In March 2021 I discovered that a number of fake editions of Perfect Crime Books titles were being offered on Amazon by third-party sellers. Supposed publishing dates reached back into the 17th century and prices--for books readily available at $10 to $15--frequently exceeded $1,000. As owner/manager of its sales platform, Amazon collected listing fees from these sellers as well as earning 15% on any successful sales. I made several attempts over the next few months to get Amazon to remove the listings, which infringe on my and other authors' registered copyrights and on Perfect Crime Books' registered trademark. When letters to Amazon's legal department were unavailing, I filed suit in Circuit Court for Baltimore City at the end of August 2021. Amazon's lawyers removed the action to U.S. District Court, where it sat until September 2022 when the court agreed with the defendant that the matter belonged in arbitration. The listings infringing Perfect Crime titles disappeared a couple of months after litigation began, though many others have continued through 2022 affecting widely available titles including old Perry Mason paperbacks and novels by authors as diverse as Stephen King and Ayn Rand. Amazon has offered various defenses in court and in arbitration, including its reading of statutes governing copyright infringement on Internet platforms. None of these defenses has been decided. The affair is now in the hands of the American Arbitration Association. I am not expecting a quick resolution. The infringements have been flagrant, and the fact that they continue against other publishers supports my claim that Amazon has not been an innocent party. So, of course, does the documentable fact that Amazon has been an economic participant in the infringements. A reader interested in the grubby details of litigation who has a Pacer account (available cheap) can consult the federal court filings by both sides under Case No. 1:21-cv-02579-JKB, U.S. District Court for Maryland. Here is a small sample of the fraudulent listings:
The Shamus Winners Vol II, edited by Robert J. Randisi, published 2012, list price $12. Treasure Media, of Oregon, offered an “1842” edition at $920.
Promises Made and Broken, by Christine Matthews, published 2014, list price $10. A classic in every sense. Libramedia of Plano, Texas, listed a “January 1, 1600” edition for $61.
Noir 13, by Ed Gorman, published 2011, list price $12. Twin City Rarities, Plano, Texas, peddled a “January 1, 1876” edition at $1,002. Other offerings, for an 1875 edition, ranged between $801 and $1,052.
The Man Who Knew Brecht, by John C. Boland, published 2012, list price $9. Turning New Leaf, of Plano, Texas listed a “January 1, 1900” copy at $954.
The full roster of nearly 100 listings of fake editions was cited in our Amended Complaint. It's interesting that despite the breadth of this fraud, and the number of publishers and authors whose rights have been infringed (and despite a competent description of the affair in The New York Times in December 2021), my effort at enforcing copyright and trademark has drawn no support from any affected author or publisher or from any writers organization. That's not a problem for me. It's just a curiosity. John C. Boland Publisher, Perfect Crime Books