Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Kindle Ate His Homework

Several weeks back, Amazon put that old phrase, "There's no such thing as bad publicity" to a real test. After discovering that it had mistakenly sold electronic versions of two books to owners of its Kindle e-reader without permission of the copyright holders, it remotely wiped those books off the Kindles onto which they had been downloaded. What made the incident even more embarrassing: the books in question were 1984 and Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The irony of two books about totalitarianism suddenly disappearing from Kindles was of course not lost on any of the journalists or pundits covering the incident. Amazon did credit the accounts of those customers who no longer had access to the books, but CEO Jeff Bezos later issued an apology, calling the action "stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles."

However, that wasn't enough for at least one Kindle owner. Justin Gawronski, 17, had purchased a copy of 1984 for summer reading, and had made electronic notes on the Kindle as he was reading. As he watched the text of Orwell's classic slowly disappear from his screen he realized those notes were now useless. So he's sued Amazon, and his lawyers are seeking to turn it into a class action suit covering any others who lost work related to the removal of the books. " had no more right to hack into people's Kindles than its customers have the right to hack into Amazon's bank account to recover a mistaken overpayment," said one of the lawyers handling the case. "Technology companies increasingly feel that because they have the ability to access people's personal property, they have the right to do so. That is 100% contrary to the laws of this country."

More information can be found here.

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