Chicago federal judge has closed the book on an amateur author's suit against
Amazon, ruling the author’s works about his life as a homeless person were not
counterfeited and sold by the online retailer as alleged.
June 13 ruling was issued by Ruben Castillo, chief judge of the U.S. District
Court for Northern Illinois, favoring Seattle-based Amazon.com, Inc. over
Chicago resident Reginald Hart.
wrote two books, titled Vagabond Natural and Vagabond Spiritual, respectively, about
his homeless experience, distributing the books on a limited basis for the
purpose of raising money to fight what he termed "vagabondage." Hart
alleged he later learned to his dismay “counterfeit” copies of his books were
for sale on Amazon.
said he sent a number of electronic messages and one letter to Amazon beginning
in March 2014, telling the company to stop selling allegedly “unlawful
reproductions” of his books. Hart also asked questions of Amazon, including the
number of his books sold; the answer was six.
the exchange of correspondence, Amazon eventually told Hart in January 2015 it
would remove the books, but cautioned it “typically takes 2-3 days for a
listing to disappear once it has been removed.” However, the books did not
vanish from Amazon until March 2015.
the meantime, Hart – acting as his own attorney – filed suit Feb. 9, 2015,
against Amazon, alleging the company engaged in copyright infringement by counterfeiting,
displaying and selling his books, and in the process, “confusing” consumers.
Hart cited the federal Lanham Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive
Business Practices Act, the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and
the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.
a result, Hart claimed he suffered headaches, anguish and depression, and was
“disrupted in his normal sleep patterns, damaged in his person and therein
experience(d) a violation of his rights akin to being raped.”
after bringing his suit, Hart asked Chief Judge Castillo to appoint him
counsel, which Castillo did, tapping the Chicago firm of Hughes, Socol, Piers,
Resnick & Dym. After taking on the assignment, the firm concluded Hart had
no grounds for his complaint, and in the aftermath of an unsuccessful
settlement conference in August 2015, the firm was allowed to withdraw. Hart
pushed on, again representing himself.
also believed the suit was baseless, filing a motion to dismiss for that reason.
Castillo granted the motion, but gave Hart the chance to make up the
deficiencies in an amended complaint. Hart followed through on the opportunity,
and Amazon again moved to dismiss. Castillo was not impressed with Hart’s
newest effort, describing Hart’s complaint as “at times difficult to
any rate, Castillo proceeded to analyze the complaint, finding it defective on
every count. Castillo did note he sympathized with Hart’s frustrations with
Amazon and believed the company should have removed the books sooner. However,
Castillo dismissed the suit and said he saw no point in allowing Hart to file
another amended complaint, so he closed the case, opening it up to appeal, if
Hart so chooses.
has been defended by Bartlit, Beck, Herman, Palenchar & Scott, of Chicago.