Update On Amazon Book Deletion

There are two major updates to the story about Amazon deleting George Orwell books from customers’ Kindles.

First off, the reasons for the deletion have become more clear.  The books were added to the Kindle store by MobileReference, a company which focuses on the publication of works already existing in the public domain.  While Orwell’s works are public domain in most countries that MobileReference sells in, they still fall under copyright in the US.  Which just so happens to be the only country where Amazon sells the Kindle.

A complaint was made to Amazon by the copyright owners.  Amazon caved to the publisher’s pressure and, since their sales of the books were never legal to begin with, retroactively un-purchased every copy.  There actually seems to be some debate as to whether this violates the Kindle’s license agreement.  For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the agreement doesn’t leave room for Amazon to take away already purchased books.  Such speculation is most likely pointless, however, since the illegality of the Orwell books distributed probably skirts around the terms of use and Amazon wouldn’t have done the deletions if their lawyers hadn’t cleared it in the first place.

The second piece of news is that Amazon is claiming this will not happen again.  The company issued a statement, sent as an Email to various tech publications.

We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.

It’s good to see that Amazon is reacting to the negative reaction they have received.

6 thoughts on “Update On Amazon Book Deletion

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  2. This also brings up a point about the copyright law in the US. Why are books that are already in the public domain in the rest of the world still copyrighted in the US? As usual, the US Congress seems to be working for the corporations instead of its citizens, profit over the well being of its citizens.

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  4. Avi, different countries have different lengths on copyrights, I believe that in the US it is currently ‘lifetime of the author + 95 years’

  5. Copyright is a complicated affair. In the US depending on how the work was written, it is 75->95 years after the author dies. In Australia it is 50 years after the authors death. In many countries of Europe it is similar to the US at 70 years past the date of death (so it is still covered til 2020.) In Australia and other Asian countries it is 50 years after the date of death so went into the public domain in 2000. And other countries have no concept of Public Domain in their laws which means the status after copyright lapses is uncertain.

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