Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boycott Kobo Ebooks

The last major ebook publisher, Kobo Inc. of Canada, has refused to remove its MP Publishing (Isle of Man, Great Britain) editions of my Sparrowhawk series from its online catalogue, citing a contract between Kobo and MP Publishing.  See the Wikipedia entries on Kobo Inc. of Canada here:

This overlooks and evades the fact that MP Publishing, with whom I did not sign a publishing contract, was sold the publication rights to the series by a now defunct publishing firm, MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco, which has not paid me royalties earned by the series for the second half of 2012, per the now inoperative contract between MacAdam/Cage and me, and as of today's date. This is clearly a breach of contract, to which MP Publishing is party, because it, too, has not bothered to pay me earned royalties, nor sent me a statement of earnings, and has remained silent on the matter. Culpability in this piracy is clearly extended to Kobo of Canada, because it now has knowledge of the facts in the case.

Kobo's position on the matter is that the legal relationship is between MP Publishing and me, not between Kobo and me. This is transparent evasion and dishonesty, reducing Kobo to the criminal status of a fence.

I am requesting that readers here who use Kobo ebook readers of any kind refrain from purchasing any Sparrowhawk title from Kobo (and, in fact, boycott the firm altogether). Regardless of the status of the contract between Kobo and MP Publishing, it is a contract which expropriates earnings from my intellectual property, which as of this date, is stolen property.

Legal recourse to correct this theft or piracy would entail hiring a British solicitor or attorney to represent me in any action against MP Publishing. This is a costly alternative clearly beyond my means. MP Publishing knows this, and is counting on the prohibitive cost such an action would entail to protect it from any just and untoward penalties. It would probably bring Kobo of Canada into the litigation, as well, making it an international issue and doubly complicated.

Readers who peruse the Wikipedia entries on Kobo will see that the piracy of my intellectual property is international in scope, extending to France, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Great Britain and Canada.

The simplest and most honest action Kobo could take, considering all the facts in the matter, would be to remove my Sparrowhawk titles from its sites. This it refuses to do. It is willfully abetting MP Publishing's theft of my intellectual property.

Thanks for your cooperation in this matter.


Tim C said...

I wonder how...Kickstarter?...get the word out through any O'ist outlets possible?...we can raise the money to right this injustice?

Ed, how much is "prohibitive"?

Edward Cline said...

Tim: I emailed Rakuten Inc. of Japan with particulars of the issue, and they replied asking for more clarification. This was my response:

Mr. Jerome Stephen:

Thank you for replying to my query.

According to Wikipedia, Kobo Inc. of Toronto, Canada, is owned by your firm, Rakuten, Inc. of Japan, and has about 46% of the Canadian ebook market. It also has affiliates in Australia and New Zealand and outlets in other countries.

Kobo Inc. has an arrangement with MP Publishing, Isle of Man, Great Britain, by which MP Publishing has supplied, or still provides, ebook versions of the back list of titles of the now defunct publisher, MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco. My historical novel series, Sparrowhawk, is one of those titles. Neither MP Publishing, nor Kobo, nor MacAdam/Cage has paid me back royalties for those seven titles for just about a year now, nor provided me with any kind of statement of earnings of those royalties.

Numerous queries to MP Publishing and its principals over the last several months have gone unacknowledged and unanswered. This constitutes stonewalling.

Regardless of the arrangement between Kobo Inc. and MP Publishing, to which I am not a party, the sale of these downloadable versions of my novels constitutes book piracy, because I am not being compensated or paid for my intellectual property. These titles are not in the public domain. My intellectual and literary property has been stolen, or pirated. In effect, neither party acknowledges or recognizes my proprietary interest in these titles. This does not amount to theft. This is theft.

Kobo Inc. has stated to me that this is a relationship issue between MP Publishing and me that must be worked out. It is not. It is a relationship between Kobo Inc., which is abetting book piracy, and MP Publishing, which is offering pirated books, and Rakuten Inc. of Japan, which seems to be oblivious to the piracy.

Because I am not being paid for my work, and because of my propriety interest in the Sparrowhawk titles, I wish Kobo Inc. to remove said titles from its sales sites. Only Rakuten can compel both Kobo Inc. and MP Publishing to honor this request. Otherwise, it is sanctioning legalized piracy.
Here is a list of the subject titles that can be found on Kobo Inc.'s site:

Sparrowhawk Book I
Sparrowhawk Book II
Sparrowhawk Book III
Sparrowhawk Book IV
Sparrowhawk Book V
Sparrowhawk Book VI
Sparrowhawk Companion

Furthermore, I would like to be forwarded any royalties accrued by Kobo Inc. and MP Publishing since the beginning of their "arrangement." This is an arrangement that simply bypasses the owner of that intellectual property, me.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Halidryn said...

Dickens! thou shouldst be living at this hour. (Thanks to Wordsworth, and Google. In that order.)
Good luck, Ed.

Edward Cline said...

An update: My complaint has been forwarded to Rakuten's General Counsel. Also, Kobo Inc. sent me an email two days ago saying that my complaint has been "upgraded" to a "Tier 2" investigation team. Time will tell if anything happens. I think these corporate zombies are getting the picture that they're engaging in book piracy.

Dymphna said...

sheesh...these guys are up there with the Chinese when it comes to piracy. But that can't be so because we know Canadians are so very nice.

Good luck with this. BTW, have you tried to interest Sun TV in the story?

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