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Joseph v. Amazon. Com, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 9, 2013

RHAWN JOSEPH, Ph.D., Plaintiff,


HOWARD R. LLOYD, Magistrate Judge.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), defendants, Inc. (Amazon) and Jeffrey P. Bezos move to dismiss the complaint for improper venue, or in the alternative, to transfer this matter to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Pro se plaintiff Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D. opposes the motion. All parties have expressly consented that all proceedings in this matter may be heard and finally adjudicated by the undersigned. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Upon consideration of the moving and responding papers, [1] as well as the arguments presented at the motion hearing, the court grants defendants' motion to enforce the forum selection clauses.


Pro se plaintiff Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D. sues for alleged antitrust violations, fraud, defamation/slander/trade libel, and breach of contract. The complaint is brought on behalf of a putative class "of all [print on demand] authors, publishers and publishing companies in the United States who have had books listed for sale in the Amazon Bookstore, at any time from February 10, 2008 through the conclusion of trial of this matter...."[2] (Complaint ¶ 41).

Dr. Joseph says that he is an author and science book publisher whose publishing company relies on "print on demand" (POD) technology, whereby copies of a book are printed only when an order is received from a customer or a retail bookseller. He says that he relies on a company known as LightningSource to print his books.

According to the complaint, Amazon prints books using its own POD technology and its own POD printing house.

Amazon has several programs through which sellers can offer their products for sale on Amazon's website. To enroll in these programs, sellers are required to enter into online agreements. Plaintiff entered into three programs/agreements, which are discussed in the complaint: (1) Amazon Advantage; (2) Amazon Marketplace; and (3) Amazon Associates. In essence, plaintiff claims that Amazon uses unfair business practices to coerce authors/publishers to print and publish only with Amazon, under programs that impose onerous conditions or obligations on the authors/publishers and place them at an economic disadvantage.

Amazon Advantage

The complaint alleges that the Amazon Advantage program requires members to sell their books to Amazon at a significant discount and at great expense to the authors/publishers, with the result that they are forced to sell their books at a loss or for minimum profit. Plaintiff further alleges that if members refuse to use Amazon's POD company or the Amazon Advantage program, then Amazon refuses to sell their books, defames them, and falsely states that their books cannot be shipped for up to six weeks. Plaintiff claims that this program is an illegal tying arrangement that violates federal antitrust laws.

Amazon Marketplace

Plaintiff claims that the Amazon Marketplace program also damages authors and publishers. According to the complaint, for a fee and a percentage of sales, the Amazon Marketplace program allows sellers to indirectly sell books to the public on a webpage separate from Amazon's main webpage. Plaintiff believes that customers prefer to buy books directly from Amazon's site because they are more familiar with Amazon, as opposed to private vendors and sellers about whom they may have little or no knowledge. The complaint goes on to allege that while Amazon offers free shipping programs, that option is not available through Amazon Marketplace. Consequently, plaintiff believes that only a small fraction of book sales are actually made through the Amazon Marketplace program.

Amazon Associates

According to the complaint, under the Amazon Associates program, independent authors/publishers can promote their books on their own websites and, through the use of "special links, " direct customers to Amazon's website where they can purchase the books. Plaintiff says that in return, Amazon is supposed to pay a fee to the authors/publishers when the books are sold. However, plaintiff claims that when customers click on the "special link" to Amazon's website to buy a particular book, Amazon redirects them to other products and then deletes the "special link" in order to avoid paying its associates the required referral fee. Plaintiff says that this is a "bait and switch" scheme through which Amazon has defrauded him of fees.

The complaint seeks hundreds of millions in dollars in damages and asserts the following five claims for relief: (1) "Tying Claim, Violation of Sherman Antitrust Act"; (2) "Libel, Defamation, Slander, Trade Libel"; (3) "Malice, Oppression, Fraud"; ...

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