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Student Suing Amazon For Book Deletions

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the incident-that-will-not-stay-down-the-memory-hole dept.

The Courts 646

Stupified writes "High school student Justin Gawronski is suing Amazon for deleting his Kindle copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four (complaint, PDF), because doing so destroyed the annotations he'd created to the text for class. The complaint states: 'The notes are still accessible on the Kindle 2 device in a file separate from the deleted book, but are of no value. For example, a note such as "remember this paragraph for your thesis" is useless if it does not actually reference a specific paragraph.' The suit, which is seeking class action status, asks that Amazon be legally blocked from improperly accessing users' Kindles in the future and punitive damages for those affected by the deletion. Nothing in Amazon's EULA or US copyright law gives them permission to delete books off your Kindle, so this sounds like a plausible suit."

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646 comments

1984 (5, Insightful)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897653)

What class has 1984 as required reading and where can I sign up?

Re:1984 (5, Insightful)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897679)

We read that book in my HS english class as well. I'm surprised that you're surprised by that.

Re:1984 (4, Interesting)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897729)

I grew up in a conservative rural area, maybe it's different elsewhere.

This was the kind of place where the parents got mad when teachers had grade schoolers read Harry Potter.

Re:1984 (0, Troll)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898199)

Sounds religious which may mean republican which, if they'd stuck to their guns, would definitely have 1984 required as it is a book against big government. Sadly, religion and republicanism came closer than they doth want, and made both mad.

Re:1984 (5, Informative)

stainless-steel-vash (1290528) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897781)

Not all schools have it as required reading. I read it on my own while in High School, and currently re-reading it. We were assigned Brave New World, but not 1984. Kind of odd. I wonder, when this goes to court, will it be tried in Room 101? And if he loses, will he be deleted, or re-educated.

Re:1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897881)

Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia!!!

Re:1984 (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898085)

My high school actually had it on the curriculum alongside Brave New World, but removed it the year before I was supposed to read it. Of course, in 8th grade my English teacher asked me to read it for extra credit, after she got permission from my father to allow me to read it.

Re:1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898125)

How old are you? I want to know when this happened. Permission from your father? Egads.

Re:1984 (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898243)

after she got permission from my father to allow me to read it.

And that right there is why our education system is so fucked up.

Re:1984 (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898327)

It shows in the updated reading list that your school has never read 1984 and has always been assigned I Am the Cheese.

Re:1984 (4, Funny)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897717)

Any class that leads into a career in politics.

Only it's not "required reading" per se, more like a text-book.

Re:1984 (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897941)

I'm a "victim" of the NYC Board of Education, and even we had "1984" in High School. We also had "The Stranger" and "Candide" due to an exceptionally liberal English teacher.

Re:1984 (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898057)

I did as well. We were given a choice between 1984, The Color Purple, or some other book I can never remember (it was along the same lines as The Color Purple)

I'm glad I had a choice. 1984 was a great book.

Re:1984 (1)

FridgeFreezer (1352537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898189)

In the UK it's one of the commonly used texts - my final GCSE project I compared 1984, Brave New World and Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers ;)

Eh? (1)

Vortexcycle (1600003) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897657)

Why do I get the feeling Dad was a Lawyer? Or he's going into pre-law?

Nope, just an opportunistic american. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897721)

As a country, they're litigation happy. As a teenager, he's probably lazy and opportunistic. Put the two together ...

Re:Nope, just an opportunistic american. (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897845)

he's either got a lawyer in the family or money (or likely both). i was plenty opportunistic growing up but we didn't have a dime to spend on litigation, no matter what the likelihood of success.

Re:Nope, just an opportunistic american. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897959)

As a country, they're litigation happy. As a teenager, he's probably lazy and opportunistic. Put the two together ...

or maybe he is willing to stand up and fight for his rights, and the rights of others. There is a reason why Slashdot isn't in German. Godwin!

Fuck the kindle (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897671)

and fuck e-books

Re:Fuck the kindle (0, Redundant)

kill-1 (36256) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897839)

Yeah, fuck e-books. What is an e-book anyway? Just another file format. So fuck .txt files and fuck HTML.

This is really freakin' cool (5, Insightful)

TofuMatt (1105351) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897675)

As cool as Amazon can be, this was a lame move by them from many perspectives, and I hope this guy wins the case. Perhaps it could set a precedent against deleting data from users' devices in general.

Re:This is really freakin' cool (5, Insightful)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897863)

.... or another reminder to make sure to add every possible clause to the EULA so the vendor can do whatever they like.

Re:This is really freakin' cool (5, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898273)

Won't work. If a contract is one-sided, with a huge benefit to one party but little benefit to the other ("fair exchange"), a judge will typically null the contract (in this case, a EULA).

Re:This is really freakin' cool (4, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898137)

Perhaps it could set a precedent against deleting data from users' devices in general.

Or perhaps it could set a precedent which cements Amazon's legal right to do these things. I would certainly hope not, but it's possible. The government hasn't exactly been pro-consumer during the past few decades.

Re:This is really freakin' cool (1)

netruner (588721) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898311)

Let's think about this - is Amazon the kind of company that would intentionally incite a class-action lawsuit for the purpose of setting legal precedent against the type of actions it performed?

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but having this whole mess center around "1984" is a pretty big coincidence.

In any case - Release the hounds!

Derivative work (5, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897677)

Given the other absurdities of copyright law, and how the RIAA's lawyer think that disappearing purchases are normal in every area of life, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lawyer claim that the annotations are in fact a derivative work of the book, and that since Amazon had no right to sell the book, then the student had no right to create the annotations.

Also, there's probably some boilerplate legal language included with the Kindle that says they are not responsible for data loss, etc., or if it kills your grandmother or dog.

Re:Derivative work (5, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897957)

Also, there's probably some boilerplate legal language included with the Kindle that says they are not responsible for data loss, etc., or if it kills your grandmother or dog.

This isn't data loss. This is intentional destruction of data -- quite a different story.

boilerplate is simple posturing, usually worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898059)

its just there to scare the sheeple into inaction

Re:Derivative work (4, Insightful)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898319)

Unless or until copyright law mentions a difference, electronic products should be treated similarly to existing products which they claim to mimic. In this case, Amazon should have notified it's customers before recalling the books. If Amazon intends to recall by deletion, they most certainly should inform the users so that the deletion can happen at a time convenient to the customer. Burying a disclaimer in the TOS isn't a substitute since most TOS aren't written to be understandable and if I was the judge, wouldn't stand up in court unless they stated common sense, or practices that were already common. Deleting purchased software files from a customers computer is certainly not typical or expectable, unless you live in a country where books are seized an destroyed without warning. Can you imagine what would happen if Intuit suddenly deleted all existing copies of Quck Books? But, all legal issues aside, Amazon let a really big cat out of the bag. They immediately made competing products more attractive. And Kindle customers now know to make a backup copy.

Legal Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897687)

I don't even pretend to understand the convoluted mess that is 'the law', but it seems strange to me that he can sue for a SPECIFIC problem (destroying HIS notes) but he's seeking GENERAL damages via the class action status.

My $.02

They didn't have the right to sell it... (1, Interesting)

ex_ottoyuhr (607701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897693)

Amazon didn't know that it was still under copyright in the US, and didn't have the rights to sell it. When they discovered their mistake, they took it back -- removing the books and refunding the buyers' money. Damages paid to rights-holders are given to compensate for the fact that the violator can't remove every copy of the infringing product they sold; but in this case, they were able to. If this was anything except 1984, this wouldn't have been news at all.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (5, Insightful)

MattRC (1571463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897835)

"If this was anything except 1984, this wouldn't have been news at all." I completely disagree. Let's not give up the right to keep the information we buy entirely - it's bad enough that future generations may not own an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, or, potentially, ANY books/information that cannot be instantly taken away by certain companies or even the government or hackers. Sure, if there was some absolute guarantee that this would only happen in cases where a retailer sold something they did not have the right to sell, few people would care much. It's still bad, in that case, but the real worry is that, to pull a crazy hypothetical out of my *ss, Bush got re-elected for a 3rd term in the last election, decided to invade iran, invoked some war powers act to silence the media from complaining about it, and later started quietly pulling books from the virtual shelves ... books that might start dangerous thoughts. As crazy as it may sound, it's hardly crazy at all. People who want to do this exist - these types have been in power in various countries ... these types are IN power in some countries (N. Korea, anyone? And they're not alone - the media in Iran isn't all that free, is it?) In my opinion, this ability needs to be removed from the hardware - through the law. Simply having people complain enough that companies don't do this won't solve anything, backdoors will still exist.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (1)

Dullstar (1581331) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897843)

That's true. Honestly, I don't really know if Amazon is trustworthy, because I have no experience with them.

If this was anything except 1984, this wouldn't have been news at all.

However, I'm not 100% sure about the "If this was anything except 1984" part.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (5, Insightful)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897907)

If you illegally sold an item, you can be required to pay punitive damages, and you can even go so far as to notify the buyers, but taking back the product (recalling it) is reserverd only for true "stolen goods" and even then only in rare cases, and usually not for retail products. Counterfeit products are often reclaimed, but not valid products sold simply without license or copywrite.

Amazon should have paid the fine (if one was even imposed by the holder). By themsleves (and not thrhrough the action of a courth or dualy authorized agency) taking back this product, they have violated multiple premises in the doctrine of first sale, the commerce codes of the United States and likely multiple state laws, and the punishment for doing so should be significantly greater than the punishment would have been simply for the infringement.

The customers though no fault of their owen purchaesed legally this unlicenced product. They did not buy it out of a truck or through some black market where a crime might be inferred, but through a well known and trusted retailer. Refund of money alone is insufficient in this case as once the product has been sold, the contract of sale is completed, and the product is now OWNED by the customer. Should Amazon want it back, the CUSTOMER becomes the seller, and has every right to set their OWN price for the return. As a student, that electronic copy might be FAR more valuable to me than a physical copy, and even if Amazon offered to replace the elctronic copy with one that WAS authorized for distribution, if it was not compatible with the Kindle, and supported the same notes file taken by the student, then it would not have been an equal value replacement, and asking the student, who was the legal woner of that product, to accept an inferior replacement, even for free after refund, may still not equate to the value of his loss (which can easily be measured in man hours repeating his effort in another form of the book, and correcting and correlating all the notes already takes, using a fair labor rate).

...so they needed to obtain it ex post facto (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897943)

If they didn't have the right to sell it, and it's illegal to reposess such a work through legal means, then they need to pay the copyright owner for the copies distributed. The lawyers can hammer out an agreement which will make Jeff & Co. look just a little harder the next time they go publishing a work. Of course, since Amazon knows how many they sold, that will make it easy for the copyright holder to sue for damages based on statutory infringement should the talks break down

Why is this so hard?

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (-1)

edwardd (127355) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897945)

This is not about deleting the book as much as it is about his annotations. Regardless of anyone's position on deleting the book, Amazon should never have deleted the customers notes. Those notes were created by the customer, and should not have been subject to deletion.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (4, Insightful)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898023)

Really?

FTFS: The complaint states: 'The notes are still accessible on the Kindle 2 device in a file separate from the deleted book, but are of no value. For example, a note such as "remember this paragraph for your thesis" is useless if it does not actually reference a specific paragraph.'

It's a sad day when we don't even bother reading the SUMMARY any more.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898295)

You must be new here.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898041)

FTA --

Amazon didn't delete the file containing Gawronski's notes on the Kindle device. But since the book text "no longer exists, all my notes refer back to nothing,"

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (2, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897949)

Amazon didn't have the right to distribute the book, however, I don't believe they had the right to delete something off my device that I've already paid for. If they paid damages to the rightsholders, then those should have been paid on condition that they wouldn't be able to remove the book from the devices.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898017)

Amazon didn't know that it was still under copyright in the US, and didn't have the rights to sell it. When they discovered their mistake, they took it back -- removing the books and refunding the buyers' money. Damages paid to rights-holders are given to compensate for the fact that the violator can't remove every copy of the infringing product they sold; but in this case, they were able to. If this was anything except 1984, this wouldn't have been news at all.

Perhaps it would not have been news, but it should be. The problem with e-books is that they can be edited after the fact with no reliable way to know which version is the original. This makes practical the kind of altering of history talked about in "1984".

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (1)

Anonymous CowHardon (1605679) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898091)

If this was anything except 1984, this wouldn't have been news at all.

It would still be news, it just wouldn't be as much fun to talk about (endless references to "memory holes" etc.) -- not unlike the fact that the guy who made off with billions of other peoples' money is named Madoff.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898183)

Amazon didn't know that it was still under copyright in the US,

The book's only about 60 years old. Where do they think they are? Copyright lasts forever in the US.

Re:They didn't have the right to sell it... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898283)

How could you not know that a book written in 1949 is under copyright? Unless the author did something stupid like fail to renew the copyright or publish it without a copyright notice, it's not in the public domain unless it was published before 1923 or the author died before 1939.. The publication date misses by 26 years, and the death date misses by 35 years. It's not even marginally close....

I could believe that Amazon didn't check into their supplier to make sure they had obtained all the rights for the books they were selling, but I have a hard time believing that a copyright attorney of even moderate competence would mistakenly believe that 1984 was in the public domain.

Can they demand other items back? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897697)

I thought when I bought something from Amazon, that I owned it!

Re:Can they demand other items back? (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897923)

yeah, I miss the day and age when buying something meant it was yours. These days you buy a "license" to use something and ownership stays with the content creator and his or her descendants for at least a hundred years [copyright.gov] .

Re:Can they demand other items back? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897961)

They asked for that roll of toilet paper that I bought from them back.

Hrrm (0, Redundant)

SirEel (1604445) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897705)

Why was the copy of 1984 deleted? Any reason given at all? Also, this hardly needs to come to a law suit if amazon just gives him another copy (and say, credit to his account for books or whatever). Of course, that way there would be no fat paycheck in it for the guy. I am assuming that the notes can be reattached to a new copy of a book quickly and easy; but even if they can't surely it can be done by one of their tech guys?

Re:Hrrm (0)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897763)

The company that sold it didn't have the rights to it in the US. The legal publisher complained and Amazon pulled the book.

Re:Hrrm (5, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897817)

The company that sold it didn't have the rights to it in the US. The legal publisher complained and Amazon pulled the book.

Yes, but Amazon's solution to the "books" already sold may have been illegal.

For example, if they had sold a paper copy of 1984 illegally, they aren't allowed to burn down the house of anyone who purchased it. Certain actions remain illegal, despite the fact that they're address the copyright issue.

Re:Hrrm (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897905)

It's more akin to them sneaking into you house unnoticed, stealing just the book, leaving and burning it. Burning down the house would be like frying every Kindle that had it by forcing a large current from the batteries.

Re:Hrrm (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898067)

you know, now I have to wonder if perhaps it's really been someone from Target stealing my left socks all of these years?! it's all starting to make sense now...

Re:Hrrm (2, Informative)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898111)

This would still be illegal. "But I was just retrieving someone that I accidentally sold to him when I didn't have the right to. I left his money on the dresser when I took the book." is not a valid defense for breaking and entering.

Re:Hrrm (1)

SirEel (1604445) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897967)

Your analogy would stand better if they'd burnt out his kindle, however all they did was negate the existance of the book. Of course, given he had a license for life, whether they returned the price of the book or not, it amounts to theft. In a case like this, if the copyright holder of the book in question wants it removed like this, it should be up to amazon to agree terms with those that have a copy, as (certainly in this case) just giving them the price back is not really very helpful. Of course, the ideal situation (and how I'd love to see it set up legally) would be the company that produced the ebook being forced to purchase the rights to the book, and amazon forced to pay compensation for their negligence, so they are each in themselves the ones to lose out, rather than all the customers, who've done nothing wrong.

Re:Hrrm (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898015)

when is the last time a retailer sold an "illegal" paper copy of a book. the company that published it would have to invest a lot of money to print the copies and then go through the normal distribution channels where someone will probably ask a question as to why someone else is selling 1984. with the Kindle Amazon made it very easy to sell if you didn't have the rights to the book. just upload the book, sell and pay Amazon a commission. Very low cost of entry for people selling "illegal" copies

Re:Hrrm (4, Funny)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898061)

For example, if they had sold a paper copy of 1984 illegally, they aren't allowed to burn down the house of anyone who purchased it.

No, that's the procedure for when they sell a paper copy of Fahrenheit 451 illegally.

Re:Hrrm (0, Redundant)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898255)

For example, if they had sold a paper copy of 1984 illegally, they aren't allowed to burn down the house of anyone who purchased it.

No, that would be reserved for buyers of Farenheit 451.

Re:Hrrm (1)

Dullstar (1581331) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897917)

It can probably be done. An idea that has been tossed out by someone else is that Amazon didn't have the rights to sell it, which would make sense... but it's a bit extreme for anyone who was taking notes on it, so they probably shouldn't have deleted it.

Lesser of two evils? (5, Insightful)

redbeardcanada (1052028) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897723)

I get the feeling that this was a decision by Amazon based on what would cost them less. Either delete these and face user wrath, or let users who have the books keep them and settle monetarily with the copyright holder. I think they may have underestimated the true cost of losing reputation with their user base, lawsuit cost aside.

Re:Lesser of two evils? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897819)

Indeed, if they left the books on people's devices and were sued by the rightsholder for infringement, there'd be no guessing as to damages, since presumably they'd have a record of each improper distribution. It also doesn't sound "willful", but willful infringement is a slippery thing. Probably wouldn't be attorney's fees, either, since those are typically punitive I think, and this was clearly a mistake. It's not like this is a bittorrent situation where the rightsholder can say "but 8 million people COULD have downloaded it."

Re:Lesser of two evils? (2, Interesting)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897889)

I get the feeling that this was a decision by Amazon based on what would cost them less. Either delete these and face user wrath, or let users who have the books keep them and settle monetarily with the copyright holder. I think they may have underestimated the true cost of losing reputation with their user base, lawsuit cost aside.

Wrong, the correct answer is: "We will discontinue the sale, but we can not remove existing copies from a users' devices." Then raise a stink if the publisher tries to coerce them to do otherwise.

It's time for the Minute of Hate (4, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897725)

The irony that Orwell's 1984 describes "Children Heroes" who snitch on grown-ups is tasting sweeter with every passing moment.

Re:It's time for the Minute of Hate (3, Insightful)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898011)

The irony that Orwell's 1984 describes "Children Heroes" who snitch on grown-ups is tasting sweeter with every passing moment.

Except that our world is sliding closer and closer to a Brave New World than into 1984 (c'mon, it's 2009 already).
We as a people [in the western world] are taught to be complacent and kept in a "healthy" state of mind by being force-fed pleasure from a very early age.
There aren't the thought-police running around selectively re-educating people who go astray, no, instead we're sent to a shrink and spoonfed drugs until we're a normal, functioning member of society again. We're provided copious amounts of mindless drivel (reality TV) to appeal to our senses, while not really providing any benefit to us at all. Beyond that, sex is absolutely everywhere. Sure, it's frowned upon in some circles, but that doesn't make it go away, and there's more and more of it plasted on billboards, in magazines, in movies and television, every day.
Orwell's future is a relic of the Cold War, instead it is Huxley's vision of the future that is proving to be a reality, and that's not a good thing.

Re:It's time for the Minute of Hate (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898303)

Tell me, in all that self-righteous college-boy babble, is there any real message, or are you just showing off how Internet Cool And Smart you are?

What tripe. Cookie-cutter "I-Know-Why-Everyone-Else-Is-Stupid" blather.

No case (1, Interesting)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897737)

I don't think the guy has a legal leg to stand on. Amazon removed an illegal book, and the guy still has his annotations, useless or not.

Re:No case (4, Insightful)

Imagix (695350) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897893)

I disagree. The end user purchased the book in good faith and had absolutely no reason to even suspect that Amazon didn't have the US rights. What would have happened if Amazon had shipped physical books? Same sort of thing should happen. The end user still keeps the book, Amazon pays the appropriate damages to the rights-holders.

Re:No case (2, Interesting)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898297)

I disagree. The end user purchased the book in good faith and had absolutely no reason to even suspect that Amazon didn't have the US rights. What would have happened if Amazon had shipped physical books? Same sort of thing should happen. The end user still keeps the book, Amazon pays the appropriate damages to the rights-holders.

Your post brings up an interesting case. If someone buys stolen property in good faith, never believing that it was stolen then the police inform them, they have absolutely no right to keep it and in all likelihood will not get their money back.

Of course, an unauthorized-to-sell book isn't the same as stolen property so I have no idea whether or not the right to keep the product has any similarity.

Re:No case (1)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898001)

Correct. Amazon did not improperly access the Kindle. It sucks, but with digital technology, it is possible to recover stolen property, which is what Amazon did and should have done. Before the authorized American edition of the Lord of the Rings was published, a company called ACE publishing released an unauthorized printing in the US. There was no way to take back the books once they had been sold but rest assured the publishers would've if they could've. It's safe to say Tolkien would have been on board with that since he wrote gobs of personal letters to Americans who wrote him letters about his books. He wanted them to realize that he wasn't receiving a dime for the copy of the books they bought in America since there was no authorized American edition. When doubleday finally came out with one, most of those readers gladly purchased an additional copy of the authorized book. ACE gave a nominal sum to the publishers/Tolkien, but far short of what they had actually earned. The reader was just out twice. It's not the exact same situation and I understand that in Tolkien's case, the author was still living. But I think the two instances are more similar than different.

Re:No case (3, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898013)

Imagine someone purchased a car, and spent many hours customizing and tuning it. The seller then realized he shouldn't have sold the car, so he sneaks into the garage in the middle of the night, takes the car back, and leaves the added components and the cash for the original purchase price lying on the floor.

In this case, it is obvious that the seller acted improperly, and the buyer suffered a loss. The Amazon case involves data and copyrights rather than physical property, but the same principles should apply.

Re:No case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898253)

I had the almost exact same analogy in mind. The only difference is that the student does not have added components that he can attempt to *resell* to recover some of his losses. Instead, he's left with notations that once had value to him (in assisting with his school work), but have now been rendered completely useless. Furthermore, he has lost the time it took him to read and notate the book, and that's something that can never be recovered.

Re:No case (0)

g_adams27 (581237) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898093)

> I don't think the guy has a legal leg to stand on. Amazon removed an illegal book, and the guy still has his annotations, useless or not.

Why was the parent modded "funny"? He has a good point. You can debate and/or sue over whether Amazon should have (or legally could) remove your copy of "1984" from your Kindle. Whether or not you have notes that reference that book is beside the point. Granted, your notes may be of greatly reduced value if they contain phrases like "This is a really good paragraph", but still, I doubt you can go after Amazon for that.

What if you had a garden gnome stolen from your yard? You could prosecute the thief for the theft. You could not also go after him for $100,000 because "I buried a treasure in the yard and made notes to where it was buried. The notes told me to go to the gnome, turn west, and go 50 feet. Now that the gnome has been moved, my notes are useless!"

Reality check. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897767)

I hope amazon gets slapped with the "for the children" phrase publicly.

Otherwise, they're just going to go with the cheapest route, even if that means stalling in court till the kid's family runs out of money.

Luck (1)

fuscata (1406613) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897771)

Whoever tagged this story "goodluckwiththat" obviously doesn't understand the American legal system. Amazon is already feeling the effects of this, and they will have to pay lawyers to fight it. They'll settle for less than it would cost them. No luck involved.

Re:Luck (1)

StingRay02 (640085) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897895)

I read "goodluckwiththat" and wished it to the kid honestly. If there's any chance this sets a precedent for what can and can't be done with DRM'ed media, it's worth a shot. Wonder if he'll stick to his guns when they offer him a settlement. Cynicism tells me "No."

Re:Luck (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897955)

I would be surprised if you had ever been through a law suit. Generally speaking, it takes years and in the end only the lawyers get anything out of it.

Are Kindles a Good Idea??? (1)

Dullstar (1581331) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897777)

Wouldn't this not have happened except by the owner's fault if the person was using an actual copy of the book as opposed to a Kindle from Amazon?

Yeah, but... (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898103)

It was not the owners fault.

If you buy a book and lose it or toss it in the fireplace, that's your fault.

This is more like you buying a book and the bookstore realizing that they shouldn't have sold it to you, and taking it from you without your permission. They're the ones taking the action, so they're at fault.

Isn't an apology enough? (3, Interesting)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897833)

per the /. story [slashdot.org] i read 4 days ago

Re:Isn't an apology enough? (5, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897989)

No, it's not. What would be enough? Amazon restoring every last one of these people their copy of 1984, paying whatever they have to to the copyright owners to make it legal. If they then don't reclaim the rebates they sent out, they will have totally redeemed themselves in my eyes, but restoring people their books is the bare minimum.

Re:Isn't an apology enough? (1)

kingsack (779872) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898075)

IMHO, NO, an apology is not enough, at least in this case. This student clearly was reading this book as part of an academic course and had made notes that he needed as part of that coursework. By deleting the book Amazon rendered all of his labour valueless and may well have caused real and possibly irreperable damage to him as a result of his receiving a lower grade in the class being taken. At this late point restoring a copy of the book would likely not repair said damages as it would appear due the timing to have been a summer course that has probably ended. He had entered into a contractual relationship with Amazon to provide the product purchased and relied on the terms and conditions of said purchase to pursue his studies. In willfuly and egregiously breaching that contract Amazon should and hopefuly will be found liable for both consequential and punitive damages.

I hope he changes his thesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28897883)

I bet it will be better than whatever parroting was going to come out of his previous notes.

Now he gets a chance to project the future proposed by 1984 into a modern context and possibly make some points on the future of history in an electronic world.

This promises to be a more rewarding approach than whatever worthless vouchers and over-paid lawyers come out of the class action.

You get what you paid for (5, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 4 years ago | (#28897921)

And you paid for a device which was tethered to its master, which happened not to be you.

Factual and legal errors in the summary (1, Interesting)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898035)

Nothing in Amazon's EULA or US copyright law gives them permission to delete books off your Kindle, so this sounds like a plausible suit."

This is not true. The Kindle EULA states "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." But Amazon cannot grant rights that it does not have, and in this case Amazon did not have the right to sell the novel in the first place, which is why they were pulled. US Copyright law most definitely empowers courts to enjoin infringers to destroy or turn over copies of infringing material. There was no judgment in this case, but Amazon likely saw the writing on the wall and felt that using its control over the platform to remove the offending copies was preferable to paying a settlement to the publisher.

Imagine a physical book store that accidentally received a shipment of books meant for another store that had an exclusive deal with the publisher. If some of those books were sold before the mistake was realized, one possible remedy would be to recall the sold books, annotations and all. Normally of course the liability would be with the book seller and in the form of monetary damages rather than specific performance (i.e., return of the books). In this case, however, Amazon's control of the platform makes it easier to remove the books than a real-world recall (good luck recalling a book paid for in cash, for example).

Now, of course, the PR backlash has shown that the right choice would have been for Amazon to own the mistake and eat the loss of paying a settlement, but at the time Amazon made a judgment call that, if the publisher decided to play hardball, it would have to remove the copies eventually anyway as the result of an injunction. I think there is every reason to believe that Amazon will react differently to future mistakes.

A fool and his money... (0, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898063)

We are dealing with a high school kid who owns a kindle and was using it for school. While it is possible that kid actually earned the $500 to buy it himself, I'm probably not alone in finding that unlikely.

What a surprise that he found money to hire a lawyer as well. I wonder if he got around to actually reading a print copy of 1984 in the meantime, or if his school is going to let him skip the test while he waits for his lawyer to find a judge willing to hear his case.

Destroying context (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898167)

Could this case be a far worse precedent than Amazon move? Amazon is being sued because they "changed" something in a place that they (by licence?) could control, and the student created something that depends on how things used to be. What if i create annotations for my class based on i.e. current slashdot content or structure, and slashdot modifies it? Could be sued because my intellectual work lost its meaning?

Same as stolen property? (1)

Thruen (753567) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898185)

Would the distribution of 1984 in this case be the same as distributing any other stolen property? If that's the case, then Amazon wouldn't have the right to take it back (unless the contract between users and Amazon said they could) but the police could. I'm inclined to believe that this young man has a solid case, as would any other Kindle user who had purchased 1984. Amazon did something illegal, their users had no idea and really no way of knowing without doing more research than anyone should have to just to buy a book. I'm sure the US Courts will decide otherwise, but I think Amazon should be held responsible for everything that occurred because of their own illegal act, and therefore should have to pay damages in any scenario like this one. That's not to say they should have to pay everyone beyond the refund, but if it can be proven that more damage was caused by the removal of the book then yeah, users should be entitled to something.

That said, time to bash Americans. Fat, lazy, stupid, and everyone wants to sue everyone else for everything. Yeah, Amazon may have screwed this kid over, but data loss is something everyone should be prepared for today. It's still ultimately his own fault for relying on an electronic device, if it crashed and he lost his data he wouldn't have a right to sue then and he'd be in the same boat. This is just another case of one prick suing a bunch of other pricks, when really they're all wrong.

Every day I grow more ashamed of the citizens of my country. While I know not all Americans are bad, the vast majority have this false idea that they're better than everyone, entitled to more for less, and it makes us all look like shitheads. Look, we even think "American" means "US Citizen," forget about those other countries throughout the American continents.

Not only does Amazon EULA covers this, but (0, Offtopic)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898259)

it also gives them rights to insert a wide range of vegetables into their subscribers anuses... People should really read before clicking the NEXT/OK button.

Homework (2, Funny)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898291)

How many possible "ate my homework" jokes can we go for here:

"The Kindle ate my homework."

"Jeff Bezos ate my homework."

"If there is hope for my homework, it lies with the proles."

"We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of 1984. The users and readers have been cast out. And the poisonous weeds of note-taking have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Let each and every student rejoice!...We are one Amazon. With one will. One resolve. One cause. Our enemies shall read themselves to death. And we will bury them with their own Kindle! We shall prevail!" [too obscure? [google.com] ]

come on an chime in!

I had something similar to this happen to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898299)

I downloaded some music from a site that was giving out free music.
The RIAA came and took my computer and sued me.
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