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Friday, January 06, 2017

Ind. Decisions - Posner opinion, begins "A very unusual case, this"

In Reginald Hart v. Amazon.com, Incorporated (ND Ill.), a 4-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

A very unusual case, this. The plaintiff, unrepresented by counsel (the district judge had recruited counsel initially, who, however, upon discovering that the suit was groundless, requested and was allowed to withdraw from the case, leaving the plaintiff to proceed pro se), has sued Amazon, claiming that it permitted third par‐ ties to advertise on its website six counterfeit copies of books called Vagabond Natural and Vagabond Spiritual that the plain‐ tiff had written and self‐published (that is, published himself rather than handed to a publisher). * * *

He claims to have been surprised and angered to discov‐ er that hard‐cover copies of both books were being adver‐ tised on Amazon by booksellers to whom he had not (he says) sent any copies of his books. He says he learned that a cousin of his had purchased a copy of each of his books ad‐ vertised (without his authorization) on Amazon. He has sued Amazon on a variety of grounds, but all amounting to alleging a theft of his intellectual property after Amazon re‐ fused his repeated requests to remove the advertisements for the books from Amazon’s website (though eventually, re‐ lenting, Amazon did remove them). * * *

Granted, there is counterfeiting of books (especially text‐ books), in which Amazon may be involved to the extent of advertising and selling such books, though without neces‐ sarily knowing they’re counterfeit. See, e.g., Eliza Green, “The Problem of Fake Books on Amazon,” May 9, 2012, http://elizagreenbooks.com/the‐problem‐of‐fake‐books‐on‐ amazon/ (visited Dec. 24, 2016, as was the next website cit‐ ed). But counterfeiting can’t be presumed. For example, “all of the apparent copycat books that Fortune found on Ama‐ zon were made through CreateSpace, which is a division of Amazon.” Mario Aguilar, “Amazon Is Overrun With a Plague of Bestseller Knockoffs,” April 16, 2012, http://gizmodo.com/5902283/amazon‐is‐overrun‐with‐a‐plag ue‐of‐fake‐books. Hart’s obscure self‐published titles are a far cry from the pirated bestsellers regularly found on Ama‐ zon, and his assertion that the Internet giant must have un‐ dertaken the cost of reproducing his hardcover books be‐ cause they were “not sourced” by him and lack his nail in‐ dentations (when neither do his self‐published books, if one may judge from the photos) doesn’t meet even a minimum standard of plausibility. The judgment of the district court dismissing his suit with prejudice is therefore AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 6, 2017 01:29 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions