Piracy, navies and my books

I write full-time for a living. It’s not easy. The usual way to make a small fortune from writing is to start with a large one. Book sales are important, every one of them. Last week I discovered persons unknown have pirated one of my naval histories – nine times, in fact. They’re being sold separately on Amazon with different titles but my content, all to their benefit and at the cost of my income.

My naval history Blue Water Kiwis has been pirated

The book in question is one I wrote back in 2000, when I signed a contract with Reed NZ to write a history of New Zealand’s naval experiences – which, after some to-and-fro gyrations, was titled Blue Water Kiwis. The navy backed me – adopting the book as their 60th anniversary history which was coming up in October 2001. My book was launched that year by the Chief of the Navy of the day, Rear-Admiral Peter McHaffie, at a small ceremony on the flight deck of HMNZS Te Mana.

The night went down in legend because afterwards my publishers hosted me and my wife to dinner, but not until midnight owing to a small party happening first in the officers’ wardroom. Also, my wife and I got accidentally locked out of our motel, but had left a window ajar. The upshot was that I climbed in, only to discover I was descending head-first into the kitchen sink… and you think authors don’t have an interesting life?

Just pointing to my name on the cover of the original 2001 hardback edition, cover art by the RNZN’s official artist Colin Wynn (who was my brother in law, coincidentally, though the picture came via the RNZN museum)

Reed were folded into Penguin (who I also wrote for) in 2007, along with the publishing license for ‘Blue Water Kiwis’. In 2014 I decided to terminate my business with what had become Penguin Random House, after 33 books with them. I was able to retrieve the publishing licenses. That included Blue Water Kiwis. I have all the correspondence – including the contract – in my records. I was able to get a Kindle edition of Blue Water Kiwis released on Amazon under the Intruder Books imprint in 2015. And in 2018 that was followed by a paperback edition. Check ‘em out here. Feel free to buy them (naturally), but I’m pointing them out for other reasons today.

This week I discovered that persons unknown have copied the 2015 Kindle edition and pumped it across Amazon multiple times, each assigned to a different ‘author’. The titles seem to have been written by somebody for whom English is a foreign language. I mean, ‘Story of New Zealand Naval’. Really? Several versions have been issued after clear doctoring with software that rephrases sentences and adds wording to prevent auto-detection of a copy. But the origin is clear, which is still an infringement (‘derived work’ is the term, since you ask).

You can check some of these out here. And here. And here. There’s more. DO NOT, repeat DO NOT buy them. But do feel free to check out the dates of publication, match them against mine, then check the content via ‘look inside’ against my own earlier release. There’s a link at the bottom relative to violation of copyright.

It’s straight piracy of my stuff, folks.

And, OK, that’s kind of funny. You know… a naval book… piracy… geddit? But I can’t laugh.

Legitimate authors can’t get help easily from Amazon

Amazon make it difficult to contact them, but I managed it. I laid out my ownership of the copyrights, provided links to my work and to the pirated editions which clearly post-date it. And do you know what Amazon said? I hadn’t proven I was the author.

It’s trivial for me to show I am the author – aside from the fact that I wrote it (obviously) I still have the contracts, scrap-files and notes. It’s long been on legal deposit – click here for the index entry. And here for the entry for the 2018 edition.

I get it that Amazon also don’t want to field frivolous or malicious allegations of copyright infringement. But for those who have been pirated, it’s frustrating. I wrote the bloody book! Worse, they don’t seem to have systems in place to detect it. Although that’s probably not in their interest – Amazon makes money off everything on Kindle, pirated or not, so why would they care? And Bezos gets to build another Space Schlong.

Then I discovered I’d also been plagiarised

I was still fuming over the piracy and wondering if I should audit some of my other Amazon books when I discovered that somebody else, separately, had plagiarised the key arguments and wording from one of my other naval books. I won’t detail it here, yet, because I’m still in discussions with the party concerned.

I don’t know yet how any of this will pan out. I’ll post updates over on my Facebook page (follow it, if you haven’t already) as things develop.


Have any of you had problems with your work being pirated or plagiarised?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2022


16 thoughts on “Piracy, navies and my books

    1. Good thought, though Fair Go is only good for NZ – I’m trying to deal with Amazon in the US and systems intentionally designed to deflect approaches. I’m intending to have another crack after I’ve audited the rest the Kindle titles for which I hold the licensing rights. (Some of my books on Amazon are there via publishers to whom I’ve licensed those rights, so piracy is their problem in terms of resolving it, though still my problem in terms of my bank balance…)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Pretty much. I’m going to have another go at it, but the whole thing sucks. I have a feeling this style of piracy is also organised, probably along the lines of those call-centres-gone-bad behind the scam-call racket. My Kindle material was released with full digital rights management, which I expect takes a certain tech-savvy to crack.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ugh. So sorry to hear you’ve been burgled, coz that’s what it feels like. I found Vokhtah on one of those ‘free’ booksites, the ones that lure people in with promises of free books and then either bombard them with bogus advertising or simply hit them with malware. Not much I could do about it either, and I suspect Amazon’s own systems are to blame. It’s far too easy to pirate an ebook, especially when authors do ‘free’ promotions. The pirates don’t even have to waste money on the material. -grinds teeth-
    Sadly, there are no viable alternatives; Smashwords and Draft2Digital simply don’t have the reach.
    I hope you get the thefts sorted out. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Burglary’s a great way of describing it! And yes, it does feel like that. I’ve had issues with the ‘free’ e-book version of some of my titles too, including ones that are out of print and have never been on Kindle. Stopping that’s a hopeless task. In this case it’s simply extraordinary – persons unknown (and I suspect an organised office) have taken my material, cracked the DRM, and then re-released it back on to the same platform. The odd part is that Amazon seem to have no way of detecting the fact that the pirated material has identical content.

      I don’t actually have a lot up on Amazon compared to my main output – some of my publisher issue e-book editions of my current publications, but it’s not frequent. The bulk of what I’ve got up there is my back-list for which I retrieved the publications licenses. I get queries, reasonably often, from people wanting my older books. I don’t keep copies myself in great number. However, I’ve been able to get a selection republished under the Intruder Books imprint and I’m able to point readers to them. It’s one of these that was pirated – I’m actually going to check out the rest and see what else has been stolen before pressing Amazon again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, you’d think that a humungous company like Amazon, that basically runs on algorithms anyway, would have an algorithm capable of comparing two items. It beggars belief, especially as KDP [the ebook arm] makes such a song and dance about ‘proofing’ an ebook for spelling before allowing it to be published. I had great fun convincing it that all the alien words and names in my first book were not spelling errors!
        I don’t have much time for Google, but even Youtube checks for copyright infringements before allowing a video to appear on their site.
        I suspect Bezos is bored and everyone else just chugs along with the status quo. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

        1. My suspicion is that he doesn’t care – all he’s interested in is building those disturbingly Freudian rockets he’s developed. It seems an incredible omission that Kindle has no apparent mechanism, as part of the upload process, to check for duplicates already on that system. My book was re-loaded by the pirates a total of nine times, six of which were identical copies of my original, and three copies derived via software that adds nonsense-phrasing to fool bot plagiarism checks. But even if those three were missed by a bot in terms of their similarity to my original, you’d think the system would have picked up that they, themselves, were identical.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. To be honest, I’m not all that impressed with the algorithms we have. They’re pretty stupid. That said, a word for word match should not take a genius neural network to spot.
            I think the problem is size. There are just so many ebooks on Amazon that it would take weeks to do a proper check, so they don’t do one at all until someone complains.
            I just hope that your complaint will stir something in the bowels of Amazon.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. The books I have of yours were all acquired by looking for books by you – therefore I could not even find one of the pirated ones. I’m sorry to hear this is happening to you and your work.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah – and not a lot I can do about the piracy, either. I’m working on it, but due processes take time. Especially when I am dealing with international corporates that have handed 99 percent of their public contact work over to automation.

          Liked by 1 person

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