When to Cave Over a Fake Copyright Claim

When they have a lawyer and you can't afford one.

When to Cave Over a Fake Copyright Claim - When They Have a Lawyer and You Can't Afford One.
(Jurisdictionary - lousy packaging, great course.)

Hopefully, you don't have a lot invested in that book. Might be a crying shame, but get over it.

The two questions you have to ask yourself:
  • Can I afford a lawyer and legal battle?
  • Can I afford to have the government copyright search at $150/hour?
Probably not.

That's the simple business plan for a SOHO Indie publisher:

Back off, apologize, and pull the book.

There's plenty more public domain books you can publish which say the same thing, whether fiction or non fiction. But your budget simply can't afford any conflicts.

Take the hint from Google Play and Amazon. If there's a whiff of lawyer in the air, they simply suspend the book immediately and tell the indie publisher to sort it out. If you come out with your own version of an ebook, Google quickly pulls their free version with no questions asked - even though it's still in the public domain. They simply don't want the hassle.

I ran into this recently. Some claim about how I "infringed" on someone's rights.

Turns out that book has never been on solid legal footing. I searched all over on Stanford Copyright site to find that book. Double, triple checked - looked for different spellings. No one had ever simply renewed that copyright after it expired.

Then I checked Google Books to search through the digital hardcopies of copyright renewals - still nothing there.

Just for a lark, I looked up their version of this book - and found that while it was published since 1977, they hadn't bothered to register that book, either.

What was really occurring was some relative was getting a nice little check every month from the publisher and no one wanted to upset that apple-cart. That relative had enough moxie to look out for and defend his little paycheck by alerting the current publisher.

Nothing is on file with the Government. So they don't have a leg to stand on.

But they do have lawyers.

And I don't.

So it's apologize, pull the book, find another to replace it. Even though I did nothing wrong. Discretion being the better part of valor, and all that.

Other options:

  • Publish only in countries which don't support that copyright.

Of course, that knocks out about 80% of your potential revenue - but you'll still have some. Simple enough to do - just check the countries you know you have rights in.

  • Publish with distributors who aren't in the US. 

Even worse income. Can be done. None that I'd bother to mention here...

  • Set up digital sales on a server outside the U.S. on a non-signatory nation like China and do your own promotion to sell the book from there.

Oh, come on. You just made Indie publishing an expensive hobby.

Look, there are tons of great books which are out of copyright. Many are unquestionably so. Invest your time in the ones which will give you real returns, not headaches.

Like the old Queen's approach to a parade: nod, smile, and move on.

PS. The pity is that these books aren't being made into ebooks, just suppressed from them. So people can't easily find the data. Solution: extract the data as a "review" or "study guide" under fair use (less than 10% of the original text).

PPS. Just realized that this same publishing executive who didn't renew his copyrights (or have them checked) also gave me bogus data about a book originally written and published in France. The translation is a different edition, different copyright - and was never renewed in the U.S. where it was first published. I'm not trying to republish that original book in French. So I'm good until someone complains... Just keep a low profile - which means less sales. (sigh.)

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