Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account

Update: Vox Day says his Amazon KDP account is now “Reinstated” [Internet Archive link.]


Amazon told Vox Day they have shut down his Castalia House Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account because of the latest issues about its goon book Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1), a parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire which Castalia markets with a look-alike cover.

Castalia House’s efforts to sell the book have repeatedly brought it into conflict with Amazon rules since the work first appeared in March 2017 (see “Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s ‘The Corroding Empire’”). According to Vox Day (“Amazon Takes Down Castalia House” [Internet Archive link]): “This is the second attack on that book this month, as ten days ago, they pulled the book itself down for the sixth or seventh time due to claims that it was ‘misleading’.”

Day says he received the following message from Amazon on January 21. At that time they only removed the one book from sale on Amazon.

From: Amazon.com [kdp-quality-assurance@amazon.com]
Sent: 21 January 2019 21:59
Subject: Notification from Amazon KDP

While reviewing the following books we found the title, cover image, descriptions and/or authors of the following book(s) are misleading to our customers:

Title: Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)
ASIN: B06XFQ24QC

As a result, the book(s) have been removed from sale from Amazon.

However, today Amazon shut down the Castalia House KDP account and banned Day from opening any others. Not only that, Day was told he will not receive any unpaid royalities that he may be owed on sales.

As last communicated in the message on January 21, 2019, we have identified the submission of content for which you did not have the necessary rights. Due to this and previous violations, we are terminating your account and your Agreement effective immediately.

As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account and remove the books you have uploaded through our channels from sale on Amazon. Note that you are no longer eligible to receive unpaid royalties for sales that occurred prior to this termination.

Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open any new KDP accounts.

Despite the message, Day sounded confident the account would be reopened.

Of course, there were no previous violations that internal SJWs did not invent as we’ve been repeatedly cleared of the “misleading” charge for that book. Needless to say, we will not be taking this latest SJW attack lying down. I won’t be surprised if the account is rapidly restored once we contact the manager who has been repeatedly dealing with this issue, especially since we were promised that it would never happen again after the last time.

Or he did before he updated the post with this calamitous discovery —

UPDATE: Amazon can’t even find the account information. It looks like whoever was responsible actually wiped all the data.

[Thanks to rcade for the story.]

44 thoughts on “Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account

  1. UPDATE: Amazon can’t even find the account information. It looks like whoever was responsible actually wiped all the data.

    Or there’s a note on the account instructing customer service representatives to say that they can’t find the account and are unable to discuss it, end of story.

    Given that VD has a demonstrated history of lying like a rug, it’s safe to say that there’s more gone on here than he’s revealed, which will probably never be known.

  2. {insert sad trombone sound here}
    I’m starting to like January. First it was the Angry Cheeto folding like a cheap suit, then Kim Davis learning that she’s going to be on the hook for damages and now Teddy losing at Spamazon and Gab melting down all in one day.

  3. I wonder if Amazon ran both books through one of those programs that detect plagiarized writing and found the similarities are deeper than cover art & style?

  4. They’re quite sure over there that this is just a rabid SJW minion acting without any authority and she’ll (obviously has to be a she) will get her little red wagon fixed real fast!

  5. They also intend to contact law enforcement!

    This is how many of these lunatic organizations manage to keep on keeping on. By being so endlessly and tirelessly annoying that the other party eventually goes ‘Oh fuck it.’

  6. @bajuk The hardcopy and audible versions are unaffected, this is strictly the kindle versions.

  7. Note, this is just for the Print on Demand account. They refuse to print it or any of his other books because they’ve noticed copyright violations. And they could be sued to it a copyright holder came after him.
    As of now, he can sell anything he wants that they aren’t the printer of. So his books will still be available, just not as Print on Demand.

  8. Lisa Deutsch Harrigan: Castalia House said all their Kindle ebooks were unavailable.

    (Note that Vox Day subsequently announced the KDP account has been reinstated.)

  9. As I said over at Camestros’ blog, Amazon closing someone’s account and withholding royalties is a pretty big deal. Last year, Amazon closed the accounts of a number of indie authors/publishers (Michael Scott Earle and J.A. Cipriano were the biggest SFF names, the others were mostly romance authors) for manipulating Kindle Unlimited page reads and other underhanded tactics such as an illegal lottery giving away diamond jewellery in exchange for reviews, but those authors were paid any outstanding royalties.

    As for why print and audio books are still available, print books always remain listed at Amazon in case someone wants to sell a used copy. And audio books usually have a fixed contact term and often royalty share agreements with the narrator, so they will remain available for the duration of that contract.

    Coincidentally, I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this on any of the indie author boards and fora, which is odd in itself, especially since a few Castalia House authors post there.

  10. I may have misunderstood but I believe Castalia has pulled Corrosion permanently from Amazon. So while VD is presenting this as a climb down by Amazon, it’s almost certainly the opposite: Vox has had to remove the offending book because it keeps disrupting his business.

  11. It’s possible VD used a different account for his Corrosive rip-off book than for the other “Castallia House” books.

    The system for uploading books to Amazon doesn’t lock your account into using just one publisher name, nor does it prevent your account from using a publisher name that’s already in use by another account.

    If VD recognized–whether initially or later on–that producing a blatant rip-off of someone else’s novel would cause problems, he might have created a separate account for it, or he might have a separate account set up specifically for the crap he releases specifically to try to get John Scalzi’s attention.

    Which would explain why Castalia House books are available while the corroding book has been delisted and the account reputedly closed.

  12. It’s possible VD used a different account for his Corrosive rip-off book than for the other “Castallia House” books.

    The system for uploading books to Amazon doesn’t lock your account into using just one publisher name,

    You can use multiple publisher names with your KDP account, but last I checked you can only have one account. And since you have to provide tax info when you create an account, it’s quite easy for Amazon to enforce that limit.

  13. I find it quite interesting that the “Reinstated” proclamation’s purchase link goes to… not Amazon. Looking at Amazon, the knockoff book is only available as audio.

    So what exactly got reinstated?

  14. “You can use multiple publisher names with your KDP account, but last I checked you can only have one account. And since you have to provide tax info when you create an account, it’s quite easy for Amazon to enforce that limit.”
    **
    An individual or sole proprietor can only have one account, but if you also have a company or LLC, that’s a separate business/tax entity, for which you can have a separate account.

    It’s a common way to separate income streams that you don’t want tangled together. For example, if you and I collaborated on an indie project, rather than all your money for your joint work flowing into my Amazon account, or vice versa, we’d probably set up an LLC for our collaboration, and use that tax ID to set up an Amazon account where our joint earnings would flow.

    Alternately, of course, ol’ whatshisface may just be lying or leaving out part of the story or hallucinating, etc. But if he self-publishes his Scalzi rip-offs under a personal account, for example, then Amazon shuttering it wouldn’t affect the Castalia Books. (And since his rip-off release(s) is/are problematic and likely to cause problems with Amazon and/or Tor, etc., it would be surprisingly sensible of LaLa Lad to maintain them in a separate account. The “sensible” part of this, obviously, means my guess is probably way off the mark.)

  15. Parodies are legal such as Bored of the Rings but this was created purposely to deceive the book buyer. That is the difference.

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  17. @JJ

    Or there’s a note on the account instructing customer service representatives to say that they can’t find the account and are unable to discuss it, end of story.

    I was a senior manager at Amazon in the division that managed the catalog. I can guarantee you that no one outside that team can really delete anything from the catalog. The programs that others run only mark things deleted, but they don’t really go away.

    Likewise, accounts don’t really get erased. They get frozen and the money put on hold until someone can figure out whom it really belongs to. (This was an IP theft accusation, if you believe VD’s account, so of course they held the money.)

    Once it was straightened out, they quickly put everything back the way it was. (Considering that the database had over 2 billion records in it when I left the company 5 years ago, it’s pretty impressive how well it works, if I do say so myself.)

    He may be telling the truth about what was told to him. It’s possible he got someone who just didn’t know how to reinstate a deleted account. (Or someone without the privilege to do so.) Someone new enough to simply not know that whatever was done can be undone. (With just a few caveats.)

    As I think about it, if you wanted to make this happen to him again, the way to do it (assuming he created another “misleading” book like this) is as follows:

    1. Purchase the book yourself.
    2. A few days later, submit a return request to Amazon, alleging that you received a counterfeit. (I forget the exact code, but it’s a checkbox that indicates you got something other than what you thought you ordered.)
    3. In the comments, mention the book you wanted to get and include a link to VD’s own words explaining what he did. Make it clear that “this was a deliberate fraud. Amazon shouldn’t tolerate this.”

    Any customer service rep would refund you at once and kick it straight up to Fraud. Fraud would look at the info, see that the account has been suspended repeatedly, and instantly suspend it pending further investigation. Or so I believe, since I’ve seen the same thing happen to other merchants who skirted the line a lot. (E.g. gray-market sellers whose ads make it look too much like the original product. Or refurbished-product sellers who aren’t clear enough it’s not new.)

  18. @Rev. Bob on February 1, 2019 at 12:19 am said:

    So what exactly got reinstated?

    Kindle threw the entirety of Castalia House off the platform. This search now shows about 8 pages of results. This morning it showed zero.

  19. @Laura Resnick

    But if he self-publishes his Scalzi rip-offs under a personal account, for example, then Amazon shuttering it wouldn’t affect the Castalia Books.

    I wouldn’t depend on that working, though. The Fraud team were, during my time with Amazon, pretty good about figuring out that A was effectively the same as B. In particular, real fraudsters (what Vox did here doesn’t meet my own definition of fraud in that I don’t believe he ever thought anyone would by this book by mistake) are famous for creating new accounts as fast as possible, so finding matches between apparently different accounts is a critical function for Fraud.

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  21. It would seem like the easiest solution would be to put “A Parody” or “An Unauthorized Parody” on the cover.

    Of course, that assumes that Vox Day was actually coming from a place of wanting to be a reasonable human being.

  22. Kit Russell: It would seem like the easiest solution would be to put “A Parody” or “An Unauthorized Parody” on the cover.

    But that completely contradicts their claim that it’s SERIOUS science fiction!

    It’s Schrödinger’s novel. They alternate between claiming that it’s a parody of Scalzi, and that it’s serious science fiction. They should have bound it like an Ace Double, with “It out-Scalzis Scalzi!” on one side, and “by The New Robert Heinlein!” on the other.

  23. Kit Russell on February 3, 2019 at 2:54 pm said:
    It would seem like the easiest solution would be to put “A Parody” or “An Unauthorized Parody” on the cover.

    I don’t believe that legal provisions protecting parody require that in the U.S. or in Canada. You’ll note that the original poster to Spaceballs doesn’t actually say ‘a parody’ anywhere.

    Now, I’ve not read Corroding Empire, and I’m unlikely to do so. But as far as I’m aware, there’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t be protected under Fair Use/Fair Dealing provisions in most Berne Convention signatory nations, including U.S. & Canada.

    Personally, I don’t have a lot of time for Vox Day. But I don’t think there’s a legal test that I’d be comfortable with that would differentiate between Corroding Empire, and works like Bored Of The Rings or Spaceballs.

  24. Olav Rokne: I don’t think there’s a legal test that I’d be comfortable with that would differentiate between Corroding Empire, and works like Bored Of The Rings or Spaceballs.

    The problem is that both VD and the nominal head of Castalia (Markku somebody) have claimed repeatedly that it’s a serious book, and that its story is not a parody of The Collapsing Empire. In other words, its cover’s resemblance to Scalzi’s is an attempt to get people to buy something because it looks like something it’s not (a Scalzi book), not a way to parody Scalzi’s book.

  25. JJ on February 5, 2019 at 11:22 am said:
    Olav Rokne: I don’t think there’s a legal test that I’d be comfortable with that would differentiate between Corroding Empire, and works like Bored Of The Rings or Spaceballs.

    The problem is that both VD and the nominal head of Castalia (Markku somebody) have claimed repeatedly that it’s a serious book, and that its story is not a parody of The Collapsing Empire. In other words, its cover’s resemblance to Scalzi’s is an attempt to get people to buy something because it looks like something it’s not (a Scalzi book), not a way to parody Scalzi’s book.

    Even if they’ve never previously claimed a work to be parody, if it ended up in the courts, I’m 99 per cent certain that the book would be covered by Fair Use.

    Interestingly, U.S. copyright does not recognize moral rights (and deals only in economic rights), so Scalzi wouldn’t even be able to make a claim that Corroding Empire put his own work into disrepute.

    Now, I’m only making arguments from a legal perspective. Do I endorse Corroding Empire? No. Do I think that what Vox Day was trying to do was cool? No. Do I think that this should be illegal? No, because there’s a huge difference between ‘kind of skeezy’ and ‘ought to be a law against it.’

    IMHO, good parody is often based on a love of the original works (Spaceballs as an example), and bad parody is often motivated by hatred, anger, or trying to make a quick buck (As example, Meet the Spartans). But determining “good” art versus “bad” art should be left to audiences, rather than the legal system.

  26. You can’t call it a parody unless it is a parody of what it is supposed to be a parody of. It isn’t. It is a bad pastiche of Asimov.

  27. Olav Rokne: Even if they’ve never previously claimed a work to be parody, if it ended up in the courts, I’m 99 per cent certain that the book would be covered by Fair Use.

    The Fair Use defense requires that it be a parody. VD et al have repeatedly undermined that defense with their claims that it’s a serious book. And anyway, it’s not a courtroom defense we’re talking about here, it’s an Amazon judgment call.

    Amazon is sensitive to having its platform used by scammers who are trying to make a fast buck by fooling consumers into buying books which appear to be something they’re not. They get pissed-off customers and refund requests when that happens, and it degrades their reputation. So it’s up to Amazon to decide whether they want to host the book, and their agreement which publishers “sign” when putting books up for sale on their platform says that Amazon gets to decide whether they host a work or not.

  28. The Fair Use defense requires that it be a parody.

    Parody is one type of Fair Use. There are a lot of Fair Use defenses that don’t require something to be a parody.

    That being said, I’m still fairly certain that it’s the defense that applies to this case. *If* we were talking about this as a legal case.

    Because you’re right, Amazon does get to decide whether they host a work or not. I have serious qualms about how much power Jeff Bezos has to deplatform views he doesn’t like (He dislikes labour unions, so I do worry about him deplatforming pro-union works).

    Skeezy second-rate works like “Transmorphers” (released the same weekend as the more popular Michael Bay Transformers), “Megalodon” (released the same weekend as the more popular Jason Statham movie The Meg) and other Mockbusters have relied on the same Fair Use defense that would probably apply to Corroding Empire.

    For the record, Amazon still stocks those skeezy rip-off movies, as well as “Ratatoing” (which bears ridiculous similarity to Ratatoille), “A Car’s Life” (not quite the same as the movie Cars), and many, many others.

  29. @Olav Rokne–If you’re going to rely on Fair Use on the grounds that it’s a parody, yes, you really have undermined your case if you’ve been working hard to emphasize that it’s not a parody, but a serious work, while making it look as much as possible like the original work. One can never guarantee what a jury will say, but this a pattern very much like what often precedes a book being pulled on grounds that it’s copyright infringement, not the behavior that precedes a courtroom verdict that it was a parody and therefore protected under Fair Use.

    Other types of Fair Use protection are completely irrelevant in a case where the only possible grounds is parody. I mean, this isn’t the use of limited quotes for purposes of review, nor is it among the cases where a library is permitted to copy a work for purposes of archiving or preservation, to cite a familiar example, and an example that’s probably less familiar.

    Your other cited examples are largely protected not by the parody Fair Use protection, but by the same thing that protects Vox Day from being sued by Scalzi: It’s not hurting the sales of the original work to any significant degree, but suing would boost the copy’s sales dramatically, lining the pockets of the infringer. It’s just not worth suing, and could actually incentivize more copying.

  30. I didn’t want to respond until I was certain of my facts, because I wasn’t sure if my knowledge was just Canada-based.

    Based on your perspective, and your evidently well-informed views, I’m guessing you’re a librarian? (This guess is based on your mention of “archiving or preservation,” which is a refrain that I hear from my partner who’s a librarian and relies Fair Dealing for exactly that.)

    The clause that I think is slightly wrong in your previous post is “other types of Fair Use protection are completely irrelevant in a case where the only possible grounds is parody.”

    This isn’t exactly right, as Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act does not enumerate what is, or isn’t possible grounds. It provides examples of items that are covered, but it is not a comprehensive or limited list, as it starts with ‘such as.’

    Anyhow, I think I’m agreeing with both of you on the most important points (even if we differ on some nuances): Vox Day is awful, but he probably won’t get sued. We’d probably have a clearer knowledge of how this would play out if the case “J.D. Salinger v. John David California” had ended up going to trial.

  31. @Olav Rokne–Yes, I’m a librarian. And I’ve worked in both academic libraries and in law firms, the two settings where managing the users on the subject of copyright and unauthorized copying is, in different ways, the most like herding cats.

    No, in this particular case, the only thing that would make Beale’s Corroding Empire not plagiarism is if he could make a plausible case that it’s a parody–and he keeps undermining that claim by insisting it’s a serious book and not a copy at all.

    There’s the bare letter of the law, and then there’s many decades of case law. It doesn’t matter that the law lists examples, not a comprehensive list. It doesn’t mean Beale can pull any old thing out of his hat, or block the plaintiff from presenting the evidence of how he has repeatedly undermined his own claim that this is a parody. The book’s history, contrary to his apparent belief, is strong evidence that customers do, in fact, find it confusing. That’s a problem for Beale.

    And there’s all that case law. It does not fit the other categories where copying is okay. It simply does not. All that case law matters, in a common law country. I’m guessing you’re in a civil law country, and accustomed to a different legal system, though I may be wrong.

    The US is not a civil law country. We’re a common law country. You can’t just read the bare text of the law, and ignore what the courts have actually done when confronted with live cases. Legal precedent matters.

    Beale’s only possible defense would be if he could make a credible case that this is a parody. And he keeps undermining that claim.

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