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Textbook Publishers File Suit Against Amazon Marketplace Sellers for Alleged Piracy

Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson have started a new round of lawsuits against textbook sellers.

The Financial Times reports that this time around the publishers are targeting defendants who sell through Amazon’s marketplace:

Three of the world’s largest textbook publishers have subpoenaed Amazon to reveal the names and financial accounts of online vendors who allegedly sell counterfeit books at “too good to be true” prices.

Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and McGraw Hill Education are suing 100 unnamed Amazon marketplace sellers for copyright infringement. In a complaint filed in New York federal court earlier this month, the publishers accused the sellers of “hiding behind the anonymity of internet pseudonyms” to profit from unauthorised copies of their books.

Amazon said it was working with the publishers to identify offenders and remove fraudulent items. “Amazon has zero tolerance for the sale of counterfeit items on our site,” said spokesman Erik Farleigh. “

We are taking legal action and aggressively pursuing bad actors,” he added, declining to specify what exactly that legal action would be. Amazon was not named a defendant in the lawsuit. However, the publishers said the ability of the vendors to sell through the world’s largest online retailer “causes even greater damage” to their businesses by “undercut[ting] sales and the perceived value of authorised and legitimate copies” of the books

If the filings are to be believed then every defendant is a filthy stinking pirate. But given that there are 100 accounts being targeted it would be unfair to tar them all with the same brush.

Some of these sellers might be completely innocent, and what with textbook publishers being textbook publishers, the sellers might be guilty of nothing more than importing textbooks, which as the courts have told us in Kirtsaeng v Wiley, is completely legal.

image by pmccormi

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Beth January 25, 2017 um 9:43 am

I’m going to make a prediction that all or the vast majority of those sellers are importing the textbooks a la Kirtsaeng, which as you mentioned is perfectly legal.

The sad thing is that if these publishers priced their books like reasonable people, they wouldn’t have this problem. If people aren’t buying your books because they are priced to high, the logical thing to do is NOT to price them higher so even fewer will buy them, and then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal action.

Dave January 25, 2017 um 2:36 pm

Actually, the problem on the Amazon reseller sites really is this bad. I work for a small publisher who keeps their textbook prices very reasonable. Even with that, we have had hundreds of copies of our books show up as counterfeits. It is a significant amount of work for us to buy samples, report the counterfeit sale, and wait for Amazon to act to take the books down. We don’t license foreign editions, so, no, these sales are not because someone is importing a foreign edition. The DMCA is woefully behind the times and makes it so that those that host counterfeit books have no responsibility. That law needs to be updated.

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Sid Greenfield September 13, 2017 um 5:53 pm

Amazon undoubtedly refused to comply with the subpoenas, replying instead, like they always do, with a canned PR spiel.

This article only serves to illuminate the many reasons for which Amazon may never be taken to task for its egregious behavior in so many areas.

Unfortunately, Amazon, in addition to being a creeping monopolistic juggernaut, is essentially a separate Orwellian city-state, the "citizens" being its employees and customers; those over whom it exerts it’s totalitarian influence and control.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that, since they have effectively bribed each and every one of the politicians who would otherwise be interested in taking the enterprise to task for any number of legal, ethical and human rights violations, no meaningful legal or effective civil action against them is likely either to commence nor prevail at any point in the near future. Even the dreaded IRS can’t seem to manage a successful case against them.

We have however recently engaged in discussions with two senators and three house representatives with regard to a pending proposal to break up Amazon and/or to regulate it as a public utility. Such an action would extend to each and every one of it’s subsidiaries and would also apply to Amazon itself, effectively wresting control from Bezos and the Amazon board of directors.

You can and should call, write or email your senators and representatives letting each and every one of them know that you support such a regulatory proposal.

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