Monday, 21 July 2014

Reviewing Ethics: Can I Copy My Reviews?

By Iola Goulton


Can I copy my reviews?


Yes. When you post a review online, you give that website (e.g. Amazon) a non-exclusive licence to use your review, but you retain the copyright to the review. Here’s the exact wording from Amazon:
If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media. You grant Amazon and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose.
This legalese essentially confirms that you retain copyright to your reviews, but give Amazon permission to use your reviews, for example, to cross-post a review from Amazon US to international Amazon sites, which have fewer reviews. This can lead to the situation where my review is featured twice on an Amazon UK book page.

You can also post your review on as many other websites as you like, as long as their terms are similar to Amazon’s. You shouldn’t post reviews to any website that claims ownership of your copyright.

Some people read these Conditions of Use as meaning Amazon owns the copyright on your review:
Copyright
All content included in or made available through any Amazon Service, such as text, graphics, logos, button icons, images, audio clips, digital downloads, and data compilations is the property of Amazon or its content suppliers and protected by United States and international copyright laws.
This is incorrect. The statement must be read in full: “Amazon or its content suppliers”. By writing a review on Amazon, you become a content supplier in the same way as an author or publisher is a content supplier (if this wasn’t the case, no one would sell books though Amazon. No publisher is going to allow a retailer to claim copyright).

But I didn’t mean reviews I wrote. I meant reviews on my book.


This is often what authors mean when they ask if they can copy ‘their’ reviews. The answer is straightforward:

No.


You can’t copy reviews of your book, because they are not ‘your’ reviews. They belong to the reviewer. They are the intellectual property of the reviewer, in the same way as your book is your intellectual property.

You might argue that their review is only 300 words, while your book is 80,000 words, and surely it’s ok to copy 300 words? No. What’s important isn’t how many words are copied, but what proportion those words comprise of the full work. Copying a 300-word review is copying 100% of the entire work. The reviewer quoting 300 words out of your 80,000-word novel is 0.4% of the entire work—which is allowable under the doctrine of Fair Use.

You can’t copy a review in its entirety without the permission of the reviewer. Ever. You can’t copy a critical review to your blog and refute it point-by-point. In doing this, not only have you breached the reviewer’s copyright, you have made yourself look petty.

You can’t copy passages from the review without permission or attribution. Ever. Not to use the review to brag on your Facebook page, and certainly not to criticise the reviewer in your next edition of the book.

So what can I do?


What you can do is name the reviewer, copy the first line or two of the review, then link back to the full review on the reviewer’s own website, or on Amazon. As a reviewer, I’d like you to link to my blog site to improve my traffic and possibly get another subscriber. As an author, you might be better linking to Amazon, so if the reader is impressed they can purchase your book immediately. For example:

"Falling for the Farmer is just perfect" - click here to read a new five-star review on Amazon! 

Besides, linking looks more professional. It shows an unknown person wrote the glowing review, and that you haven’t just quoted your mother, sister or BFF (or made the review up yourself).

Do you have any questions about copying reviews? Next week will be the final post in this series on the ethics of online book reviewing, and we'll be looking at what you can do if a review is deleted from Amazon. 


By Iola Goulton
I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (www.christianediting.co.nz), or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christianediting), Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog (www.christianreads.blogspot.com). I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2000.


14 comments:

  1. Thanks Iola. I had assumed it was okay to cross-post reviews I'd written, but hadn't thought about the other side where someone might want to quote from a review of their own book. Thanks for the clarification.

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    1. There are some blog posts claiming if you posted a review on Amazon, you can't post it anywhere else (even on your own blog). However, these posts tend to be very old, so I think they've either misinterpreted Amazon's rules, or Amazon changed their terms at some point. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of Amazon's terms of use from 1997 to compare against.

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    2. Iola, I remember years ago, when I first started reviewing, there were a number of online discussions over the copyright ownership of Amazon reviews. It's possible Amazon updated their TOS when other sites started promoting their customer reviewing options.

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  2. Generally speaking, I've found that all you have to do to get permission to quote from a review someone else has written is ask. I've never yet encountered a reviewer unwilling to let me quote from their review. Usually they are thrilled.

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    1. Absolutely! I'd be pleased to let someone quote a review I've written, as long as they attribute it to me (after all, I don't want someone passing off my reviews as their own).

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    2. I have certainly done that too and people have been more than happy for me to do it, because their name is on it.

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  3. Hi Iola, thanks for making it clear that we don't own the reviews people have written about our books. I've asked and been asked several times. I've never had refusals or denied anybody the chance to use my words.

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    1. If someone asks, I don't think there will be a problem. It's when they don't ask ... because that probably means they are doing something unethical (or possibly illegal).

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  4. Iola, great post! Thanks for clarifying a number of important reviewing issues. It makes sense for authors to create tweets and teasers that link back to their helpful book reviews. Thanks also for using FFTF as an example :)

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  5. Thanks Iola for another clear and informative post. I've noted that Good Reads actually provide a HTML code which the reviewer can embed in his or her website to display the review on the site with links back to Good Reads. This is a easy way to reuse one's GR reviews. I've being experimenting doing this from by blog Jenny's Thread though I've only got two reviews at the moment http://jennysthread.com/jennys-reviews/

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    1. That's a good idea for authors wanting to share reviews - I've never done this, as I tend to post to my blog first, then copy to GR and other sites.

      Thanks for sharing, Jenny.

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  6. I'll have to try this, Iola .I'd never thought to quote another reviewer.

    Once again, thanks for making the 'DOs' & DON'Ts' cleasr.

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    1. I think it's natural to want to share positive reviews - it gives you something to add to your Facebook page or Twitter feed (as long as you aren't only promoting yourself).

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