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 Amazon.com 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:
When you submit a review to Amazon.com, you grant us non-exclusive, perpetual license to post the content on Amazon.com. 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.
I’m sorry that our last message did not clarify some of your original concerns. As stated previously, when you submit a review to Amazon.com, you grant us non-exclusive, perpetual license to post the content on Amazon.com. 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, Amazon.com 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.