Self-published author Becca Mills has just shared details of what appears to be a particularly nasty scam or stalking practice targeting self-published authors: Use of fabricated DCMA claims to force a self-published work offline and/or extort money from said work’s writers. Here, via David Gaughran, are the full details of the  shakedown.

To summarize a fairly long paper trail, basically Becca Mills’s first novel, Nolander, was forced off both Amazon and Smashwords following a notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). Smashwords at least checked up on the initial DCMA takedown notice, and found that her book “matched the text of a book made public on August 2nd, 2011.” Very shortly after, she was contacted by an apparent fan called Kelvin, looking for the book, who then revealed himself as a “Kushal Das,” living in India, keen to help with her DCMA issues, and pointing out that “a malicious DMCA attack can end a person’s career.”

As Mills found out, faking an earlier appearance of her own work would be quite easy: “all someone would have to do is take a book published August 2, 2011, stick a bit of Nolander into it somewhere, upload the new file, and then point Amazon/Smashwords at the new version.” Now suspicious of Das, she continued to string him along while tracking down his details, which appeared to link him to the filer of the original DCMA notice. “So, this person files a dishonest DMCA, gets my book taken down from two sites, and then contacts me, offering to help me deal with it. But why? I’m not a big seller. There’s little monetary potential in stealing my books and none at all in stealing a free one. A vendetta, maybe?”

Das’s latest email to her, dated March 1st, stated: “please don’t try to upload the new version of Nolander on Amazon without sorting this DMCA thing first. Otherwise, it will get ugly.” Das did not explicitly ask for money in the email, but as many victims of online scams will have found, abusers out of the Third World need very little to make a difference in their lives, especially if they are doing this on a serial basis.

As at the time of writing, Nolander is still not listed on the Kindle Store’s Becca Mills page. Smashwords, however, has reinstated the work – and apparently was only cued to a possible DCMA abuse in the first place by a referral to a blog post containing some of the text.

Obviously, this puts an onus on Amazon in particular to improve its checkup procedures on DCMA notices – otherwise, they are facilitating blackmail. And you wonder how many as-yet-unreported victims are out there.


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