Why Do Publishers Treat Customers As Crooks With Scolding Copyright Notices?

from the no-way-to-make-a-fan dept

Jeff Cliff points us to an interesting story in which writer Rebecca Blain points out just what a complete freaking downer it is to get an ebook (legitimately) and then have it dump a massive threatening copyright notice on you that assumes you're a crook. Think of it as the equivalent of the stupid, annoying and pointless FBI warning found at the beginning of movies:
So, off I went. It was a nice evening, and I had a few minutes before bed. I fire the kindle up, select Last of the Lesser Kings, and start to read. Well, I tried to. Encountered quite a few pages of legal threats telling me how much I would be sued for if I had the sheer audacity of putting this book on more than one device that I owned. Heaven forbid if I lend it out to anyone. The amount of the violation didn’t have two, three, or four zeros. Try five or six. I don’t remember the exact amount, but I remember the complete shock and impossibility of the average person being able to pay that sum. I’m not going to open my kindle to find out again. It made me mad enough even having to type this out.

After having read the book, I can state with some confidence that this author’s book is not worth four or five digits to me, let alone six. If I had bought this book, rather than being presented to it as a reviewer’s ARC, (this was a post-publication, so it was exactly the same content a paying reader receives) I’m pretty confident I would have asked for a refund without reading the book, seeing as I wasn’t paying to be threatened.
She then followed that up with another post that actually included that copyright notice along with another random selection of notices. First, here's a snippet of the copyright notice that led to the original blog post, from the book Last of the Lesser Kings by T.L.K. Arkenberg:

Your non-refundable purchase of this e-book allows you to only ONE LEGAL copy for your personal reading on your own personal computer or device. You do not have resell or distrubition rights without the prior written permission of both the publisher and the copyright owner of this book. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee, or as a prize in any contest. Such action is illegal and in violation of the South African Copyright Law. Distribution of this e-book, in whole or in part, online, offline, in print or in any way or other method currently known or not yet invented, is forbidden. If you do not want this book anymore, you must delete it from your computer.

WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. The Licensed Art Material is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the Licensed Art Material, is a model.

The other copyright notices she looked at were not nearly as threatening, though at least some of them appear to engage in copyfraud by overclaiming their rights and ignoring the possibility of fair use exceptions. Perhaps most interesting is that a few of the books she looked at, including at least one by a "big name player", did not include any copyright notice at all.

In the end, though, the real point is that this is not how you connect with your fans, by defaulting to assuming that they're all trying to distribute unauthorized copies of your work. Assuming the worst of your fans likely means you're going to have fewer fans. Trusting your fans and not scolding them tends to lead to much better results. It's too bad so many publishers haven't figured that out yet.

Filed Under: copyright notice, cwf, ebooks

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re: Overreach fail

    Good point.

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