Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Books Handhelds Media Your Rights Online Hardware

Amazon Pulls Purchased E-Book Copies of 1984 and Animal Farm 645

Posted by Soulskill
from the miniplenty-malquoted-kindle-rectify dept.
Oracle Goddess writes "In a story just dripping with irony, Amazon Kindle owners awoke this morning to discover that 1984 and Animal Farm had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for, and thought they owned. Apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by George Orwell from people's Kindles and credited their accounts for the price. Amazon customer service may or may not have responded to queries by stating, 'We've always been at war with Eastasia.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon Pulls Purchased E-Book Copies of 1984 and Animal Farm

Comments Filter:
  • by acrobg (1175095) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:41PM (#28735901) Journal
    ...must be the complete truth. Or else the thought police will come get you.
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:54PM (#28736043)

      Big Amazon.
      for those of you old enough to have seen the schlock sci-fi "rollerball" it's central theme was that big brotherism actually is more likely to be durable under corporate control rather than government control. A kind of facism where the role of the state is secondary.

      I think it was big oil in rollerball. but it could have been big amazon.

      plus the idea of a big Amazon woman is somewhat scarier than a big brother.

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:10PM (#28736197) Journal

        plus the idea of a big Amazon woman is somewhat scarier than a big brother.

        Obligatory Futurama reference: "Death by snoo snoo."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dimeglio (456244)

        Waitaminute here. If they were that powerful, they could have simply said "screw you" to the publishers. I think you want a more Big Amazon.

    • by Badge 17 (613974) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:32PM (#28736405)

      Okay, let's turn down the rhetoric a couple of notches. There are two aspects to this -

      1) This does not appear to be a case where the publisher just "changed their minds." 1984 and Animal Farm are, through the usual idiocy, under copyright in the US but not in other countries, so someone re-publishing the text without paying the copyright licensing is breaking the law, and Kindle customers have, in effect, been sold "stolen" property. (Equivalent: buying software that illegally includes GPL code). If you buy a stolen ipod, it can get confiscated by the police.

      2) However, this does reveal a pretty worrying tendency to kill books first, clarify later. If Amazon had just sent out refunds, plus notes that "Due to an oversight, if you are in the U.S., this version of 1984 is unauthorized," that would have seemed sensible.

      My suggestion - use the Kindle if you like (I love mine), but backup your books, strip the DRM, and pirate shamelessly. Casual piracy adds features to ebooks - the ability to lend and trade books, which is how we all got hooked in the first place.

      • by LuYu (519260) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:49PM (#28737479) Homepage Journal

        Kindle customers have, in effect, been sold "stolen" property. . . If you buy a stolen ipod, it can get confiscated by the police.

        IGNORANCE IS NOT STRENGTH

        IDEAS ARE NOT PROPERTY

        Taking an iPod from somebody deprives that person of an iPod. Having an extra copy of a book does not take anything from anyone. Purchasing unauthorised copies is neither equivalent to nor even similar to stealing.

      • by Hatta (162192) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:56PM (#28737861) Journal

        1984 and Animal Farm are, through the usual idiocy, under copyright in the US but not in other countries, so someone re-publishing the text without paying the copyright licensing is breaking the law

        It would be legal for an Australian company to print copies of 1984, right? And then it would be legal for me to import that book, right? That's completely legal. How does it become illegal when electrons are involved?

      • by shmlco (594907) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:14AM (#28738201) Homepage

        There's another troubling aspect to this that's yet to be discussed, and one that's especially double-plus-ironic considering that one of the deleted books was Orwell's 1984.

        If they can download a book, and if they can delete a book, then they certainly have the capability to REPLACE a book. Imagine that some night thousands of Kindle ebooks disappear and then reappear... altered.

        We are at war with Eurasia. We've always been at war with Eurasia...

      • by Dan541 (1032000) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @02:37AM (#28738689) Homepage

        On the other hand if you actually purchased a book you would still have it.

        This is just a VERY good reason to avoid the Kindle.

  • haha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:41PM (#28735907)

    fuck kindle. buy real books and support real trees

    • Re:haha (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheRon6 (929989) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:51PM (#28736009)

      buy real books and support real trees

      If by "support" you mean "dismember and ground up," then yes.

      • Re:haha (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snowraver1 (1052510) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#28736131)
        If by "dismember and ground up", you mean "carbon capture". It's not rain forest trees going into your books. It's farm trees + natural trees with strict replanting laws.
  • by rlp (11898) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:41PM (#28735913)

    The Kindle is now equipped with a memory hole.

  • With DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:42PM (#28735919)

    You always lose. This is just another example.

    • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:58PM (#28736069) Journal

      For "$DEITY" sake, don't use, buy or recommend to anyone the Kindle!

      It was designed from day one to be enable Amazon to fuck you and this is exactly what happened. I'm not surprised.

      An alternative ereader with better hardware, open architecture and NOT defective by design is the iLiad by iRex. Yes, it runs Linux and you can install third-part programs. And, yes, it costs a little more, but if you value your freedom (and your books) it's more than worth it.

      Disclaimer: I don't work for iRex, I'm only an happy customer.

  • Legally, how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SkankinMonkey (528381) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:42PM (#28735923)
    This seems extremely shady legally. You bought and paid for something. Electronic or not, how do they have the right to take it away from you? I could MAYBE understand if it was a subscription-based service in which you had access to a collection, but for them to take this away from someone who specifically bought the book seems legally dubious at best.
    • Re:Legally, how? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:45PM (#28735961)

      This happens all the time (the Major Leage Baseball deletions, Microsoft's older DRM, etc). The difference here is that Amazon was generous enough to refund the price; usually the company just keeps it because "all sales are final".

      Personally I think they should be banned from using the word sale; indefinite rental is more accurate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "All sales are final" makes me think that they couldn't do this. If the sale is final, then how can the negate it!?

    • Re:Legally, how? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by whterbt (211035) <m6d07iv02@sneakemail.com> on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:52PM (#28736031)

      It's because you paid money for access to DRM-protected content. You didn't buy shit. It's their device (you paid money for the use of it), their content (you pay a fee to get to view it). At no time did they actually give you anything.

      It's just like a DVD. What are you paying $20 for? Is it for the right to view the content? If it were, then you should be able to get a cheap replacement when the disc fails, right? Well if it's not that, then you paid for the copy of the movie, I suppose? But then, why can't you make a copy?

      Pay money for DRM'd content and you'll get exactly what they want to give you - smoke and mirrors.

  • by Snaller (147050) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:42PM (#28735931) Journal

    How can there still be a copyright on this?

    No wait - politicans of course.

    But more to the point SHOULD there be a copyright on something from that long ago?

    And if someone says it is public domain, how can they not only sell it but also deny people right to use it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:45PM (#28735963)

    Please, oh, please, Kindle owners sue! This would make for an interesting case. If the property in question were concrete like a lawn mower that I purchased at Home Depot, HD decides they want it back so they pull it from my back yard but credit my account isn't that still theft? I'm dying to see what is made of this.

    I can see Amazon no longer allowing it to be purchased for download but actively pulling content that has already been purchased and downloaded sounds criminal.

    • by brusk (135896) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:15PM (#28736241)

      If the property in question were concrete like a lawn mower that I purchased at Home Depot, HD decides they want it back so they pull it from my back yard but credit my account isn't that still theft?

      In this case it seems that Amazon didn't actually have the rights they needed to sell it to you in the first place. A better analogy would be if you bought a used car, then the dealership came back to you and said, "it turns out the car we sold you was stolen, and we had no right to sell it to you in the first place. Here's your money back." Yeah, that would suck, but I don't see any alternative (under the current legal regime).

      If Amazon sold the product without having had the rights to it in the first place, and they don't recall it in this way, they're liable to be sued by the copyright owners. It's not (apparently) a matter of them arbitrarily deciding that the value had gone up and changing their minds.

      • by Aladrin (926209) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:22PM (#28736307)

        I think it's important to note that in your analogy, the alternative to giving back the money for the stolen car is to just take the car and not give you the money. That could actually happen.

        In this case, could that happen as well? Yes, I think it could.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by brusk (135896)
          In that case I think what would happen is that the rightful owner of the car could take back his/her vehicle, and you could turn around and sue the dealer who wrongly sold it to you. You'd have a pretty good case, too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jra (5600)

        Well, that's pretty much Amazon's problem, now isn't it.

        Look up First Sale Doctrine, but more importantly, Holder In Due Course. If you had no reason to believe the transaction was encumbered, then you're not liable for anything the seller did.

        And a Reasonable Man wouldn't expect bad behaviour from Amazon...

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:30PM (#28737363)

          If you had no reason to believe the transaction was encumbered, then you're not liable for anything the seller did.

          If you had no reason to believe the goods were stolen, you won't wind up in jail either, but you'll still have to give the goods back. The legitimate holder's rights come first. This principle is particularly important when it comes to copyright, because otherwise a single infringing copier could effectively negate an entire copyright, while not having anything close to the resources to fairly compensate the legitimate copyright holder for the resulting damage.

  • by basementman (1475159) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:47PM (#28735975) Homepage

    Who would buy a book from a publisher and sales person who think it's okay to sell you DRM crap and then take it away on a whim when you can get those exact same books legally, and for free?

    Animal Farm: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100011.txt [gutenberg.net.au]

    1984: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt [gutenberg.net.au]

  • by Dr_Ken (1163339) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:52PM (#28736023) Journal
    For stuff you really want to have access to permanently.
  • by digitalderbs (718388) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:57PM (#28736057)
    I was quite surprised when an automatic update for a copy of the Stand (Stephen King) was pushed onto me, without my consent and without notification as to what had changed. Backup copies aren't hard to make. But who owns the copy? Does Amazon own my Kindle? Do I not have a right to refuse an update?
    • by hannson (1369413) <hannson@gmail.com> on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:51PM (#28736581)

      Better yet, imagine this:

      The year is 1984 in a dystopian future, in a repressive, totalitarian state. Historical facts and documents have been rewritten and revised so many times that even the correct year is uncertain. Posters of the ruling Party's leader, "Amazon", bearing the caption AMAZON IS WATCHING YOU, dominate the city landscapes, while two-way Kindles (the e-book reader) which dominate the "private" and public spaces of the populace are being re-written at Amazon's will to change facts, censor illegal words or to delete/burn ebooks that get in the way of its propaganda...

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:00PM (#28736085) Journal

    Back on the Xanadu project we called the single-server model for content the "Library of Alexandria" problem: A disaster wiping out the server (and its backups), like the burning of the Library of Alexandria when, for many works, it contained the only (or or one of very few) copies, permanently removes the documents served by that repository from the literature. (The solution is the "multiple record" - mass printing of dead-tree books prior to automation, broad distribution of the immutable content and versioning information in the case of an "electronic literature".)

    Of course centralized and mutable serving of content also enables, and greatly simplifies, the "rewriting of history" described by Orwell in the two books in question. So it is particularly ironic that these are the ones that were pulled.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#28736127) Homepage

    The fine print in the EULA probably allows for this, but this is certainly not in the spirit of good and normal commerce and is probably actionable under several state laws and possibly even federal laws.

    I have to wonder if this "retraction" of books isn't merely an irony, but an action taken to call attention to certain issues?

  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:09PM (#28736179)

    Your books are now 'unbooks'. They don't exist. They never existed.

  • suckers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:11PM (#28736205) Homepage
    Oh dead tree books are so obsolete, even though they are cheap, last longer than I ever will, can't be altered from a distance, and don't need electricity! Same with CDs, DVDs, and other durable backup media that can't be taken from me and don't depend on some here-today-gone-tomorrow license server! And land lines! Who needs them when we have such fickle and expensive cell phone service with far less coverage!

    You know, it's one thing to be a Luddite, and quite another to stay with reliable, cheap, and fully functional technologies until the newer alternatives truly surpass them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      You could always just download an "illicit" copy, and read it for free... IMO (but YMMV) you have a moral right to do so if you have purchased the dead tree edition in readable condition.

  • by SoVeryTired (967875) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:25PM (#28736329)

    Vote with your wallets. *Do not buy kindles*.
    If you own one and are sickened by this, sell it second-hand for 4/5 of the price. This, more than anything, will hurt Amazon. Let them know why you're reselling/refusing to buy, too.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:25PM (#28736341)

    I'm amazed at this. Not that some company wanted them to do it; but that Amazon did it. All comments about "big, evil corporations" aside - are they trying to kill the Kindle? Don't they see what a PR nightmare this could be?

    Why on earth should I buy an expensive electronic book reader from them, EVER, when they've just demonstrated that I might have my legally-purchased books deleted at any time?

  • Never! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charan (563851) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:36PM (#28736455)
    What are you talking about? Amazon has never sold copies of 1984 or Animal Farm in digital format, and to suggest otherwise is treasonous.
  • only pirates win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:36PM (#28736465) Journal

    If I were one of the customers who had my book deleted, then I would feel entitled--even compelled--to download a DRM-free copy from the internet.

  • by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:04PM (#28737579) Journal

    I think Amazon did the right thing and according to their official response [amazon.com]:

    Amazon Kindle Customer Service says:
    "These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future, books will not be removed from customers' devices in these circumstances."

  • by chicago_scott (458445) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:19PM (#28737661) Journal

    This is a pretty amazing story. In the Digital Age a distributor fells that they are allowed to invade an electronic device that you own, steal a copy of digital media that you own and force you to accept a refund for something that YOU own.

    Let's imagine this happened thirty years ago, or even ten years ago for that matter. A book store sells a book to you and for whatever the publisher decides they don't want to sell the book to you and must have it back. The publisher must now trespass onto your property, break into your house, steal your book, leave a cash refund on your table and then leave your property without any one noticing just to get the book back. A crime has now been committed; namely trespassing, breaking and entering and theft.

    Both of these scenarios are exactly the same, except that in today's scenario the book is in a DIGITAL format, which for some magical reason means that a publisher can trespass onto your property and steal something that you own.

    In what other context, except the digital context, would behavior like this be tolerated or acceptable, and not to mention legal?

  • in newspeak (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:36AM (#28738309) Journal
    On 17 07 2009, 12:57 PM, NYT column "Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others" thoughtcrime describes doubleplusgood Amazon goodthink protection of rightsholders interests in thoughtcrime prolefeed "1984" and "Animal Farm" by online rectify of Kindle Minitrue prolefeed device. Rightsholders have pubclear for said prolefeed, Amazon has noclear for publication. Amazon goodthink heroes send online rectify to all Kindle infected by thoughtcrime revs of 1984 and Animal Farm. Commendation from Minitrue to Amazon for goodthink online rectify. Increased chocolate supply and Victory Gin for all Amazon inner party execs and commendations to involved Amazon employees in online rectify solution.

    All hail Big Brother.

    RS

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

Working...