‘Tis the season to suspend selling rights. And there’s no greater threat to Amazon seller accounts than IP infringement. Our eyes and ears in the business tell us copyright infringement is still a mystery to some, but with their help we’d like to debunk some myths and throw in a few tips.
Intellectual property violations are no laughing matter. But there’s nearly always a workaround. And keeping on top of your complaints isn’t rocket science. Especially now that Amazon launched the SIPV Dashboard.
So, let’s have a look at IP infringements on Amazon, and copyright issues in particular. With input from some of our clients and friends from the world of ecommerce, we’ve compiled a little cheat sheet for Amazon sellers who can’t wrap their heads around copyright infringement.
Without going too much into detail, the list covers resale rights, restrictions, condition notes, and other factors that influence the outcome of a copyright infringement complaint. So, let’s skip the formalities and sink our teeth into it:
1. First Sale Doctrine Dilemma
The first sale doctrine or exhaustion principle states that, from the moment the rights owner sells copyrighted work on the US market, buyers have the right to resell that item. According to the Criminal Resource Manual 1854, sellers are free to trade it without the owner’s permission.
2. Condition ConundrumThe idea that you can avoid IP infringement by listing an item as USED (e.g. Like New) instead of NEW is a myth. Amazon sends out infringement notifications regardless of condition. Here’s a seller testimony about a complaint for a used board game and another for a used book. Why? You can break the law if you sell an item in a country other than the one you bought it in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new or used item, and showing your invoice won’t help if you didn’t buy it locally. Skim the snippet below and read up on Amazon Intellectual Property Policy.
Example: if you decide to sell a used copy of someone else’s book on Amazon, you are selling someone else’s copyrighted work. If you bought the book from the publisher in the EEA, or from an authorized distributor of the publisher in the EEA, you are usually protected by the exhaustion principle. But, if you bought the book outside the EEA, you are probably infringing copyright by reselling it in the EEA.
3. Switching Suppliers? Not a Magic BulletSwitching to a more reliable supplier doesn’t make you immune to suspensions. You can still get IP infringement notifications for items you used to sell. Even if you no longer list them. Amazon keeps a record of the listings, so when a complaint is made, yours might come up.
4. Restricted Items Can Ruin ReputationsSome complaints about restricted items can point to IP infringement. Like, for instance, when items are restricted from sale in the USA. So, it pays to get restricted item feeds from your supplier, where available. For a small fee, they’ll keep your inventory clean.
5. Complainant Information is KeyIt’s not unusual for Amazon to dish out notifications with no contact information for the complainant. When Amazon withholds this information, the seller’s chances of reaching a resolution with the buyer are minimal. If this happens to you, there’s only one thing to do: contact the Notice Dispute team. Insist that they provide this information, as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim regulation and Amazon policy. But make it clear that you have sincere intentions.
6. Beware Lawyers and SolicitorsWhen a complaint comes from a legal representative, they have nothing to gain by dropping the case. After all, they charge for every interaction. But the person they’re representing may be more cooperative. So, before you write to the lawyers, look up the rights owner. Even if the complainant agrees to retract the claim, you’re still not in the clear. Make sure that they send their letter to Amazon from the address used to file the complaint. And you should try to get confirmation from the Notice Dispute team, if Amazon didn’t send one by default.
7. Suspension = Lost FundsWhen an account it suspended because of IP complaints, Amazon usually withholds all the funds in that account. For how long, you ask? Forever! So, try to disburse funds as often as you can, so you don’t lose your hard-earned money because of unfounded claims or suspicions. Of course, it’s not unusual for competitors to make false accusations, send vague cease and desist letters, or even make bogus infringement claims. Should this happen, your best bet is to report them to Amazon as soon you’ve made your disbursements. That’s the scoop on copyright infringement. But feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as an Amazon seller below. If you’d like us to expand on the matter of IP infringement, or if it’s a totally different issue that keeps you up at night, let us know. We might just make it the topic of our next info gathering campaign!
Melanie takes an active interest in all things Amazon. She keeps an eye on the latest developments and keeps Amazon sellers up to speed.