After the New York Times posted a story Monday that pointed to the availability of counterfeit books in Amazon's bookstore, calling the marketplace "a place where copyright laws hold remarkably little sway," the tech giant has responded with a lengthy statement. Amazon said the books under scrutiny are "are authentic titles provided to us by publishing houses" and that the real issue has to do with "differing copyright timing between countries."
To illustrated the issue, David Streitfeld, the author of the Times article (called "Paging Big Brother"), says he purchased 12 "fake and illegitimate" books by George Orwell in a matter of weeks from Amazon. Some, he wrote, were published in other countries, while others were printed in the States and are "straightforward counterfeits."
The Amazon statement elaborated that "there is no single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country that retailers could use to check copyright status." According to a spokesperson, Amazon works with rights owners “to quickly resolve questions about what publisher has what rights in each geography because only the rights holders know the disposition of the intellectual property rights to the works that they represent. We have removed these titles from our U.S. store, and we have informed the publishers and distributors who listed them."
The solution for ensuring that no alternative books to titles that are still protected by copyright appear on Amazon's --or any other bookstore's site-- is "a single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country," Amazon said. Such a source "would help all booksellers,” Amazon added.
"Paging Big Brother," is now the second damning piece Streitfeld has published, slamming Amazon for its lax policing of what it sells in its bookstore. In a June 23 article in the Times called "What Happens After Amazon's Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues," Streitfeld wrote that the company "takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells."
Streitfeld's June 23 article also provoked a quick response from the tech giant. Amazon responded by saying it "strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products" and takes "take proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero."