The controversy surrounding Amazon’s deletion of George Orwell Books has now led to a lawsuit against the company. The suit was instigated by a Michigan High School student who was reading 1984 for an AP English class. The basis of the suit is that Amazon didn’t just remove the book from his Kindle, but it also ruined his homework assignment and ability to perform in class. Since he only used the Kindle for reading the book, all of his notes were in the form of annotations added to the eBook.
Interestingly, the annotations themselves did not seem to get deleted. They are, however, completely useless without the passages they are referring to. His notes say things like “this paragraph” or “this section.” Since they are linked to indexing that refers to a now non-existent data file, the lawsuit claims they are completely unsalvageable. I think this is an interesting angle for the suit to take. In a way, Amazon is technically leasing books and retains the rights to do things like remote deletion. User created annotations, however, can’t be said to be owned by Amazon in any way. Perhaps that’s why they weren’t removed along with the books.
So far, a man from California has also jumped on board as a plaintiff and the suit is moving towards class-action status. That’s rough news for Amazon, who has already been faced with another class-action lawsuit this summer. Amazon has already made promises to avoid book deletion practices in the future, but they have been met with some skepticism.