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

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

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  • haha (Score:5, Insightful)

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

    fuck kindle. buy real books and support real trees

  • With DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

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

    You always lose. This is just another example.

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Legally, how? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#28735993)

    No, all product recalls are strictly voluntary.

    You're dumb if you don't participate in a recall, though, because you /are/ compensated or given a safer/better-working/improved product in return.

    This is not a recall.


  • by Dr_Ken ( 1163339 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:52PM (#28736023) Journal
    For stuff you really want to have access to permanently.
  • Re:Legally, how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whterbt ( 211035 ) <> 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.

  • In the US, you can thank Disney for copyrights being extended to death of author plus seventy years. Orwell died in 1950. For corporate authorship, it is 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier

  • Re:Legally, how? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by djmurdoch ( 306849 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#28736129)

    Not even DRM'd stuff from iTunes can be remotely deleted or disabled, just prevented from being downloaded again.

    Didn't you just get that iTunes update? It fixed this problem. (Not really, of course. It'll be the next update that does.)

  • 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.
  • Re:haha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:05PM (#28736145)

    Yes! Woo hooo! Ground up! Dismembered! Pulp!

    At least I can be relatively sure Barnes & Noble won't break into my house and steal my copy of 1984 simply because their agreements have changed.

    Yes, even if they leave money on the nightstand I still consider it stealing.

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

    by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:07PM (#28736157)

    The relevant part:

    Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

    They contradict themselves with the use of "permanent copy" and "will be deemed licensed to you". If you read that last line, it doesn't even make sense. "It will be deemed licensed to you unless otherwise provided by Amazon"? That's poor grammar at best. I think what they mean to say is, "You get the license unless we take it back," but that's not what they've written.

    Regardless, whether to force someone to sell you something is legal under their "terms of service", it's bad business. As this story grows, I can see e-bay piling up with Kindles.

  • by bitrex ( 859228 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:08PM (#28736175)
    In the case of music copyrights, one can also thank the Gershwin estate [] among others for lobbying on behalf of copyright extension - Gershwin's music is big business and the copyright holders would like to make sure that American Airlines (as one past example) would have to keep paying large sums of money for the rights to use "An American in Paris" for as long as possible.
  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:09PM (#28736179)

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

  • Re:Legally, how? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:09PM (#28736181)

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

  • 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.
  • by KTheorem ( 999253 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:12PM (#28736213)
    Nineteen Eighty-Four has a very noticeable anti-censorship/information destroying bent to it. This is ironic because it's a coincidence that Nineteen Eighty-Four is the book being removed and it is contradictory in that one of the messages of the book is that information should not be removed which is humerus because it is so obviously going to attract bad publicity when it could have been avoided (yay for schadenfreude).
  • Re:Legally, how? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lucif3r ( 1391761 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:15PM (#28736239)

    As this story grows, I can see e-bay piling up with Kindles.

    I think you greatly overestimate the overlap between 1984 fans and Kindle users. Most (if not all) people unaffected will ignore this in a "...and then they came for me" type of ignorance.

  • 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 Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:23PM (#28736323) Homepage
    In the USA Copyright lengths are very simple. Anything older than Mickey Mouse is public domain and everything else is still copyrighted.
  • 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?

  • It's a safe bet that they'll extend copyright again just as Mickey Mouse is looking like public domain.

    You guys in the US won't have a public domain to speak of in a few years.. it'll all be owned by the great grandchildren of once famous authors - the new ruling elite.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:suckers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:44PM (#28736535) Homepage Journal

    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 Pitr ( 33016 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:54PM (#28736613)

    Um... NO!

    If I buy something, and it's recalled (obviously we're not talking about food or other perishables) it's mine. It's been sold. Except where it's stolen or other specific cases, it can't be reposessed from me. A book that was printed without permission? Cops aren't coming to my door to get it back. It's mine. The problem, and why it's absolutely NOT ok is that with DRM and remote kill options you can take it back, which by some views is or should be completely illegal.

    There are so many vague laws surrounding virtual items that the waters are cloudy on a good day. If you take a CD it's stealing, if you copy an MP3 it's copyright infringement (because you can't "take" it, only "copy" it). Same w/ books, but when you *buy* something you have ownership of it. Media companies want to maintain ownership and only sell you "licences" which can be revoked at any time. This is where it becomes a slippery slope. Take a page (real or virtual) from one of the books from the article. Want to suppress info? You don't need to "burn books" anymore, just a system wide revoke and delete. Done!

    It seems like a paranoid point of view, and that the slippery slope is still on the other side of the field, and you might say, "oh, well I understand their reasoning", fine, but they still shouldn't have the *ability* to have done it. That's the issue.

  • by bazald ( 886779 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:55PM (#28736619) Homepage

    I agree that people need to get this right.

    The strong atheist says "There is no god / There are no gods."
    The weak atheist says "I don't believe in any god(s)."
    The strong agnostic says "It is impossible to know anything about the existence of god(s)."
    The weak agnostic says "I am uncertain about what to believe."

    Strong and weak agnosticism are both compatible with weak atheism and incompatible with strong atheism.

  • by brusk ( 135896 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @07:57PM (#28736637)
    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.
  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @08:07PM (#28736731)

    And amuzingly, I notice from reading the linked Amazon comments, it seems to be the Amazon 'distributed' version of the pocketmobi books that were yanked.

    You could have been unintentionally 'right' that they aren't avalaible in the sense that the items I linked may be also 'illegal'.

  • by dimeglio ( 456244 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @08:15PM (#28736787)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @08:33PM (#28736947)

    They are legally published by Project Gutenberg Australia [] (see: George Orwell []). Depending on how sane is copyright law in the country where you live it may be illegal for you to read them, and/or you may be legally allowed to buy a DRMed copy and convert it to a non-DRMed format.

    And so, if you could get it for iRex, you could get it for Kindle from the same source!! No one forces you to buy DRM books. I have a kindle, and to date I refuse to purchase DRM-encrusted crap. That doesn't make Kindle any less of an ebook reader.

  • Re:haha (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thrawn_aj ( 1073100 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @08:49PM (#28737071)

    No, it doesn't work like that. You don't get to sit there being a smug little shit demanding that someone prove themselves without actually doing shit to prove YOUR point.

    If your so goddamn certain of your factual correctness why dont YOU bring something to the table contradicting him?

    Misplaced indignation. He was neither smug nor demanding that GP prove himself. When someone (GP in this instance) makes such a blanket claim that is clearly simplistic if not entirely wrong ("It's old growth forests that go into books") asking politely (linking to XKCD is not the mortal insult some may think it is *sigh*) for a citation is hardly something to get so worked up over.

    Being snippy for no reason is rather bad form and goes a long way toward lowering your credibility.

    To GP: I would mod rainforests as -1 overrated (good source for exotic diseases though - keeps the biologists on their toes).

  • by Quothz ( 683368 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:01PM (#28737149) 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 strongly considered one, but this pushed me back from the brink. The guy whose Kindle account got arbitrarily canceled a while back made me wary, but Amazon at least repented quickly and made it right. This demonstrates that they still truly consider our purchases to be their property. Unless they drastically revise their terms, or someone with reasonable terms starts selling a good reader, I'm'a stick with stupid dead trees.

    It's sad that Amazon fucked this up: Ebooks have the potential to be a huge boon to the environment while simultaneously making books cheaper and more convenient to buy.

  • 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.



    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 SirGeek ( 120712 ) <sirgeek-slashdot ... rg minus physici> on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:11PM (#28737605) Homepage

    Oh no.. Watch the movie "Naked Space" [] With Leslie Nielsen, Patrick MacNee, and Cinty Williams.

    The highlight of the movie is an alien singing "I'm going to eat your face."

  • 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?

  • by jayspec462 ( 609781 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:29PM (#28737735) Homepage
    I'm with you. I have a good friend who loves his Kindle. He let me try it out, and it just felt awesome. But after this, I've gone from 90% certain that I'd purchase it when I had the money to spare, to 100% absolutely, positively certain that I will not purchase this, or any similar device, ever. Congratulations, Amazon!
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:01PM (#28737879) Journal

    why can't anyone get this right? they are mutually exclusive opinions

    They are not. A person who believes there is no god may also believe that there is no way to prove it. In fact, that describes most atheists. No atheist will tell you he can prove definitively that there is no god.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:04PM (#28737889) Journal

    Second I don't have any problem with hardware or software that allows me to read/listen/watch DRMed formats (e.g.: mplayer allows me to watch DVDs, that ok).

    Sure, no one minds DRM when it's cracked.

  • by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:09AM (#28738177)


    Seriously - when Ralph Bakshi did that first version in the 70's, it SUCKED.

  • Re:haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Repossessed ( 1117929 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:34AM (#28738301)

    um what?

    Why would I use old growth wood (which is expensive due to demand for good quality wood) when I can use cheap young growth wood (either from farms or recent growth in forests).

    It makes no economic sense at all to use anything but scrap for paper.

  • by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:50AM (#28738365) Homepage
    So you wouldn't mind at all if I downloaded your Libreria project, stripped off the GPL v3 headers, tossed my own name on it, wrapped it in a GUI and sold it for a profit? Just sayin'...
  • 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.

  • by koxkoxkox ( 879667 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:18AM (#28739899)

    Let's not forget that in this particular case, the artist producing the original work died more than 59 years ago.

  • by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @10:04AM (#28740457) Homepage

    You're just noticing this? Online news has been doing this forever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#28740985)

    And that's what's wrong with our culture: any kind of thought that isn't short, or sensationalist, or peppered with bold and FREE is mocked. Fuck you.

  • Re:All Geeks Unite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:10PM (#28741355) Homepage Journal

    As a case in point. Go all the way back to the early '70s and suggest to any adult you find that in just a little over a decade their insurance company will have the authority to tell them to change doctors at will and that people will accept that. Just listen to them laugh at you and call the loony bin (on a conveniently located payphone).

  • by sjdude ( 470014 ) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:08PM (#28745171)

    But the evil was in the publisher not the technology provider.

    Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on this. The Right Thing for Amazon to do was to tell Penguin they would be willing pull the book from future sales. If Penguin have a legal issue with having published something they shouldn't have, then Penguin should go settle with the injured party and not ask Amazon for help by reneging on sales that had already been made. In this case, it is Amazon who are evil. Penguin, if they erred, should pay the price, not Kindle owners.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.