The first DMCA notice came in almost a week ago. Then a second, and a third.
In total, we heard from about five authors who were confused about Lendle’s role in the lending process. It was clear that someone, somewhere, was talking about services like ours, with the thought that we were somehow lending actual copies of books without permission.
The first notice we received contained a reference to LendInk, so it became clear that the author had sent out multiple takedown notices.
In each case we sent out the same response, usually within minutes of receiving the notice:
We are not lendink. I’ll assume you sent this same email to lendink and that, as such, the reference to lendink here is a typo in that you simply and understandably forgot to change the email address when you sent us the same takedown notice.
With that said, we cannot agree that we are infringing on your copyright as we are simply displaying materials that are part of Amazon’s public API, operating in compliance of Amazon’s guidelines. You presumably agreed to be a part of this API when you agreed to sell your book via Amazon. If not, this is an issue you will want to take up there.
We do not sell or license or give out any content from your book. We merely display materials which are part of Amazon’s public API (title, description, cover, etc.) at which point customers are directed to Amazon to purchase a copy of your book or they are able to state that they have already purchased the book from Amazon. If a customer has paid for a copy of a book and that book comes with a lending license (a decision that is between an author/publisher and amazon) those customers are then able to use that lending license by utilizing Amazon’s lending service. We do not facilitate loans, nor do we condone or facilitate illegal sharing of books. If anything, we are driving and encouraging sales of your books through the official channel you chose to sell them.
Unfortunately, the only way we can prevent information about your book (which, incidentally, is all fair use information) from appearing on our site is if you have your book removed from Amazon’s API. This is not something we can accomplish as you control the contract you signed with Amazon.
In almost every instance, that email alone was sufficient to calm the concerns of the authors in question. In fact, one of the authors engaged in a nice back and forth about lending rights, her confusion, our service, and the role that lending might be able to play in promoting her books.
Still, I was curious, and working off the hunch that LendInk was somehow at the center of the storm I discovered that dozens of authors over the course of two or three days had descended on the LendInk Facebook page to demand answers.
Many were claiming to have sent out multiple takedown notices, and threats of class action lawsuits were already being bandied about, but one thing was clear: The owner of LendInk hadn’t yet responded to any of the posts or concerns or notices — either via email or by posting an explanation on the Facebook page.
Further digging revealed that LendInk had been running on autopilot for several months due to health issues suffered by the current owner.
Eventually, the authors focused their fire on LendInk’s hosting service and because LendInk wasn’t responding to notices, the host made the understandable decision to pull the plug.
That brings us to today.
Beyond comments on a couple of the articles that covered the takedown, we’ve been content to sit in the nosebleed section and observe.
For one thing, we suspected that the situation would blow over fairly quickly, given LendInk’s “all but officially dead” status prior to the dustup.
Instead, the snowball is now a snowboulder, and it’s still rolling down the mountain.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
Something that I’ve been pondering is “why LendInk” when there are at least three other sites that have seen more press, are arguably more popular, and which all operate in the same manner?
I can’t speak for any other site, but I think it helped that we were very quick to respond as the notices came in. As I said in the comment I posted on the CNET article, no matter how misguided the attacks were, it can’t have been comforting to go two or three days without a response to a serious infringement concern.
I have no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of the authors who sent notices did so in good faith, even if that good faith was rooted in an easily cured misunderstanding and a subsequent rush to judgement.
I think we’ve also built up a very active userbase that would have been quick to come to our defense.
We don’t participate in every Amazon forum thread in which we’re mentioned, but we’re definitely aware that our users are actively educating authors and skeptics about the process when they talk up our service. (Thanks for that!)
If Lendle — or one of the other major lending sites — had been the focus of the controversy, the forum discussions might have been more balanced and the fallout probably would have been avoided.
The other major issue is that (most of) the media didn’t take notice until days after LendInk was shut down.
The sad truth of the matter is that the publishing industry has never seemed quite as sexy as the music industry or the movie industry, and that’s reflected in the dearth of coverage.
Unfortunately, this means mainstream media outlets and influential tech blogs tend to ignore digital lending issues unless there’s a controversy.
It takes a lot of dedication to stay in the spotlight.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The fallout has been nothing if not predictable: Some authors have expressed regret, others have dug in their heels — one person is even justifying the takedown of a legal site as a “warning” to actual pirate sites — and consumer outrage has led to calls for boycotts and negative reviews.
Some people are even encouraging LendInk to file lawsuits.
What good will any of that do? If consumers are angry that something like this could happen, the best possible outcome is to write rational, positive letters to Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) letting them know how awesome and useful their lending service is.
Send that same letter to publishers even if they don’t currently support a lending program.
Most importantly, go buy a book from an author that does currently support lending.
Maybe lending programs don’t work quite as well as they could or maybe you think they should do even more. The best way to make that happen is to show authors and publishers that you’re willing to put your money where you mouth is: Apple convinced the music industry to go DRM-free only after consumers opened their wallets to support digital music.
If LendInk is to come back — if it’s even feasible for the owner to bring LendInk back — the best possible result is that they come back to a groundswell of support for lending and a positive campaign to raise awareness about the programs offered by Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Encouraging a lawsuit without even understanding the chances of success or the costs involved is knee-jerk reactionism, at best.
Attacking authors — even those that are actively and intentionally spreading misinformation — serves no useful purpose.
Encouraging retaliatory piracy certainly isn’t going to help, either.
Revenge may sound good on paper but it’s not going to solve any problems and will likely make the situation even worse.
We’ve spent the better part of our existence trying to raise awareness — through blog posts and tweets and responsive customer service — and we’ve done our best to talk up the benefits of social sharing when approached by concerned authors, all with the goal of creating a productive dialogue.
Clearly, there’s still work to be done.