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?
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