Update: Amazon finally got back to me on this, and apparently their use of the image is legit. I’m not terribly surprised, nor am I outraged, etc., but raised a BS flag on this one because I couldn’t find anything to back it up. However, Amazon pointed me to point 4 of the Author Central terms of service, which reads:
“I’ve received confirmation from the concerned department that as mentioned in the terms of agreement you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free right and license to use, reproduce, distribute, transmit, perform, modify and display all Submitted Materials in any media formats solely in connection with the Services and the marketing, promotion and distribution of the Services. The rights you grant to us in this paragraph extend to us and to any person or entity designated or engaged by us or acting on our behalf and are in addition to any rights we may otherwise have.”
They also pointed to point 5.5 of the KDP terms of service (which I won’t bore you with here), although upon reading that I don’t think it applies to this case.
Oh, well, I guess that explains that. I’m okay with it, now that I can see the text in black and white. And as I’ve said before, I’m not going to complain all that much about Amazon, as without them I wouldn’t be here. But it does go to show that you always have to read, heed and somehow remember all the fine print!
Listen, I love Amazon. Really, I do. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, but would still be back at the National Security Agency, banging my head against the literal cubicle wall and counting down the nanoseconds of the years ahead until my minimum retirement age. But something interesting happened the other day: Amazon pilfered my book cover.
I was notified first by one reader on Facebook, followed by several others on Twitter, that they’d received a promotional email from Amazon that morning (on 19 May) with the graphic you see here in the upper right. Looks pretty cool, eh?
The reason they brought it up is that the background bits with the sword and stars looked awfully familiar. Maybe a bit like the cover of EMPIRE?
Now, it wouldn’t have been such a big harumph if Amazon had at least pointed the reader toward EMPIRE or one of my other books, but that wasn’t the case.
I reviewed the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms of Service (KDP TOS to those who enjoy acronyms), and I couldn’t find anything in there that led me to believe that Amazon could take copyrighted book covers, airbrush out the title, and use the resulting images for promotional purposes without crediting the author/publisher.
So I fired off an email to KDP customer service and got an interim response back from “Raghu M.” noting that he’d notified the concerned department (whichever one that was) about the issue, and would monitor things and follow up as soon as he could provide an answer.
That was all fine and good, although the one thing that irritated me was that it was one of those “you can’t reply to this message” messages. I believe that customer service should be a dialogue, and hate having no way to discuss the issue short of having to send yet another form message in which I’d have to explain everything over again, as there wasn’t even a case or ticket number to go with the original query. Gah.
I decided to write an email and sent it off to Amazon in hopes that it’ll reach someone in the executive echelons above reality, not so much that I expect more action from them, but because I don’t really trust things to get kicked around in the customer service mystery box. And, besides, someone in the corporate chain should probably be aware that their marketing people are engaged in copyright infringement, especially since Amazon comes down like a ton of bricks on people for even a hint of the same.
What did I tell them? After explaining (and showing) that the graphic was clearly derived from the cover of EMPIRE and was used without my permission and, so far as I can find, without being covered in the KDP TOS, I told them that as recompense I would be quite happy to have EMPIRE (or, better yet, one of my paid books like REDEMPTION) featured in a special promotion. That way everybody wins: Amazon and I get more royalties, and readers will get some sort of special something. I said that I was certainly open to other ideas, but tossed that out for consideration.
So, we’ll see what happens. It’s always something…