resolves soon!
Thanks, LJ. You rock. :)
Reblogged this on …and then there was Sarah and commented:
Authors (indie and trade alike) beware. As if piracy were not enough of a battle, this appears to be another battle some have to fight now.
Thanks for reblogging, Sarah!
Reblogged this on Robin L. Martinez and commented:
Yikes! This is so frightening and yet another reason why indie authors need a strong organization like SFWA to help protect their rights – or at least offer counsel.
Thanks for reblogging, Robin! Maybe joining SFWA would be wise …
I agree Becca, but SFWA currently doesn’t allow indie authors. They keep saying they are working on guidelines, but nothing yet. Plus, whenever they DO get those guidelines up, they will most likely contain a minimum number of sales you must reach before being allowed in.
They do now. The new guidelines are on the SFWA membership page. (http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/) See item #3 under Active Members for the self-pubbed and small press requirements.
Thank you for posting that link, Beth. Hmm … looks like the basic cut-off for full membership for self-pubbers is $3K net income in a year. That’d be a stretch for a lot of indie writers, but there are also a whole heck of a lot of us who would qualify. As Hugh Howey keeps saying, the people making millions get most of the media attention, but they’re the outliers. A very large of people are now able to make significant income from their writing, even if it’s not enough to go full-time, and that may be the single biggest change the “indie revolution” has brought. I bet SFWA could add a thousand writers to its rolls with that $3K cut-off, so long as self-pubbers see value in membership.
That’s good they finally got those revised. I don’t know that I’ll ever hit that $3,000 mark – when I finally get my fantasy novel out that is :) I really hope you are able to resolve this situation with the troll who’s attacking you. I can’t even imagine what his/her motivation could be.
Thank you, Robin! And best of luck with your novel. I’m glad to see another fantasy writer stepping onto the scene. We are mighty! :-D
Yikes! I had no idea! I think you’re handling it beautifully, but how terrifying that they can just do that without any real type of verification.
Thank you, Mercedes!
This is frightening to an author in progress like me! Please keep us up to date as to the results. I suspect the dirtbag is not from India. Regardless, this is scary stuff. Do you mind if I blog about this in my blog?
I’d be delighted if you blogged about it, Angelique! And yes, the scammer could be from anywhere at all. There’s no way to tell for sure.
Some blogs let you backdate.
But let me tell you about something going on in the photography world that is similar.
Person A posts a horrible review of the service online in various places.
Person B (who is really person A) then solicits photographer as a service that combats negative reviews and can get them removed, saving your business for a nominal fee.
it really sounds like that is where this is going. That saying about “nothing new under the sun” doesn’t apply to scammers.
That does sound similar, KR.
Reblogged this on Author Unpublished.
Thanks for reblogging!
you’re very welcome! Thank you for the very thorough (if not frightening) article!
Holding out hopes for best outcomes, Becca. Thanks for your courage, tenacity and generosity in sharing this. Reblogging on Stone Soup, the Flying Turtle Publishing blog.
Thank you, Mari! And I appreciate the reblog. :)
Reblogged this on storywrtr and commented:
Self-published authors beware…
Thank you for reblogging, storywrtr!
Eep! This is very good to know, considering I’m pretty much on the verge of going indie soon myself. Thanks for the heads-up!
My pleasure, Jon. Hopefully forewarned is forearmed.
I don’t know if it will help, but I just wrote to Amazon about your situation and asked that they put Nolander back up. Maybe if all of us write they’ll pay attention. At the bottom of this page http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=nolander&sprefix=noland%2Caps there’s a box that asks if you found what you’re looking for.
I hope this gets resolved soon.
What a lovely, kind thing to do, Zané — thank you! :)
I just did that.
Aww … thank you, Tima!
Reblogged this on Tammy Salyer and commented:
Hey Indies, Important stuff here to be aware of.
Yikes! I hope this gets sorted out soon, and thank you so much for sharing and helping make others aware of this issue. Reblogged to spread the word. Good luck!
Thank you, Tammy … and thank for reblogging!
Reblogged this on EJ Fisch and commented:
Scary stuff. You never know what the chances are of this happening but a person should always be prepared, I suppose.
Thanks for reblogging, EJ!
Widely shared… This is why I keep drafts at every stage, so that I have computer dated files, never ever, share my novel content online and as soon as a first draft is done, I register the book with Thomas Bowker and ensure it has an ISBN.
You’ve scared the hair off me.
LOL, Cate. Watch out Gillette, here I come! ;) Thank you for sharing.
My pleasure. I am putting out the word again today and feeling your angst.
Thank you, Cate! If we spread the word widely enough, hopefully someone who understands the DMCA inside and out will come up with a protection or solution we can all use.
I am really sorry that this happened to you and hope that Amazon soon restores your book. A number of my stories have originally appeared on my blog (later removed and published on Amazon). Your post makes me question whether I should, in future refrain from publishing material on my site which I (later) publish on Amazon. Kevin
I’ve heard of Amazon questioning books that have been previously released on blogs, Kevin, but once the author explains the situation, I think it works out okay. Thanks for the good wishes! :)
Reblogged this on sarahlouiseclark's Blog and commented:
Need to know if you’re thinking of indie publishing.
Thank you for reblogging!
Reblogged this on Below See Level and commented:
A really goos read for indie authors.
Thanks for the reblog, Milagros!
You are most welcome. :)
This is so so pathetic and shocking for someone like me working on my first fiction novel.Am still in shock and really glad in the end you got it sorted out. Wow
Thank you, Miss Tee! It’s still not sorted out, though. Amazon has not put the book back up.
Reblogged this on Australind- A tale of two countries and commented:
Shame this has to happen to a great author…
Thank you, Australind!
Reblogged this on mishaburnett and commented:
I had no idea that anyone could do this–disturbing, to say the least.
Thank you, Misha!
This is crazy stuff. I’ve had issues before – nothing major, just had to jump through hoops on Wattpad because their automated system found a chunk of one of my works on a reblog and got hung up for a bit, easily resolved – but nothing to this level. Glad to see you’re getting it sorted out, though, and thank you for sharing so the rest of us can keep an eye out. Forewarned is forearmed, right? Best of luck to you.
Thank you, Kaine! I’ll certainly post an update if/when Amazon restores the book.
Found this on tumblr. It is terribly frightening. I’m going to go check out your ebook, hopefully the result of all this strife is that you’ll have a growth in your fanbase! <3
Well that’d certainly be a great side-effect, Beyond. LOL … fingers crossed! Thank you for your support.
Wow it goes to show that you really can’t trust anyone. This guy offers to help you but you find out that he is the one that is causing all the problems :( but one thing good happened out of all this: It makes me want to read it :) take care I hope this all gets resolved soon
Thank you, Tina! :)
Reblogged this on Michelle Proulx — The Website and commented:
Really important read for self-publishers.
Thank you for reblogging, Michelle!
Happy to help spread the word. Everyone needs to be aware of this so this sort of thing can’t happen anymore.
Truer words were never spoken, Michelle …
good research – do you think it’s time to ask him what he’s doing ?
Thanks, billgncs! :) In all honesty, I think it’s time to ignore him (or her).
good luck – thanks for sharing this !
[…] Pressed for time? You can skip to the bottom for the TL;DR summation. […]
[…] Late last month, independent author Becca Mills received an unpleasant surprise. […]
Reblogged this on Maegan Provan, Author and commented:
This is a definitely good read. Indie authors, please check this out!
Thank you for reblogging, Maegan!
Becca, I am so sorry that you have to go through that!
Thank you, Maegan! All this great support helps a lot. :)
It could just be your success that this “person” is trying to circumvent. Regardless, you did the best thing by making writers aware of this nonsense. Some people don’t know how to play well with others in any universe.
Best to you Becca!
Thank you, moondust! :)
Thank you for letting us know! I’ve just shared and am now following your blog to keep abreast of developments.
Thank you, Alana! I’ll certainly post an update if anything changes.
[…] 1. Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse – no one knew that could even happen. […]
First, thank you for the article and sharing your experience, I have reblogged it on my blog as well. I’m so sorry to hear of your issue and I hope it is resolved with Amazon soon. At any rate, I was able to download your book from Smashwords in the mobi format for my Kindle (which this guy could easily do – there is no reason to send him a pdf and I am concerned that he now has an unformatted copy of your work) and I am looking forward to reading it!
Unfortunately filing a copyright notice with the government for written work does nothing to protect you and really isn’t necessary unless you have the need to sue someone in the future in Federal Court. Your work is “copyright” material as soon as it is published, wherever that may be. There are even some articles written against it for self-published authors as it makes it difficult for a traditional publisher to be able to publish it should you desire to go that route in the future.
I know Amazon is a huge company and one book can get lost in the shuffle but I hope that they get you back in business soon. I’ll keep checking and when it becomes available from them I will download it again and leave a review!!
Good luck, Becca!
Thank you for the support Cynthia, and for reblogging, and for downloading Nolander! So kind. :)
Yeah, it felt very weird to send the PDF, but if I hadn’t sent it, it would’ve tipped the scammer off right away that I was onto them.At that point, I was still hoping to get an explanation. A free PDF has been available from Smashwords for the last two years, so I bet the scammer already has it. That would be the easiest route to grab material to put up on a blog. I thought it over and couldn’t figure out a way sending it truly increased my risk.
Yes, right, anything you write is automatically copyrighted and that a lot of nations just rely on that fact (no formal registration system like ours), but frankly, the possibility of having to sue seems pretty real to me. It seems even more real now than it did a week ago! I’m still glad I registered. It was inexpensive and quick, and if I do sue my scammer, I’ll have an easier time of it. I need to investigate whether U.S. civil judgments are enforced by Indian courts. Probably not, but it’s worth a look.
Thank again for the good wishes, Cynthia! You’re right about Amazon’s size. That probably makes them slow. It’s hard to be patient, but hopefully they’re doing their best to get this fixed.
WTH. Like it’s not enough work being an indie author. I hope this goes away soon. What a headache. Hopefully Amazon will come around soon. So much extra headache and work. The good news is that this is great stuff for a story. :) I wish you much success with ending this nightmare and being able to move forward and getting back to what’s really important… writing.
Thanks, Maggie! Unfortunately, they are not coming around, at this point. In fact, they’re digging their heels in. It’s really a bummer.
I am an American Lawyer currently based in Netherlands. So I can offer some legal perspective into your problem, and possible solution.
First, you need to drop the idea of suing Rajesh/Kushal. The reasons are:
1) India does not have a “reciprocal territory” treaty with USA (but they have one with UK and Canada). It simply means, US Civil (and Commercial) judgements are not enforceable in India. You will need to sue Rajesh/Kushal in absentia in USA first and win. Then you will need to sue Rajesh/Kushal in a lower divisional court in India based on the judgement in USA (you can’t sue him/them in India directly). Then even if you win in India, Rajesh/Kushal will be within his/their legal right to get a stay order and appeal in a higher court. (They will have a chance to appeal 2 or 3 times, each time stalling the process).
2) There are more than 44,00,000 pending cases in India (you read that number right). It includes serious criminal cases too. If you are really lucky, you can expect the first judgement (not counting appeals) within 10 years. Under normal circumstances, the process will take a few decades.
3) India *does not* recognize DMCA Law. So the question of DMCA Abuse automatically goes out of the window. I live in Holland which does not recognize DMCA, so I know what problems and confusion it can create in Legal circles. If there are problems with DMCA in a Euro country, think about what can happen in India.
4) Kushal Das is a *very common* name in Calcutta, India. A simple FB search returned thousands of hits, all living in Calcutta, India. Even if a guy named Kushal Das from Calcutta arrives in USA, to take GMAT or attend B-School, how will you identify/apprehend him without his known valid address in Calcutta. It will be similar to apprehending any John Smith arriving from London. I am asking this because I came across at least a few thousand Kushal Das in FB who have the profile of taking GMAT and coming to US (young, college graduate). I am fairly certain that the guy used the name “Kushal Das” as a fake name because it’s so common. It is possible that “kushal Das” is his real name in which case he didn’t bother to hide it because again, it’s so common !
5) The only way to work with the completely unworkable Indian Judicial System is having strong Indian Corporate presence, very deep pockets, local connections and an army of Indian lawyers. Which is why companies like Amazon and Google have a separate India Private Limited.
6) I hope you can see why cyber criminals in India can be so brazen.
The Real Problem:
The problem is *not* the Fake DMCA, the problem is Amazon not accepting the DMCA Counter – Notice. Amazon needs to email BOTH you and Rajesh/Kushal stating the official receipt of DMCA Counter – Notice and give a few days to Rajesh/Kushal to sue you in a US Court. Unless you (and Rajesh/Kushal) have received such and email, they LEGALLY CAN NOT reinstate the book after a few days.
Amazon is an online retailer, *not* an online service provider. They *must* respond to DMCA by taking down the content. But they are *not* under any legal liability to respond to DMCA Counter – Notice (a store can always refuse to sell something). Ideally, Amazon should follow the full law. But they are choosing to follow half of the law (which they legally can), which is causing this nightmare.
In summary, the current problem lies with Amazon, not the initial fake DMCA.
1) Email Amazon right now politely asking if they have received the DMCA Counter Notice and forwarded it to Mr. Rajesh Lahotia.
2) If the response is negative then start speaking with your lawyer immediately. Waiting won’t help because Amazon *legally can not* reinstate the book after few days.
3) Your lawyer will need to draft an email which is hopefully result in a positive response from Amazon, acknowledging the DMCA Counter Notice. Fighting Amazon in Court won’t help. Amazon is within their legal right to ignore DMCA Counter Notice and they have an army of lawyers to prove it.
4) You can of course get EFF and other Indie Organizations involved.
In summary, get a Lawyer who can write some emails using the right language, requesting Amazon to acknowledge the DMCA Counter Notice.
I wish I could help more, but this is how the situation stands.
David, this is wonderful. Thank you so much for taking so much time to explain all this!
What you say here … “Amazon is an online retailer, *not* an online service provider. They *must* respond to DMCA by taking down the content. But they are *not* under any legal liability to respond to DMCA Counter – Notice (a store can always refuse to sell something). Ideally, Amazon should follow the full law. But they are choosing to follow half of the law (which they legally can), which is causing this nightmare.” … this is exactly what I was thinking. If you only follow half the law, then you are employing all of its teeth and none of its safeguards. And the safeguards are perfectly designed to protect copyright holders from the kind of thing I went through — some scammer is not very unlikely to file a U.S. lawsuit. Instead, he’ll move on to the next mark.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t really considering trying to sue Kushal Das/Rajesh Lahoti — I know a futile endeavor when I see one. When I first Googled the name “Kushal Das,” I found it everywhere, so I started thinking of the person as basically anonymous. Boy, the thing about the 44 million unresolved court cases is wretched. Wow. That’s just mind-boggling. I feel so sorry for all the people who must be trapped in legal limbo over there. o.O
Thank you again for this very informative comment, and for the advice!
[…] (Not sure what all this is about? You’ll find my original post about the situation here.) […]
Reblogged this on S. G. Basu and commented:
Thank you for sharing your horrific experience, Becca Mills. It scared the heck out of me because defrauding someone clearly is easy. There are enough people out there cashing in on naive indie authors and we surely don’t need fradulent DCMA notices added to the mix. Hope this issue is solved soon and your book is reinstated in its full glory on all sites.
Thank you so much, sgbasu! I appreciate the support and the reblog. I’m hoping the attention this situation got will help Amazon develop a way to counter such scams. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot we can do about it as authors.
I agree, the most we can do as authors is be aware. I am not so big on ‘reblogging’ but feel the need to spread the word before this scammer strikes again, which he probably will.
Thanks again for sharing your experience.
Thank you for your support, S.G.! Yeah, I agree that he/she could try again, or others. :(
Wow…. what a mess to sort through.
I just used Amazon Feedback link to post this:
Searched for “Nolander” By Becca Mills, although shows as unavailable.
Further online search for this title lead me to this site: https://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/
Please review the information on the link and correct this so I can buy this title from Amazon.
Hope it helps somewhere to dislodge at least one heel….
Thank you, KJ! Those heels did, in fact, undig themselves. It was just a matter of getting the right eyes on the problem. :)
I would like to think I swung a mighty hammer, but that was too quick a response to reflect upon my actions alone :P
Glad to see it all worked out, and just look at all the publicity!! :D
LOL, KJ. True, true!
Reblogged this on Manuscript. Head. Drawer. and commented:
A must read. Writers, beware. Indie author Becca Mills’ awful experience with DMCA abuse and a nasty scammer. :(
Thank you for reblogging, dynastic!
Thanks for sharing your story in such detail. It had to have been painful. I’m glad to know it and I’m hoping it helps many writers during their journey !
Thank you! Hopefully the fact that the story got shared will help people find it when they need it. Thank you for helping with that!
Reblogged this on Paula Acton and commented:
I don’t do many reblogs but every writer out there needs to be aware of this scam
Thank you, Paula! I very much hope it’s a one-off event.
Mecca – see my post just gone out minutes ago at:
Sorry Becca – darn autocorrect called you Mecca :(
Wonderful story, SRA — thank you! I’m so glad WordPress won that victory. Especially since they probably suspected they’d never see a cent. It’s the principle of the matter.
As for the typo, I thanked someone on Twitter the other day for “sharing my pot” (should’ve been “post”). You’ll have to admit that calling me “Mecca” pales in comparison. ;)
:D :D :D
[…] You can find Becca’s story here:Becca Mills and the scammer […]
Reblogged this on Box the Stars and commented:
Any independent/self-publishing authors need to be on the lookout for this.
Thank you for reblogging, Brittney!
Reblogging on https://www.facebook.com/PhylCampbellAuthorPage. I’m sorry you had this experience, but I appreciate your sharing it. Thanks!
Thank you for reblogging, Phyl!
Jeez, what a nightmare. That’s definitely the beauty/danger of indie publishing – people are very supportive, but not everyone has good intentions :( I’m glad your book is back online!
Thank you, Pema! Yes, I think you’re right — the community has hurtful and supportive elements. Fortunately, in my experience there are far, far more of the latter. :)
Picked this story up via a tweet from David Gaughran, read it and blogged about it at Martyn’s blog http://www.martyn51.blogspot.co.uk/ Thank you for sharing your experience. Delighted your books are back on-line.
Thank you for that very nice post, Martyn! :)
omg Becca I’m not an author but I’ve thought about becoming one your experience is truly terrifying i got to thinking about why someone would do you that way I thought of a million ways why someone would do that like maybe he/she/it saw you having success in selling your book and they were mad because their “business” wasn’t doing so hot and was angry with you because of that or he/she/it was lonely and thought “hey i need to think of a way for Becca to talk to me and make her ask for my help so we can start talking to each other” i also got to thinking if that can happen to an author then who’s to say something a little different couldn’t happen to a random person say for example a hacker hacks into a persons actual computer where you have personal information on it like for example your social security number, your address, your home address ect when they hacked into your computer they have access to that information along with anything you have saved on your computer and they can get you at their mercy to blackmail you and a number of other things it just goes to show that their are way too many people that abuse laws/acts/protection and electronic information/technology but I’m glad you got your book back up and running again and if God forbid it happens again just know i support you sorry for my long winded comment by the way have a drink or two or more you deserve it after what you went through or because you want to celebrate the success of getting your book back up and running again sorry for my long winded comment lots of love and support Kimberly
Thank you so much for your support, Kim! I really appreciate it. :)
Yeah, the scammer’s motives are mysterious. I feel like the action could’ve been prompted by just about anything (though if they were motivated by jealousy of success, they chose their target pretty weirdly, I gotta say)! And although the scammer said they lived in India, there’s no way to know if that’s true.
The risk to identity/personal data you mention is real and scary. Have you heard about this sort of thing?
Crazy, huh? It’s a brave new world we live in.
its more than crazy its scary
Yeah, agreed. :-/
[…] P.S. Not sure what this is all about? Start here. […]
[…] Mills on The Active VoiceIndependent Publishing and Dmca Abuse, or “How a Scammer Got My Book Blocked with Very Little Effo… “Okay, I’ve got a story. It’s a sort of scary one. I think […]
Ouch, sorry to hear that you’ve been stung by a fraudulent takedown notification.
I’m glad things have been sorted out, and you’re right in identifying that one of the huge problems with the DMCA is the lopsided nature of the process. The burden of proof shifts from the complainant to the recipient, and you need to submit a counter notification in order to have access restored.
At WordPress.com, we screen all of the DMCA takedowns we get, and fight back on behalf of our users where possible (I’m on the Terms of Service team). We just won $25,000 in damages on behalf of an author who suffered a similar scenario to yourself – http://www.dailydot.com/politics/straight-pride-uk-dmca-claim-sued-wordpress/
I’ve heard about the WordPress victory, and I’m thrilled. It’s just fantastic. Good for WP for taking it all the way. :)
The process is even more lopsided at the online book retailers than what you’re describing as the law’s inherent tendency to favor the complainant. The retailers’ position seems to be to ignore counter-notifications and to insist the complainant and the author settle the dispute on their own. Both parties have to give the retailer permission in order for the book to be restored. That’s far more than the shifting of the burden of proof. It’s a refusal to accept any proof at all from one party while accepting absolutely anything as proof from the other.
I’m sure this position was developed for rational and defensible reasons, but the opportunity it creates for abuse seems huge to me.
I’ve replied mostly on the other thread, but replying here too.
That’s pretty crazy if that is the case. It seems like they may have their own dispute resolution systems in place that are separate from the DMCA (i.e. – don’t get involved at all), but I fail to see why, given that they would receive safe harbor. There’s no legal requirement on them to do what you are describing, as far as I’m aware. And you’re right… that approach is open to massive abuse.
Thank you, Clicky Steve. The go-work-it-out-yourselves thing does seem to be the default approach. Amazon said this: “If a resolution is reached, before we may take any appropriate action regarding the book(s), all involved parties must contact us via email@example.com.” Smashwords said this: “Per our policy, the book needs to remain unpublished until Smashwords is given consent by both parties to republish it.”
Obviously, neither retailer stuck to that policy, once the fraudulence of the DMCA notice was pointed out to the right people. But it does seem to be there.
Hi Becca, sorry to hear about all those woes you have been through … I am sure it was all a real emotional and mental drain for you. So pleased things are sorting themselves out now.
On the flip side … because of your experiences, you have, in turn, been able to shine a light on a subject which so many of us would never even think about, let alone investigate all the pro’s and con’s like you have. In spiritual terms, its like you have been catalyst for good and for truth … and are able to hold your head high because of your kindness and integrity / honesty. Well done. Am wishing you well and are able to re-focus on your books once more in a positive way. WRITE ON! God bless.
Thank you so much for your kind words and good wishes, David! :)
[…] Lamentablemente no debido a su éxito como autora, sino a al acoso del que estaba siendo objeto. El 1 de marzo Mills denunciaba cómo un vulgar —por lo chapucero de su método— timador había logrado que Nolander, el primer […]
I referenced your problem in my blog, “How Can Artists Protect Themselves?”
Also, if you don’t already know, your book is back on Amazon–I bought it.
Thank you for buying my book and sharing my story, Angelique! So kind. And best of luck with your novel! :)
ETA: Yes, Amazon restored the book once I was able to get in touch with the right people. I’m sure the don’t want this sort of thing to happen any more than we do!
Either it’s someone pretending to be your friend to troll you and watch how you react (because they have beef with you and are particularly sadistic) or there is a phase 2 that he/she never got to in which you send them money and they fix the problem for you. Either way, I hope Amazon sees this and resolves to do better.
Thank you, Amy! Amazon did, in fact, resolve the situation, once I was able to a message to the higher-ups at KDP. Yeah, the two possibilities you mention seem like the likeliest explanations to me. As for which one it actually is … no idea.
Reblogged this on siriusmoonlight.
Thanks for the reblog, siriusmoonlight!
[…] This attack began after my vocal support for the author Becca Mills . . . her books were recently taken off Amazon by a scammer (also) filing fraudulent HMCA reports against her works, so he could sell pirated copies on Amazon without competition from the real owner. Given the timeframe and identical payload of attack, I’m working on the presumption that the assault on my internet presence is by the same criminals in revenge for Becca’s books now being returned to her by Amazon. You can read Becca’s story at https://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/ […]
It does leave me wondering what would have happened if you had used the magic word “money”. I have a feeling that Kushal would have jumped at the chance to “help” you resolve the problem. He’s a troll plain and simple.
It’s certainly possible, Kronomex. Or maybe an offer would’ve been forthcoming in the next few days.
Thanks for sharing… but please also beware that the scammer is bound to have a google alert set up on each of their names, so they get sent an email and link every time they get mentioned on the internet, and every time there is an update to the page – by way of comments, depending on how they have their alerts set up… but you can set up alerts on them (and your novels) too… see https://www.google.com.au/alerts
Thanks, AA! Yeah, I’m assuming the scammer is keeping up with events. They originally contacted me through this website, after all, so they’re familiar with it.
Heh, heh … just thinking that this is the downside to choosing a very common name (Kushal Das) to run a scam — if you set up a Google alert on it, you’d probably get hundreds of hits a day. It’d be pretty hard to sift through it all and figure out which ones are really about you.
I think I know what’s happening here: Kushal offers to ghost write novels for people (for thousands of dollars). He then goes to Amazon, downloads a free book, steals chunks of it, sends a DMCA notice to get it taken down, hands the book over to the person who hired him, and when that person runs a plagiarism check to make sure the book is original, they can’t find anything, because Amazon took down the book.
By the time Amazon restores the book (if they do) the person who hired Kushal is already selling the “ghost written” version as their own. And Kushal makes off with several thousand bucks each time.
Of course, he could ALSO be planning to charge you to help get you out of this mess. I’d bet good money that the “Lawyer” posting above (AKA the guy who thinks “lawyer” is a proper noun) (AKA the guy bending over backward to convince you not to sue Kushal) is actually Kushal.
“. I’d bet good money that the “Lawyer” posting above (AKA the guy who thinks “lawyer” is a proper noun) (AKA the guy bending over backward to convince you not to sue Kushal) is actually Kushal.”
You mean the one who was very careful to emphasize that it would be impossible to ever track down the guy in India, and totally not worth it to sue? Yeah that sounded a little fishy to me, too.
I noticed this too, as soon as I read it. That comment contains many, MANY red flags. This was clearly the scammer’s “offer” stage, hoping Becca would hire them to “resolve” the issue.
Thanks Becca for sharing your story – it’s a valuable lesson all around for an aspiring author. Can’t ever be safe enough, it seems. Amazing that copyright means nothing…what is the world coming to.
You’re very welcome, H.K., and thank you! Who knows, in the end, what my official copyright registry meant. I did send it to Jeff Bezos, along with other materials, in making my pitch. Maybe it played a part in convincing them, maybe not.
[…] plagiarism—what it is and how to combat it, while Becca Mills shares a chilling true story of how a complete stranger managed to get Becca’s books taken down by filing a fraudulent DCMA compla…. It could happen to any of […]
[…] An alarming new attack on indie writers and small press […]
[…] Nasty. Read the full story of writer vs. scam artist here. […]
Reblogged this on and commented:
I’m not an indie author (yet) but I have a lot of friends who are. This post is for you.
Thank you for reblogging, Calisa!
Nice to meet you, Becca. It’s a scary ordeal to go through. I’m so glad it all worked out for you. Thank you for sharing your experience!
Thank you, Calisa! Hopefully we can all share info if it happens to someone else. Brrr …
What a terrifying story. Please tell me you sent the scammer one last email with a middle finger emoticon?
LOL, Lisa. Can’t say that I did, no. ;)
[…] I felt I needed to go further with the series. For those who don’t know, Becca Mills is an indie author, whose book was removed from Amazon by a false DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) compliant. […]
Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus- A Spark of Light Within the gloom.
[…] https://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/ […]
[…] Independent Publishing And DMCA Abuse, Or “How A Scammer Got My Book Blocked With Very Little Eff… – a cautionary tale for self-publishers on how scammers can try and take you for a ride by filing false DMCA Abuse claims. […]
[…] DMCA abuse in independent publishing […]
[…] have been attacked in this way many times — here is a March 2015 story from The Active Voice: https://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/ Thankfully Amazon authorities are becoming aware of such false attacks, the representative I […]
[…] Nasty. Read the full story of writer vs. scam artist here. […]
Remove Google plus remove twitter remove Facebook and remove DMCA and remove eula and remove nsa and remove the safe harbor worshippers and it’s terrible acts and remove apple technology and remove Skype and remove Microsoft technology and remove netflix and remove DRM and remove Hulu and remove red box and remove the ndaa and remove all copyright acts and remove all the utility bills and insurance commercials and remove all the taxes and fees and remove mpaa and remove riaa and remove IRS and Remove Fbi and remove Sony and remove ACTA and remove COPPA and remove AOL and remove ACA and remove Verizon and remove AT&T and remove etrust and remove FOIA and remove adobe and remove Spotify and remove TPP and remove governments and remove congresses and remove FDA and remove DEA and remove ACLU and remove verisign and remove Kindle and remove nook and remove Mozilla Firefox and remove safari too and save the link from the FCC and remove TRUSTe and remove EME and remove PPACA and remove Obamacare and remove HIPAA and remove CETA and remove TIPP and remove TPP and remove TTIP and remove TISA and remove TTP and remove RTI and remove CALOPPA and remove the Sat ACT and remove Cisco
Wow, this was crazy! I had no idea something like this could happen. Will you post an update when and if you discover Kushal’s intent?
This is a little off topic, but I found your site when I was searching whether smashwords is a reliable publishing platform….and if you’d recommend them? (Just finished my KDP Select term with Amazon.)
LOL, darkroomdiva … I doubt I’ll ever find out what Kushal wanted. It’s going to be one of those mysteries, I think. My guess is money, but who really knows?
I think Smashwords is a great platform. They sure were helpful to me in dealing with this situation. If not for them, I couldn’t have solved it, I suspect. They’re responsive and personal in all the ways a huge corporation like Amazon can’t be. That said, I think it’s good to go “direct” in putting your book(s) up on the non-Amazon retailers. You save the 10% cut a distributor like Smashwords takes, and some of the retailers are more likely to include you in promotions if you’ve uploaded directly, or so I hear. Personally, I use Draft2Digital to sell on iTunes, since uploading to iTunes directly is tricky for a couple reasons. And I use Smashwords to get free books like “Nolander” and “Theriac” up on B&N, where you can’t go free directly, and to reach Scribd’s subscription service. With Kobo, Google Play (currently closed to new publishers, unfortunately), and paid books on B&N, I upload directly.
That person is a scum of the earth. It just occured to me where the word scam came from.
I already have plans to self-publish, but this kind of thing prevents me from posting any work online until it’s time for publishing. And here I am trying to find a reliable beta-reader that might plagiarize my own work. Anyways, thanks for the blog post. I learned a lot and it gave me another reason to be paranoid about people I interact with . . .
[…] Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse, or “How a … – Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse, or “How a Scammer Got My Book Blocked with Very Little Effort” […]
[…] written it—even if you have the registered copyright. At least that’s what happened to author Becca Mills when a pirate sent a DMCA on her own copyrighted book, which was discussed on The Passive Voice […]
[…] But I have also discovered that copyright claim-jumping of self-published authors is apparently a thing, and that Amazon puts the burden of proof on the author, not the accuser. Self-published authors may be at greater risk. […]
[…] have written it—even if you have the registered copyright. At least that’s what happened to author Becca Mills when a pirate sent a DMCA on her own copyrighted book, which was discussed on The Passive Voice […]
Sorry about the late answer but it’s just dawned on me why he did it. The guy calls himself a ghostwriter, right? So what he does, he downloads someone’s free book, then sends a DMCA notice forcing retailers to take the book down. Then he sells the book as his own work to the highest bidder knowing it would pass plagiarism tests. Simple!
Because that’s the only way he can charge $100 for a full-length novel as he claims on the site. By stealing it.
Sorry about the late answer but it’s just dawned on me why he did it. The guy calls himself a ghostwriter, right? So what he does, he downloads someone’s free book, then sends a DMCA notice forcing retailers to take the book down. Then he sells the book as his own work to the highest bidder knowing it would pass plagiarism tests. Simple!
Because that’s the only way he can charge $100 for a full-length novel as he claims on the site. By stealing it.
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