iUniverse and Author Solutions AdWords Scam Discovered

The folks at iUniverse and Author Solutions are being called out again. Only this time playwright Ian Walker discovers that Google is involved in their shenanigans. iUniverse sends a 20-page excerpt of Walker’s work to Google Books, and a finger-pointing game ensues as Walker discovers an AdWords campaign for his book. Once again, someone is pocketing the author’s cash, but of course it isn’t the author.

If you have any interest at all in self-publishing, you should watch this video in its entirety. It’s well-articulated, it’s smart, and it’s just one more reason not to trust Bertram Capital, Author Solutions, Gene Hopkins or Kevin Weiss.

From the YouTube description:

“Back in 2010 I discovered that Google Books—in cahoots with my publisher Author Solutions / iUniverse—was raising revenue on one of my books in secret.”

0 thoughts on “iUniverse and Author Solutions AdWords Scam Discovered

    • If you’re interested in ebook publishing, I have heard favorable things about smashwords.com. There are also a couple of interviews here with self-published authors who avoided scammers. It can be done!

  1. I feel for Ian, but I have to say – there’s not really much point to lambasting Google here. 

    Here’s the problem – there’s something upwards of 12 million books in Google Books. They deal with so many that it all has to be automated. So, today, I could sign up and upload a book and never speak to anyone at Google.

    Now, take a look here and the terms of service for the partner program, that iUniverse was a part of: https://books.google.com/partner/terms. Check out section 12:

    “You represent and warrant that… You hold the necessary rights, including all intellectual property rights, in and to the Authorized Content and Your Brand Features to enter into this Agreement and grant the rights granted herein…”

    So that’s where it hangs, really. iUniverse signed up to this and uploaded their author’s work. They told Google that they had the rights to do so, which included earning the money from ads.

    Now, strictly speaking, I believe Google is acting as a third party here. It isn’t their fault that iUniverse asserted rights they didn’t have. (Communicating with Google is a bit of a pain, but I’ll give them some leeway because I know, from a technical perspective, just how batcrap crazy their business must be to keep all this running smoothly.) So in this context, it wasn’t Google that infringed the copyright – it was iUniverse. Google didn’t go out and do this intentionally – it’s just a side effect of the service they provide, because they can’t and don’t have a human vetting every upload.

    Okay, having said all that – what I know about the DMCA is that a third party service provider gets safe harbor protections from being sued if infringing content is uploaded by a user. (They just have to respond to complaints and remove the material, which Google did do here.) Think about it this way – if a thief buys a car from a dealership specifically for the purpose of robbing a bank, the bank then doesn’t demand that the dealership pay them the money from the sale, even though they profited from the whole affair. So Google could point at the DMCA and protest their innocence.

    So, long story short, Ian could be barking up the wrong tree here. I think iUniverse is the one solely at fault, and the full weight of the blame falls on them. Given what we know already about their shady practices, I’m 100% not surprised that they took the opportunity to rake in a little more cash off their author’s work. I think they did know what they were doing, every step of the way.

    I also don’t know what search function Ian is using, but I found a quarter of a million books published by iUniverse between the time it was acquired by Author Solutions and now on Google Books. Not sure if that’s accurate or not, but any guesses on how much ad revenue that’s worth, if Ian’s book earned them $10?

    (standard disclaimer; I am not a lawyer, etc.)

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I hear you loud and clear. Like you, I see iUniverse and Author Solutions as the real cuprits. But it’s his story and his video. The way I see it, Google has some responsibility to investigate once they’re aware.

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