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Amazon and Book Review Ownership

Amazon and Book Review Ownership

Guest Post by Shawn Lamb

Did you know that once you post a review on Amazon, they own the rights to the review? And they prevent authors from using the review for promotional purposes? That’s right. Even to use an excerpt, authors have to receive permission from Amazon!

According to Amazon’s Community Guidelines for Your Profile and Conduct: We reserve the right to restrict or remove any and all uses or Content that we determine in our sole discretion is harmful to our systems, network, reputation, or goodwill, to other customers, or to any third party. The following non-exhaustive list details the kinds of conduct or Content that is prohibited: The use of the Service for commercial purposes such as advertising, promotion, or solicitation.

Since I brought this subject to light, Lily, a book reviewer and follower of my blog, sent an inquiry to Amazon for clarification. She graciously gave me permission to share the responses.

This is the 1st reply she received:

“Hello Lily,

When you submit a review to, you grant us non-exclusive, perpetual license to post the content on You retain the right to post and use your material on other sites and in other formats.

In regards to authors using reviews on other sites, please know that this type of activity is not endorsed by Amazon and is prohibited by our Terms and Conditions except in certain situations. We would need to know which website(s) would be involved in using the review(s) before we can make a decision. “

Yep, from Amazon’s own lips authors are prohibited from using reviews of their books for promotional purposes. Do take note of the phrase using reviews on other sites. What? Is Amazon saying authors can’t even use reviews of their books on other sites, and in order to do so must receive permission from Amazon?  Lily asked for further clarification, so here is the 2nd reply from Amazon.

“Hello Lily,

I’m sorry that our last message did not clarify some of your original concerns. As stated previously, when you submit a review to, you grant us non-exclusive, perpetual license to post the content on In the same respect, you (the reviewer) retain the right to post and use your material on other sites and in other formats along with the ability of granting permission to another person, such as an author, to utilize.

Well, isn’t that magnanimous of Amazon? To allow authors to use a review of their book when given permission by the reviewer.  Note the term non-exclusive. So if the review is non-exclusive, how come Amazon requires authors get permission from them?  Sounds like double-talk and back-pedaling when challenged. Yes, is their site and authors are permitted to utilize it for selling purposes, but Amazon doesn’t own the rights to the product (books) being reviewed!  So how can they prevent authors from using reviews, whether on their site or not?

Remember the opening quote; reserve the right to modify these Guidelines at any time, effective upon posting. AND: Any violation of these Guidelines could result in the suspension or termination of your account or such other action, as we deem appropriate.  In other words, making up rules as they go along.


From their website statement and response to Lily, Amazon seeks to claim ownership and apply rules where they have no right.  In truth, with most reviews posted in various locations, Amazon would have difficulty proving anything regarding legal ownership or authors breaking their rules. The only way Amazon tries to get their way, is by threatening to take down the book listing and/or removing the so-called offending review. They have no power to claim rights to the review or cry rule infraction.
Lily’s exchange reveals Amazon knows it’s standing on shaky ground and backed pedaled. Each author and reviewer must decide how to handle Amazon. However,
knowledge is power, thus the reason for tackling this issue – to inform reviewers and fellow authors of what Amazon thinks of reviews posted on their site.



Bio: Shawn Lamb is the author of the YA fantasy series Allon and the historical fiction The Huguenot Sword. You can find her blog about writing and the publishing industry at All-On Writing.

Filed under: Promotions, The ePublishing market · Tags: , ,

13 Responses to "Amazon and Book Review Ownership"

  1. Helen says:

    Thanks you for such an interesting and informative post. I would have thought that it was to Amazon’s advantage to have the authors use snippets from their reviews on their books in order to generate more sales, good for the authors and good for Amazon. Still if I haven’t missunderstood, according to their second reply the author can do just that with the reviewer’s permission.

  2. I’m with Lynn Gray on this one! Agreed, with all the millions of books on AZ, it’s unlikely posting or tweeting part of a review will get an author in trouble. Especially since using it to promote a book on their site, ultimately puts more $$ in their coffers!

  3. nook says:

    What’s up colleagues, its fantastic piece of writing concerning cultureand completely explained, keep it up all the time.

  4. Totally agree with Tom’s take above – the reviewer’s review is their work, and you need to have permission to use it. Non of those terms indicate that Amazon is trying to take ownership of anything.

  5. There are millions of ebooks on Amazon, so chances are that Amazon doesn’t know and never will know what authors post on other sites. Unless your books is a best seller, you aren’t even on their radar. As long as a review is positive and has the potential to generate sales,I doubt they’d take much action.

  6. Amazon is a confusing barge of information, and I’m always skeptically optimistic toward their opportunities for writers.

    I would like to add, though, that whatever a reviewer’s decision to post or to not post reviews on Amazon, keep in mind that good reviews on Amazon are the lifeblood, just now, for a lot of indies who are trying to slog through the mire of ever-changing rules as this publishing landscape evolves. Reviews are built into the system for authors’ works to rise in ranks and get attention.

    Unfortunately, this is sometimes why Amazon reviews are manipulated. The best balance to that is honest reviewers from a healthy community, so I’d hate to see those reviewers drop in rank.

  7. Actually, Amazon isn’t making any claim to ownership of rights to the review at all. It’s just stating it has the non-exclusive right to use it. If anyone else wants to repost an Amazon review, say on an author’s website, they have to get the reviewer’s permission. The reviewer retains ownership of his work. That’s just standard copyright law.

    Adding a comment to a review would be a way to ask permission, since you can’t email the reviewer directly. I can’t imagine a reviewer saying no. And excerpting a line or two as a back cover blurb or website promotion falls under the Fair Use doctrine.

    But if a third party book site wants to rip off an Amazon review for its own site without permission, that’s an infringement of the reviewer’s copyright.

  8. Len du Randt says:

    I can’t see any harm in posting a good review as long as I make it clear that it comes from Amazon. Why not? It’s free publicity to them and also drives traffic and potential sales.

    They’ll probably leave those sites and authors alone.

    I think they’re trying to protect themselves in the event that an author gets a bad review and he/she throws a tantrum that places the brand in a bad light. In that event I guess it’s only fair that they have the means to protect themselves.

    1. Iola says:

      I can’t see any harm in publishing a good book as long as I make it clear that someone else wrote it. Why not? It’s free publicity.

      You can’t do it because it’s illegal.

      Well, actually, you can do it. But it’s still against US and international copyright law. I would have thought authors would have problem with that. Otherwise, why are the selling their books on Amazon? Why not just give them away on Smashwords?

  9. Dawn G says:

    I know that I won’t be posting reviews to Amazon any more…. I’ll just put them on my blog and share the URL. I’m really tired of all these silly my-thing-is-bigger-than-your-thing games.

  10. Rick G says:

    Welcome to the ridiculous world of EULAs. Just for the record, just because they say it’s so doesn’t make it legally sound. It just means nobody has legally challenged them so far. That being said, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this. I have yet to hear of Amazon enforcing this, especially for advertisements that are pointing the user back to Amazon to make a purchase. That last part is key. I’m doubtful this is a club that Amazon will wield against someone who is sending them business. Use your reviews to point to B&N and your mileage may vary.

  11. Jenny Twist says:

    I have been told before that Amazon owns the reviews on its site and have been worried about it. Thank you so much for your painstaking enquiries to clarify the issue. I shall keep this blog for future reference

  12. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Amazon has no right to the reviews since they have no right to the books. What are they trying to accomplish with this?

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