Last week I entered into an unfortunate discussion regarding Creative Commons licensing, free content, and intellectual property theft to the tune of Copyright Hijacking. See the discussion over on Tele-read with author Piotr Kowolcyzk titled: I have a Ghost Publisher at Amazon … Please Help!:
by: Cheryl Anne Gardner
I’ve self-published my two books Password Incorrect and Failure Confirmed through Kindle Digital Text Platform in mid-January, a couple of days after Amazon opened a system to authors from outside USA.
Last Friday I’ve noticed that there is another edition of Password Incorrect, published on Feb 15 – by somebody else. The link to this book is here (I hope it’ll be removed soon). It uses a cover of a free edition, which I’ve published at many places including Feedbooks, Manybooks, Kobo and Wattpad.
I’ve downloaded a free sample – enough to check who originated this edition. A publisher calls himself Sugar Land Press (link to a site is here). I’ve never heard of them before. They have never contacted me referring to this book or anything else. After checking their site and other links they provided in an intro of a book, it looks like thy live on Google ads and affiliate programs, including Amazon Associates. This book, available for free everywhere else, costs $11 ($14,95 outside USA), is terribly formatted and full of other mistakes. I analysed the content and I’m almost sure it was downloaded either from Wattpad or Manybooks.
In light of this, I wanted to talk about Creative Commons licensing because, frankly, this can happen anywhere in any country when authors use file sharing sites like Scribd and Wattpad among others to publish their work for free. Let me clarify a bit, giving away free content and file-sharing are two completely different things. CC Licensing and Free Content are not mutually exclusive. You can allow free downloads of your work and still maintain your standard copyright “all rights reserved.” However, some file share sites like Scribd automatically default to a Creative Commons License, and if the author is not aware of this, they may find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Yes, that share button means “share.”
Readers who frequent file sharing sites often get confused between standard Copyright and Creative Commons Licensing. They assume that because the title is a free to read that it was posted intentionally by the author using a Creative Commons license, which grants the end user license to post and re-distribute the work without permission from the author. But there are many different types of CC licenses and they are also used to allow the creation of derivative works as well allow the sale of the work by third parties not affiliated with the copyright holder. Unfortunately, this is the gamble an author takes when they choose to use file share sites and CC licensing. You have to read the fine print about licensing before you post your work. You also need to know how CC licensing works. The worst case scenario with CC licensing is that, on occasion, the end user assumes they are free to do what they will with the content.
In the case of Mr. Kowolcyzk’s work, the end-user listed the title for sale on Kindle alongside the author’s original. The listing appeared under the Sugar Land Press name and even went so far as to slap a standard copyright notice “all rights reserved” on the work, which is illegal, since creative commons work can only be re-distributed and used under the same license it was originally obtained.
So is it illegal for the end user to sell someone else’s content? Well, it depends on the creative commons license that was used when the material was published on the file share site. Authors should be sure that the same licenses are being used consistently no matter the publication location. Unless the license specifically was an: Attribution/Non Commercial (By-NC) then the end user can turn around and sell it — legally. However, they have to attribute you as the author, and while they can sell it, they cannot claim themselves as the copyright holder, as the nature of a CC license is that it is non-exclusive and irrevocable.