Massive FAQ theft leaves authors, purchasers cheated

Did you receive a Kindle, Kindle Fire or other type of device that uses a Kindle app this holiday?  Make a killing during the Steam sale over the holiday?  Looking to get some guides for those awesome games to store on your new e-book reader?

It’s pretty obvious that the amount of time and effort that the authors put into them is pretty staggering.  Researching different methods of playing games, making sure that those methods work then writing it all out – it’s a lot of hard work.  So much so that it’s pretty amazing that a place like GameFAQs exists without having a site access charge.

And while it’s probably not the first time that an aspiring entrepreneur has thought about making a quick buck off of someone else’s work, it leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths just the same.  Someone has decided to bank a couple of bucks off of FAQs from GameFAQs and is selling them on Amazon.com.  The stolen guides are available exclusively for the Kindle and Kindle apps on other smart phones.

Generally the titles include “UNOfficial Guide,” or some variation of the word

The stolen guides are available through Amazon’s Kindle app, and are basic copy-pastes of the entire documents, including some of the introductions that include the actual author’s name.  They’re not even good copies, either – in most cases they’re not formatted into an easy-to-read format for the Kindle,  and are in basic ASCII.  However it appears some of the guides have been imported into Microsoft Word and received a face-lift.

From the GameFAQs forums:

I found many guides being sold on amazon.com…the guides are blatant rips and the formatting looks horrible (seeing is believing).  I also recognized the Left 4 Dead 2 guide as the one that is on GameFAQS, so I suspect theft on a large scale.  What is particularly bothersome is that some of the guides are actually in “top 100″ lists of subcategories, which indicates that people have been scammed.  Worse still for example, the Oblivion guide even has two comments of “happy customers” that are thankful and rate it with 4 and 5 stars.  In other cases, such as with the Skyrim guide, comments are less positive.

There are two suspected thief accounts, one with the name Jay Stafford and one with the name Wallsburg Books, and there are a suspected 122 guides stolen and listed on the e-book store.

Some of the guides sell for $2.99, but some sell for double that, while some sell for about a buck each.  To think about how much profit is going into this guy’s pocket, if every guide were $2.99, the gross revenue earned would be close to $400.  The amount of profit this guy earns is just minus whatever Amazon charges as a listing fee.  And that scenario is only if these guides were purchased once – which is extremely unlikely.

There are, in fact legitimate FAQs being sold through the online retailer.  However when people do this, they’re not just scamming the people that put the hard work into writing the guides, but also the people buying them.  A couple of bucks isn’t going to break anyone, but when you consider that we probably put more effort into doing our hair in the morning, that’s still low.  You can tell right away if you’ve been scammed because for the most part:

a) There are no images to the guides other than the cover
b) The files are not formatted properly for the Kindle, retaining a ASCII style formatting
c)  In some cases the introduction is still present, complete with the original author’s name and contact info

We suspect that with the recent surge in popularity of e-books, whoever is behind this massive theft is making a small fortune.  If you suspect that you’ve been scammed into purchasing one of the stolen guides, you can request a refund for the guide through Amazon within 7 days.  However if your eligible return period has expired, you could probably convince Amazon that you purchased a guide that was stolen and found online here.

To the guys and gals who actually wrote these guides: we hope you stop these thieves!  Keep up the awesome work!

[Source]

  • Elyssa

    This is incredibly sad & unfortunate. Very sorry to the people that put so much work into these guides just to have them scam fucked.

  • Ross Ingram

    That is low. Stealing someone eles work and selling it. GameFAQs is where I get most of my help when I’m stuck especially for games that never got official guidebooks.

  • Chris

    That’s really lame. A civil suit should be brought against the people who did that.

  • Bisected

    This makes me angry, as someone who’s submitted FAQs to GameFAQs (admittedly just a mapmaker guide for TS3).

  • Zing

    This is unfortunate. I hope that the consequences are not to dire to the people who consider this free site to be a haven from the mess that there are out there. It would disappointing to know that this “scam” destroys the accessibility of the site.

  • Kellexx

    As the writer of one the guides they are selling, I will be contacting Amazon’s legal department to report this.

  • William

    Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement

    If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please provide Amazon.com’s copyright agent the written information specified below. Please note that this procedure is exclusively for notifying Amazon that your copyrighted material has been infringed.

    An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest;
    A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed upon;
    A description of where the material that you claim is infringing is located on the site, including the auction ID number, if applicable;
    Your address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
    A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
    A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.

    Amazon.com’s Copyright Agent for notice of claims of copyright infringement on its site can be reached as follows:

    Copyright Agent
    Amazon.com Legal Department
    P.O. Box 81226
    Seattle, WA 98108
    phone: (206) 266-4064
    fax: (206) 266-7010
    e-mail: copyright@amazon.com

    Courier address:
    Copyright Agent
    Amazon.com Legal Department
    410 Terry Avenue North
    Seattle, WA 98109-5210
    USA

  • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com xino

    thanks for this Janus.
    and it’s awesome that you put this scam out there.

    This is atrocious!
    not only are they stealing someone eleses work but they are making money out of it!

    Originally GameFaQ guides means that it is GNUL free and anybody can use the guide but the names of the author should still be intact. But making money out of the guides is illegal and a crime. But the worst thing is that people with a Kindle will pay money for this guide whereas it was originally meant to be free online!

    This needs to be reported!

    I too will be sending an email to Amazon to notify them of this crime!

  • http://www.relyonhorror.com Janus

    I figure if it’s something that affects our readers, it’s something worth reporting. I use FAQs often, and I find it reprehensible that someone would profit illegally off of someone else’s hard work – charging for something that is supposed to be free.

    There’s page after page of guides up for sale, and some of them actually have good reviews – so you know that a number of people bought that guide…ugh

  • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com xino

    Amazong sent me an email and want this:

    “Please either direct the rights holder or their representatives to contact us with respect to this issue, or, in the alternative, respond to this communication and confirm, under penalty of perjury, that this notice is made at the behest of the rights holder.

    In addition, we are unable to accurately identify the items you reference in your correspondence. Please either cut and paste the direct link to each item (i.e., http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Witch-Mountain-Special-Albert/dp/B001NP8WY2/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1238787754&sr=8-1) or provide us with the ASIN or ISBN-10, which can be found on the product page under ‘Product Details,’ as this will enable us to correctly identify the item(s). If there is more than one instance of the item, or similar works that you claim copyright infringement, please provide identifying information for each, but you may include them all in one notice.”

  • Kellexx

    Anticipating a response like what Xino received, I contacted the authors of over 30 guides that I confirmed were stolen. It looks like it paid off. Amazon has since removed all the unofficial guides that were stolen and sold under 6 different accounts.

    Thanks again for posting this Janus. I never would have known what happened otherwise.