The latest update: May 22d
A couple of days ago I was contacted by a representative from Amazon’s office of Executive Seller Relations after Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com and owner of the Washington Post, read one of my email messages to him.
We discussed the situation, actually I did most of the talking. I explained the problem artists are having with their work being stolen and resold on Amazon. I corrected the representatives assertion that this is an every-once-in-a-while occurrence; there are hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of fake, or counterfeit, or whatever you want to called them, products sold on Amazon.com and Amazon’s foreign web sites. Amazon did not need me to tell them any of this – they already knew.
I also informed him that the artists are fighting mad. We will continue to contact artists who are being ripped off and inform them as to how they can protect their rights. We will also continue to publicize the problem with petitions at the White House web site and elsewhere in the US and abroad ; Better Business Bureau complaints, blog posts, writing to Congressional representatives, contacting the intellectual property theft departments of the FBI and OPM, explore the possibility of class action lawsuits, and further options I will not mention here.
I then proposed a solution that I believe would satisfy all involved, greatly reduce the amount of stolen intellectual property being sold on Amazon’s domains, and allow Amazon to rightly point to itself as a pro-active guardian of artists’ rights.This would be a win-win solution for all involved save the thieves. And I think that, after an initial period to shut down the storefronts of problem sellers, there would be less of a workload on Amazon’s employees responsible for dealing with copyright infringements.
I hope that Amazon is sincere when it tells us that it cares about protecting intellectual property rights. Otherwise we artists are just getting started and more of us are involved every day.
For now, do not enable those who just want to make a fast buck by selling you an inferior product and boycott Amazon. Buyer beware!
For those in the UK here is a petition for greater penalties for online outlets which fail to protect intellectual property rights: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/130718
In many ways Amazon appears to be little more than an online fencing operation. Here’s how it works.
The criminals copy low-resolution images from the product pages of various legitimate outlets, such as Zazzle, where I sell my art. A low-resolution image has little detail in it. While it is suitable for display on computer monitors, when printed on t-shirts, or mouse pads, or doormats, or whatever, they will be fuzzy, muddy and distorted. The dimensions (size) of the stolen images are also small, so, the thieves, have to enlarge them so that they will be able print them on items to sell; this further distorts the image. Now, the criminal, usually located beyond the reach of US law enforcement in places such as China, print the distorted images on a variety of products and offer them for sale. There are millions of such items available for sale on Amazon. You should be aware, that if you purchase these items, especially if they are shipped from China, you will probably receive a product with a crappy image on it. Buyer beware!
When an artist finds one of his stolen images for sale on Amazon it will be removed if the artist is willing to jump through enough hoops.
It does not end there, however. Amazon claims that when an individual uploads an image to be used in selling a product certain rights with respect that image are irrevocably ceded to Amazon. It seems to matter not a whit to Amazon that the original artist did not upload the image and, therefore ceded no rights. The product image and other information about a product for sale is contained in what Amazon calls a product detail page. Even when Amazon acknowledges the original artist’s copyright has been violated by the thieves and removes the infringing product, the product detail page is retained in a catalog. This is an open invitation to another aspiring criminal to re-post the product and sell it. Not surprisingly, this happens over and over and over and over again, ad nauseum. There seems to belittle we can do about this. Big corporations always ensure that laws are written in such a way as to protect them.
Generally, when artists file copyright infringement reports with Amazon they are asked to remove the product detail pages; all to no avail. Despite repeated personal email messages sent to Mr. Bezos, by myself and many other artist, nothing has changes. As far as I know not one of us has ever been given the courtesy of a reply.
But wait! There’s more! Amazon has an internal theft problem as well. Some of these same thieves who sell on Amazon steal images from other, honest sellers on Amazon and brazenly offer items for sale with these stolen images.
I have talked with any artists who have been ripped off by the Amazon thieves. A large percentage of them are retirees, stay-at-home moms, people who can no work due to illness or lack of employment employment opportunities; some are dying of slow-burn cancer. All are just trying to earn a few extra dollars; the thieves are taking food out of their mouths. If you buy from the Amazon thieves you are enabling international intellectual property crime, screwing over the artists who receive no royalties, and, you will likely receive a sub-standard product.
A couple of weeks ago news headlines announced that Mr. Bezos made six billion dollars in twenty minutes. Easy enough when you profit from the sale of millions of products bearing stolen images.
While intellectual property crime falls within the purview of both the FBI’s intellectual property crime people and OPM which has a similar office; due to limited manpower, they must devote their attention to higher priority matters such as the theft of military and commercial technology by China and other nations. The government of China has no incentive to help enforce US copyright and intellectual property theft law. We are considering a class action lawsuit. If anyone knows of a lawyer who would be interested in this matter ask him to contact me. The same goes for any investigative journalist looking for a good story.
I will never buy another item from Amazon and ask you do the same. Write to Mr. Bezos at email@example.com and request he address this issue.
Lastly, The Fireman asked me to post this message for the Amazon thieves. “I will continue to burn your Amazon stores to the ground; every single one. If you start a new one, I will burn that down as well. As many times as necessary until you are driven, permanently, from Amazon.