Feeds

Amazon sued for sending 1984 down Orwellian memory hole

The web giant decoupled my homework

New hybrid storage solutions

A seventeen-year-old high school senior has sued Amazon for vanishing George Orwell's 1984 from his Kindle ebook reader - and removing his personal annotations in the process.

Two weeks ago, in an amusingly ironic moment, Jeff Bezos and company deleted all copies of both 1984 and Animal Farm from citizen Kindles after the rights holder complained the titles had been sold without its permission.

A third-party publisher had uploaded the digital texts to Amazon's online Kindle store, claiming that Orwell's two most famous works were in the US public domain.

Michigan high school senior Justin D. Gawronski was among those who saw their personal copy of 1984 disappear down the Orwellian memory hole. And on Thursday, backed by a Chicago-based law firm, Gawronski filed suit (PDF) against Amazon in federal court, seeking class-action status.

According to the suit, Gawronski watched 1984 "vanish before his very eyes."

"Because 1984 was the most recent book he had been reading on his Kindle 2 prior...the Kindle 2 powered on to the last page of 1984 Mr. Gawronski had been reading," the suit reads. "Within moments of powering on his Kindle 2 to this page of 1984, the entire e-book disappeared as Amazon immediately remotely deleted it from his Kindle 2."

Apparently, Gawronski also took "copious notes" on his personal copy of 1984, and though the notes remained in a separate file when Amazon removed the book, they were completely useless. "A note such as 'remember this paragraph for your thesis' is useless if it does not actually a reference a specific paragraph," the suit continues. "Gawronski now needs to recreate all of his studies."

Naming another Kindle owner who complained of vanishing Orwell, the suit hopes to prevent Amazon from vanishing Kindle books in the future, and it seeks damages for Kindle owners everywhere.

Amazon's terms of service say that books are licensed not sold. But as the suit point out, they also say that users have the right to keep a "permanent copy" of purchased books and to "view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times." And the terms fail to explain that Amazon has the technical power or the right to remove content from personal devices. Likewise, the suit says, Amazon "never disclosed that it could remotely render useless notes, annotations, bookmarks, and highlighting created by consumers."

The suit accuses Amazon of violating its terms of service, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the local Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Jeff Bezos has apologized for Amazon's Orwellian moment. And the company has vowed never to do it again. But at the very least, it's questionable whether Amazon can make such a claim. Now that the company has shown it has the power to remove content from citizen kindles, rights holders may have the legal leverage to force such removals.

So, after seeing a high school student sue Amazon for eating his homework, we may see the company sued from the other side as well. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.