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Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon, has apologised for the stupid way his company went about deleting customer copies of George Orwell's 1984.

He used a forum post for his firm's digital book device. Bezos said:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Amazon acted after it was told by the copyright holder that unauthorised copies of two Orwell classics, Animal Farm and 1984, were included on its catalogue of books available for the Kindle device. The company removed the titles from its catalogue but also decided to delete them from every individual machine which had downloaded them. Customers were also refunded for their purchases.

Readers were not impressed with the way this was carried out - Amazon emailed customers to tell them they were being refunded, but by then many people were already wondering who had been snooping through their virtual bookshelves and removing books.

Obviously the irony of this Big Brother behaviour in pursuit of readers of 1984 was not missed by anyone.

Kindle users were unimpressed that a book they bought in good faith was taken from them.

The heavy-handed action underlined how limited customer rights over 'their' content is - Kindle's T&Cs make clear that digital content is licensed to the user, not owned by them. They state: "Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon." ®

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