James Altucher wrote recently about how one of his books was plagiarized on Amazon. (Newsletter only, so no link.) He’s had it up on the site for some time, but someone from Bangladesh was able to copy the whole book, create an author account using James’s name in all caps (and use their own name as the editor), and dupe Amazon into copying over some of the positive reviews from the original version of the book.

For all intents and purposes, it seemed like the legit version in both places. He contacted Amazon about it, for which their answer was essentially “Here’s how much money he’s made selling your book. You’re free to go after him for it.”

That’s it?

At first I wondered if it was a legality challenge with this plagiarizer being in Bangladesh. Maybe their hands were mostly tied. But then why allow users from other countries to even register author accounts if there’s no way to enforce the regular publishing laws?

As someone working on manuscripts and thinking of eventually publishing on Amazon, it’s pretty scary to think that what that guy did is all it takes to successfully steal someone else’s book. Would they do more if it was a U.S. plagiarizer? I’m not sure.

In James’s case at least he’s already a successful author with other books, so it was easier to prove his authorship. Otherwise it reminds me of duplicate content concerns I’ve written about before, wherein a better-known site could steal content from a lesser-known one. The better-known site has more traffic, so more people will see the piece on the plagiarizer’s site first, confusing the issue. This might seem like a very hypothetical thing, but it happens more than you’d think.