Unofficial biographies from industrial bands? Meet the scam book factory

Posted on 26/07/11

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Unofficial biographies from industrial bands? Meet the scam book factory
A few days ago Yves Shelpe from Belgium's electronic act Psy'Aviah contacted us regarding something he had noticed and which he found kind of odd: a biography of his own band Psy'Aviah being sold on Barnes & Noble for 45 US dollar. We asked Yves to dig up some details and report back as soon as he had everything checked out. Here is his report.

Some weeks ago I got a link sent by fan which pointed to an online bookshop, "Barnes & Noble". The link portrays a book, about my band Psy'Aviah, edited by Lambert M. Surhone, Mariam T. Tennoe and Susan F. Henssonow and published by Betascript. The fan wanted to know whether this was legit, if it was made with our consent and basically if we or our label knew about this? I'll tell you straight away that the answer to all those questions was no! Further more, the guy with the headphones on the cover was certainly not me (Yves), Kristof nor was it our lead vocalist Emélie Nicolaï... This was getting suspicious. Why would anyone write a book / paperback about us and without informing us? So my investigation started.

We wanted to contact the publishing company, but had a hard time finding out who or what to contact. Basically it all revolves around "VDM Publishing" (see vdm-publishing.com) lead by a certain dr Wolfgang Philip Müller. The company has it's base in Germany. So far so good, but VMD Publishing itself has subdivisions such as Alphascript, Betascript, Books LLC, and Bucher Gruppe... Yet those subdivisions are "based" in Mauritius, well, so they say.

The most interesting, but actually most disturbing fact is that the content of this "Psy'Aviah" book is copied from the english wikipedia entry for "Psy'Aviah". Legally this is allowed, as long as all the authors are mentioned. But it is of course far from ethical to just copy and paste an entire wikipedia article and sell it to the masses. More so, it undermines the whole concept of wikipedia itself, which is founded to give free information that changes throughout time. Clearly such a copy and paste book has no value other than thickening bank accounts in Mauritius... or... Germany?

Finding out this, I dug more and to my surprise the company with its subdivisions have already published over 850.000 titles! They work cleverly though. By providing an on-demand service, they only need to deliver once a copy is ordered. So they're never printed beforehand, and the company only delivers to online stores and by catalogs. To "promote" their business they simply flood the catalog systems every month with 50.000 titles, under their different brands.

The "editors", such as in our "Psy'Aviah" book (Lamber M. Surhone, etc..) are in fact about 45 people from Moldavia, Mauritius, Argentina and Germany who pick out interesting subjects and wiki-articles, and then compile those books with the help of a computer program.

Who would fall for such a scam? Well, to my surprise... I checked out some local libraries in both The Netherlands and my home country Belgium, and sadly, I found hits... Public libraries are buying these books at ridiculous high prizes with our tax money and putting them in their collection. I immediately contacted the authorities to inform them about this situation, of which they didn't know anything yet. Fortunately they did take it seriously and are now investigating this issue to stop the pollution and waste of our tax money. I'd advise any of you to do the same in your country, region or local library.

Legally I can't call this a scam, but if you think about it... It's not because something is legal that it isn't a scam or pure unethical business!? Yves Schelpe

Update 1: Side-Line confronted the publisher with this article, we are awaiting their reaction.
Update 2: Other artists which have been scammed include Apoptygma Berzerk, Front 242, VNV Nation etc.

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