Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ridiculous Idea: Lifting Customer Reviews From Amazon for Profit Making

A couple of weeks ago, I was participating in the Amazon Associates online bulletin board discussion (on and came across a question which left me speechless.

When I recovered, I had to respond.

A person who is an Amazon Associate was seeking verification that she could NOT take customer reviews from the Amazon site and use them on her own website in an attempt to generate sales of that product on her own site, so she could profit from the sale. She said she thought this was not allowed by Amazon in their rules and was complaining about it and seeking verification from other Amazon Associates. She had an idea to basically steal (plagarize) the copyrighted customer reviews to use them for her own profit-making.

Shame on her.

As I said I was speechless at first.

I began writing customer reviews for Amazon in 1999, for fun and to help others. I get no pay from the reviews that I write on Amazon. The idea that someone could or would lift my writing, my review, for their own profit making really irked me.

Here is the reply that I posted to her query, with edits for it to make sense for you to read, since you didn’t see the original question and the other replies.

As (another person) said you can't use the reviews (on your website). This is because customer reviews are copyrighted by Amazon and even the reviewer cannot use them. I find this interesting as I started writing customer reviews for Amazon in 1999 and am a top 500 reviewer. That was fun for me; I get no income from that. However it is interesting to me now that I have a blog that I can't post the same review on my own blog that I already posted to Amazon due to their copyright holding status and their rules (which has nothing to do with the Associates rules). So if you are unhappy with the idea of not posting OTHER people's reviews to your site think about those of use who spent time writing FREE reviews for Amazon and now we can't publish them on our own site!!

Now that blogging is my main online hobby I write less customer reviews for Amazon. What I do now is write a review for my blog and publish it and then edit it and pare it down and then sometimes post that version to Amazon. Technically those are then two different reviews and I still hold the copyright on the version posted to my blog.

My main reason for writing Amazon reviews in the first place was to help to other customers. I was grateful for the fact that other customers had written reviews which were helpful to me. Often customer reviews tell more information than Amazon supplies, information which helps me decide to either buy it or not buy it. I also thought it was fun and liked the writing practice.

At this point in time I am more interested in earning income, so am blogging and am now an Amazon Associate!

(With the Amazon Associates program, if anyone buys a product through a link on my blog, I earn a small commission on the product. If you use the general search box at the top of my left sidebar I get a very small percentage. If you make a purchase from one of those boxes with the graphic image of the book (or item) then I get a higher commission.)

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Fred M Katz said...

If that question left you speechless, perhaps you'd better sit down before reading this:

I am in the process of launching a site, Amazon's Eyes which is based on republishing Amazon customer reviews written by the most 'helpful' reviewers in each category.

As for copyright issues:
a) I think the reviewers (not Amazon) hold the copyrights. And the site indicates that on each review.
b) The reviewers grant "Amazon and its affiliates" the right to use those reviews to sell books
c) Amazon makes those reviews available through its Web Services so that they may be republished.

So why is there a problem?

christinemm said...

Here is the reply which I emailed to Fred M. Katz, edited a bit. I can't wait for a reply and hope I get one.

"Hi Fred,

I am very interested in what you are saying about who owns the copyright to Amazon customer reviews.

When I go to submit a customer review it says, before I click the submit button, that I am giving the copyright to Amazon. That it why I thought that I was losing the right to reprint or reuse my own review, such as if I were to publish MY OWN review on MY OWN blog. I also thought that I could not write a book review book with those reviews in it. You said that customers do own the copyright. Where is this written---I’d love to know it! Writing a book review book is on my ‘to do’ list of ‘possible projects’. That is one reason why I stopped writing them on Amazon as I felt I was doing work and getting nothing in pay and for me the fun has been writing for my blog not writing reviews.

I didn’t realize that (now that I am an) Amazon Associate I could use my review or other’s reviews to push products so I could sell them and make that little commission on them. Where does it say that? I must have missed that in the fine print.

(I wrote here that the income I have earned as an Amazon Associate is very little, to date.)

The reply I wrote was on 2/04/06 on the Amazon discussion boards. (I don’t know if you care to read the thread. Sorry but I can’t remember the exact location or the thread title but it was something obvious.) At the time I read the woman’s post there were several other Associates writing in that the woman who wanted to use customer reviews on her site was wrong (it was not just me). What you say is the exact opposite.

Also can you share how you find the top reviewer by category? I didn’t know they did a sort in that way. That is something I’d like to look at just for personal reasons, as a customer. I also am curious since I have written a lot on children’s books and also homeschooling how to books, what my ranking is for those compared to my over all rank of 299 (the last I saw it a few days ago).

Lastly, just curious how you found my blog entry. Was it on Technorati or Google or by some other method? I am always curious about how people find my blog.

I am going to go read your site now…


christinemm said...

Update: I began researching Amazon's rules and have found some information that I need to verify. What I have found leads me to believe that yes, a customer reviewer does not own the copyright, that Amazon owns the copyright.

What is up in the air is whether an 'Amazon Associate' is considered an 'Amazon affiliate' and if that is true then what Fred said seems to be correct.

I want to further investigate this before I starting using the customer reviews that I wrote on my own blog.

If anyone else has information about this or wants to discuss it please feel free to comment here or to send me a private email using the email link inside of my Blogger profile.


christinemm said...

Update: Fred M. Katz and I have been emailing each other. Fred stated he tried to post a customer review to Amazon for the first time and did see language that the review became the property of Amazon.

I saw language on Amazon's site stating that reviewers grant Amazon permission to share their review with 'affiliates'. I am unclear as to whether 'Amazon Associates' are 'affiliates' or if an 'affiliate' is something more specific, legally.

If anyone wants to read Fred's website, it is here:

There is also debate over on the Amazon Associate Discussion Boards.

Nothing is resolved.

Reed said...

From Amazon's Conditions of Use: "If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media."

Nonexclusive means you can publish your own content elsewhere.

From the Product Advertising API page: "The Product Advertising API helps you advertise Amazon products using product search and look up capability, product information and features such as Customer Reviews, Similar Products, Wish Lists and New and Used listings. You can make money using the Product Advertising API to advertise Amazon products in conjunction with the Amazon Associates program."

So clearly customer reviews can be used for profiting through the Amazon Associates program.