Media

Amazon yanks self-published ebook over a Star Wars reference

Death Star

Apparently, Amazon isn’t cool with any self-published book with the appearance of copyright infringement — specifically, something related to Star Wars.

This is what happened to Gib Van Ert’s memoir “A Long Time Ago: Growing up with and out of Star Wars” yesterday. Amazon yanked the ebook due to an “unspecified trademark issue,” according to the author. The book isn’t telling a story about the characters in George Lucas’s series of films or even the “expanded universe” characters that appear in various sanctioned novels, video games, and graphic novels. It’s about someone’s life experiences and how Star Wars affected them.

“[Amazon’s] emails are vague, but they seems to being saying that I have to have Lucasfilm’s permission before selling on their store a book that talks about Star Wars,” Van Ert explained. “It’s a crazy position — Star Wars is a massive pop, cultural, and generational phenomenon, as my book tries to explain through a personal narrative.”

What’s more puzzling about this situation is that Amazon continues to sell the print version of Van Ert’s book, as BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow points out. The only real explanation is that Amazon has some sort of system in place that automatically flags content that may be in violation of infringement — much in the same way that Google has set up a system for media company’s to do with search engine results and infringing videos on YouTube. The real question is whether Amazon also permits its self-published authors to challenge the claim, and how long it would then take for the book to reappear in the ebook store.

It makes sense that Amazon wants to grow its self-publishing business, which is more lucrative for both authors and Amazon than going through a publisher. But an automated copyright infringement system isn’t the way to go, if that’s indeed what’s currently in use. We’re reaching out to Amazon for more information about how it flags ebooks, and will update this post with any new info.

Image via Lucasfilm