This article first appeared in Cyberlaw Currents, a Frankfurt Kurnit legal blog.
The rise of eReader devices and eReader marketplaces provides more and more opportunities for online self-publishers. While these technologies have given a myriad of authors the joy and remuneration of publishing their work, they have also led to modern abuses – abuses that affect intellectual property owners and consumers alike.
First, because the barriers to uploading manuscripts through self-publishing programs are low, some self-publishers have deployed automatically generated content (e.g., pages of HTML code), Web-collected content (e.g., Wikipedia.com pages), or altogether fake content (paragraphs pulled together seemingly at random), and uploaded these as eBooks for sale. Scam self-publishers receive royalties, use multiple identities to manipulate their "book" reviews, and move their "books" to other eBook stores if they are revealed.
Second, scam self-publishers often misuse, dilute, and infringe trademarks, rip-off trade dress, and violate copyrights. Additionally, the way eBook stores sell their eBooks makes it more likely consumers will be confused by a scammer or infringer. That is because eBook titles are searchable and displayed next to authorized books in search results. Thus, buyers who see an unauthorized eBook for sale right next to an official eBook may not know the unauthorized book is a fake that has misappropriated the good will of the author for whom they were searching. This practice can significantly impact sales figures, brand equity, and even the ability to bring certain copyright claims.
While some eBook sellers have recently claimed to crack down on these problems, we continue to see them affecting our clients. We recommend authors and publishers self-monitor eBook stores and bring any concerns to our attention.
This alert provides general coverage of its subject area. We provide it with the understanding that Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz is not engaged herein in rendering legal advice, and shall not be liable for any damages resulting from any error, inaccuracy, or omission. Our attorneys practice law only in jurisdictions in which they are properly authorized to do so. We do not seek to represent clients in other jurisdictions.