Widespread plagiarism in Amazon’s erotica section

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Amazon’s self-publishing section appears to have entered into a hotbed of a plagiarism scandal. The site’s Kindle store seems to be housing a host of fake authors publishing copyrighted material in its erotica section, reports Fastcompany.

It would appear that there is more than just lust, incest, fake tans and incredibly obvious clichés going on in Amazon’s erotica section.

Amazon, it seems, is full of fake authors who are selling erotica copied word-for-word from stories posted on “popular and free erotic fiction site”, Literotica. According to Quantcast the site attracts more than 4.5-million monthly users.

In an interview with Fastcompany, an author going by the name Sharazade, revealed that most of the erotica books published on Amazon are copied, right down to the spelling mistakes made by the novices adding them to fiction sites. An investigation revealed that some of the best-selling erotica authors on the Kindle store had plagiarised all of their work.

This is not the first time Amazon has been caught with its plagiarism pants down. Last year, the company released a statement — after reports that authors were selling pilfered and spammy content on its Kindle store — stating that it would be cracking down on such authors.

It seems the online retailer hasn’t really “cracked down” on plagiarising authors. What seems to be happening, is that these “fake authors” are using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform to steal sales from the original authors by simply copying and reselling their works.

A good portion of the stolen content is put together from “private label rights” (PLR), which can be bought cheaply online and formatted into multiple eBooks.

“We’ve found that the folks spreading PLR are also more likely to be plagiarists of real book content,” says Mark Coker, the CEO of e-book publishing platform Smashwords (a competitor of Amazon’s self-publishing platform) quoted in PaidContent. “In many instances, Coker says, plagiarized and PLR content banned by Smashwords still appears in the Kindle and Nook stores. He says those stores don’t vet content as thoroughly as Smashwords does,” says the PaidContent report.

According to Amazon, since the launch of Kindle, it has “worked steadily to build processes to detect and remove books that either violate copyright or don’t improve the customer experience. Over time, we’ve rejected or removed thousands of such offending titles, and we expect to keep improving our approach to protect the service we provide to both Kindle readers and authors/publishers.”

The retailer does not currently use any software to screen for unauthorised copies, which is a little odd as most institutions of higher learning and reputable publishing houses use screening software to detect plagiarised content.

Though the erotica section is full of pilfered content, the law protects Amazon by granting “safe harbour” status, “a shield that helps internet companies avoid liability when a third-party posts copyrighted material on their sites”. Unless an author can prove that Amazon knowingly allowed copyrighted content to be republished in its Kindle store, it’s unlikely that any legal action can be taken against the company.

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