Legal Question in Intellectual Property in California


As copyright holder, my book has been illegally altered, published and sold all over the internet using my title and name as author but with a different cover. The book is missing an index, glossary and appendix and has 25 blank pages and in one instnce, a European co-author I have never heard of. A web bookseller through whom I purchased the illegal book tells me that his website provides a service and as such he is immune to infringement charges citing DMCA. He named his source and claimed the book to be a used book. He is not the original pirate. Other web booksellers are claiming immunity as well. I have never received any royalties from this sale. It is an unauthorized hard cover version. Is he immune? Are they all immune? Do I have no recourse against this giant? The transaction between him and the seller was commercial! Where do I come in?

Asked on 5/13/04, 4:17 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Jeff Lambert Attorney at Law

Re: Infringement

Without more facts/information relative to the bookseller's alleged immunity under the DMCA, I am unable to comment. Additionally, if a seller is in fact ONLY selling second hand copies of your work in original form, said sellers may have a defense under what is called the "First Sale" doctrine. You really should document what you have found and get an initial free consultation from a qualified intellectual property attorney in your area. Your rights and remedies need to be fleshed out during a detailed question and answer conversation with such an attorney. For example, did you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office? What is the nature and scope of the alterations made to your work? Have you licensed the work to other authorized sellers? Etc. Check the local County Bar referral service in your area for attorneys in the intellectual property field if you don't have a referral from someone you trust. Good luck!

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Answered on 5/13/04, 4:28 pm
Y Rubinstein Summers Rubinstein

Re: Infringement

The DMCA is likely irrelevant in your case. If there in an infringement occurring (and it sounds as if there is) you definitely have recourse. For such intentional infringement, you may ask for statutory as well as actual damages. Most countries (with a few notorious exceptions) have copyright laws that they will enforce if your "pirates" are outside the U.S. The web reseller, if knowingly selling infringing goods, has at committed contributory infringement and can be found liable. Feel free to contact my law office to arrange a consultation. You may also find the answers to many general copyright questions on the U.S. Copyright Office website,

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Answered on 5/13/04, 4:38 pm
Donald Cox Law Offices of Donald Cox, LLC

Re: Infringement

It sounds as if these people may be dealing in counterfeit books. You should talk to a copyright attorney about this issue in greater detail; although, unless you can trace all these books back to a single source, you will need to take on the task of sending out cease-and-desist notices to each merchant that you find is selling these books. This can be a difficult as killing a hydra, cut-off one head and another grows back. The DMCA does have limited immunity for service providers acting as contributory infringers under section 512 of the Copyright Law statute. The immunity arises when you give them proper notice in accordance with Subsection 512(c)(3)(A) and they react by taking down the links and/or copies of the infringing material. If they do not comply with the notice then you can take action against them for contributory infringement.



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Answered on 5/13/04, 6:08 pm

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