Amazon Brushes Off Growing Accusations of Selling Counterfeit Vinyl — How Long Will This Game Last?

Amazon warehouse facility

photo: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick (CC by SA 3.0)

Earlier this week, we reported on a growing chorus of concern relating to Amazon and the sale of counterfeit vinyl records.

Alarmingly, executives rebuilding the vinyl records space are detecting a swell in fake LPs, with Amazon accused of facilitating the problem.  Rosie Lopez, president of Tommy Boy Records, said she’s finding copies of records for titles Tommy Boy isn’t even producing.  “Somehow records that Tommy Boy hasn’t pressed in — ever — are on sale on Amazon, that’s a little concerning,” Lopez said at the Making Vinyl conference in Los Angeles last week.

Bruce Ogilvie, chairman of Alliance Entertainment, told fellow vinyl record execs that the fake stuff is likely being produced in China, and pumped to customers through Amazon. “Amazon doesn’t really care, because they still make their fulfillment fees for its FBA [Fulfillment by Amazon],” Ogilvie said. “Amazon makes it really easy for that product to come straight into the U.S.”

The blow-up follows an earlier accusation in August, specifically involving counterfeit CDs. That’s when the RIAA tested Amazon out and found that 25% of all CDs ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ were flat-out fake. “Alarmingly, 25% of the purchased CDs that were ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ were counterfeit,” the RIAA relayed (more details on the group’s investigation here).

Back in August, Amazon offered a rather boilerplate response, one that failed to address the specific issues raised by the RIAA.

Perhaps rubbing salt in the wound, the statement quipped that “counterfeit is an age-old problem,” while subtly pointing to legal protections afforded by DMCA-style takedown procedures. “Over 99% of all Amazon page views by our customers landed on pages that did not receive a notice of potential counterfeit infringement,” the Amazon statement assured (you can see Amazon’s detailed, multi-paragraph anti-counterfeiting statement from August here).

After the issues raised at Making Vinyl, Amazon undoubtedly received some blowback. But instead of attacking the issues raised by Lopez, Ogilvie, and the RIAA, Amazon media relations executive Cecilia Fan merely cut n’ pasted the exact same response sent to Digital Music News in August.

We checked: it’s verbatim.

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You can read that statement — again — below.

Statement, attributable to ‘an Amazon spokesperson’

Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products. Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed. We work with and empower brands through programs like Brand Registry, Transparency, and Project Zero to ensure only authentic products are sold in our stores. We investigate any claim of counterfeit thoroughly, including removing the item, permanently removing the bad actor, pursuing legal action or working with law enforcement as appropriate.

In order to detect bad actors and potentially counterfeit products, we make significant investments in machine learning and automated systems. We employ dedicated teams of software engineers, applied scientists, program managers, and investigators to operate and continually refine our anti-counterfeiting programs. Amazon’s systems automatically and continuously scan numerous data points related to selling partners, products, brands, and offers to detect activity that may indicate a potentially counterfeit product and immediately block or remove it from our store. Over 99.9% of all Amazon page views by our customers landed on pages that did not receive a notice of potential counterfeit infringement.

Brand Registry

Any rights owner can enroll in Amazon Brand Registry to get access to a set of powerful tools that help them manage and protect their brand and intellectual property rights in our store. Brand Registry is a free service and more than 200,000 brands are already enrolled. These brands are able to report suspected infringement and ensure product information displayed on detail pages are accurate so customers can make confident, informed purchasing decisions on Amazon. Brands in Brand Registry on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry.

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Transparency

Transparency is an item-level tracing service where brands serialize each unit they manufacture with a unique code. Amazon then scans these codes and verifies the authenticity of the product before it reaches a customer. Customers can also scan the Transparency code via a mobile app to confirm authenticity and learn more about the product, such as usage instructions, ingredients, and expiration date. Over 6,000 brands, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, have enrolled their products in Transparency.

Project Zero

Project Zero is a new program that empowers brands to help us drive counterfeit to zero by combining Amazon’s machine learning technology with the unique knowledge brands have of their own intellectual property. Using the self-service counterfeit removal tool in Project Zero, brands can instantly remove counterfeit from our store and this information is fed into our automated protections so we can more effectively prevent counterfeit listings in the future.

Customers are always protected by our A-to-z Guarantee. If a product doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised, customers can contact our customer support for a full refund of their order.

Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands, and sellers.

One Response

  1. Avatar
    Concerned Attorney

    I’m an attorney who has a client who is an independent artist. She noticed that her music was being sold on Amazon, without her permission and consent. She ordered a copy of her CD and found it to be counterfeit. When I tried to assist in taking it down via a DMCA “takedown notice,” I found they did not have such and made it impossible to take down via https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement . Unfortunately, after submitting all relevant information, including I was my client’s legal representative, I received a “no-reply” email from Amazon stating that “have been unable to verify” that I, on behalf of my client, was “the rights owner or their agent.” After chasing my tail with this, I reached out to a friend who does business with Amazon’s music department and asked the Amazon person if they could connect me with an attorney in Amazon’s music department. This person got back to me and told me: “I have been advised that reporting this infringement to https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement is indeed the correct flow. I’m sorry to not have more detailed information to provide at this time.” Amazon knows what’s going on, but, refuses to deal with copyright infringement. Their actions are perfidious. I can hardly wait for a class action lawsuit to be filed so that Amazon learns their lesson. It’s obvious based on your article and my experience that Amazon doesn’t care about rights holders’ copyrights and actively make things difficult to take down.

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