Awhile back, Amazon approached the publisher of my two books about a giveaway promotion.  Sounds harmful enough to generate interest and boost sales.  Yet, with most things in life, especially in cyberspace, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and you should read the fine print before giving away your intellectual property rights.

Amazon’s angle was to increase sales and allow the promotion of my books across social media platforms while taking an almost unlimited license with my intellectual property rights.  No purchase was necessary by the entrant and it wasn’t really clear who was paying for the cost of the prizes.  Certainly, I was not going to receive money, via royalties, if nothing was being sold.

Fortunately, I have my own in-house general counsel in that I’m a lawyer and I cherish my creative copyrights and IP rights.  That’s why the red siren of doom sounded as soon as I read the fine print in Amazon’s Giveaway Services Agreement.

To the uninitiated laymen…you’re screwed if you use Amazon’s Giveaway…in my humble opinion.  Look at the Definitions section.  Amazon defines “Your Material” as “all Technology, Your Trademarks, Content, information, data, photographs, images, videos and other materials and items provided or made available by you or your Affiliates to Amazon or its Affiliates.”

CopyrightThen scroll up to Paragraph 5 and check what type of license you are granting to Amazon:

“You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, excerpt, analyze, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights; provided that nothing in this Agreement will prevent or impair our right to use Your Materials without your consent to the extent that such use is allowable without a license from you or your Affiliates under applicable Law (e.g., fair use under United States copyright law, referential use under trademark law, or valid license from a third party).”

So why does this scream – “put on the brakes?”

  1. Royalty free – that means they don’t have to pay you to use your creative material or content.
  2. Create derivative works – that means they can make a movie or merchandise your characters when the book is a bestseller…again without paying you any royalties.
  3. Sublicense the foregoing rights – that means they can sell your rights, now their rights, to any third party

It amazes me how Amazon continually tries to exploit independent authors who have become the lifeblood of their Kindle revenue stream.  Writers, always, always should read the fine print of any Terms & Conditions Agreement before signing up for anything that sounds just too good to be true.  You risk giving away your intellectual property rights for a free book giveaway!