Kindle copyright collusion catastrophe causes concern

20 July 2009

As time trickles by, you begin to reach an inescapable conclusion about digital media - it's hardly safe as houses. Or course books can be lost in a flooded garage, CDs and DVDs are scratched and smeared with jam by three year-olds - it's not like physical media is impervious to loss - but short of a burglary, you can protect it. Kindle owners on the other hand, have just discovered their libraries can be done over without warning, by none other than Amazon themselves.

The works of George Orwell have been in the public domain for some time, except in the US where terms of copyright last 95 years after the publication date of Orwell's classics. These rights are held by Orwell's estate, inherited by his adopted son Richard Horatio Blair, who has vigorously defended unauthorised use of the author's works in the past.

A publisher specialising in public domain works made Orwell's novels available on Amazon in the US, and hundreds of Kindle owners paid for and downloaded the works. When the estate objected, Amazon decided the best way to resolve the matter would be to delete all traces of the disputed material from the Kindles in question. Customers were compensated with a $5 voucher for their payment and received an apology for any inconvenience caused, such as reaching page 283 of 1984 and not being able to finish the chapter without visiting Barnes & Noble.

If this was a physical purchase, it's unlikely Amazon would be knocking at doors demanding the return of books. Amazon should have withdrawn the disputed works from sale and compensated Orwell's Estate for those already sold, since the fault in this case was with the retailer, not the purchaser. Instead, Amazon have now proved they're not afraid to police the material they sell, even after the fact.

[Boing Boing]

TOPICS:   Gadgets

6 comments

  • Junkyard
    There is nothing unsafe about "digital media". The unsafe thing is to purchase DRM-infested media and devices. That's why it's important that companies are made aware of how unacceptable these practices are. The best thing we can do is vote with our wallets.
  • Dave S.
    Junkyard, If I post my wallet in the balot box, will I get it back?
  • Rick G.
    What a half-arsed article, you might want to mention that they have promised NEVER to do it again. They shouldnt have done it in the first place, but they're not going to do it again so big deal. It's a shame it's DRM, but it is also the best out there, hopefully they'll come around.
  • We've a.
    hahaha doesn't it go against 'point of sail' rulings ?? their (amazon's) error, pay the price !!
  • Attention B.
    [...] reported last week on how Amazon tinkered with customer’s Kindles to resolve their own dispute with George Orwell’s estate for selling copyright material of [...]
  • It’s B.
    [...] devices provide publishers and retailers with new powers of authority – whether it’s rescinding books without permission or tracking purchases and reading [...]

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