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Amazon Offers To Return Pulled Orwell Ebooks

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the act-of-contrition dept.

Books 256

Back in July, Amazon faced public outrage over their decision to delete ebook copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindles of customers who purchased them. Shortly thereafter, CEO Jeff Bezos offered an apology, acknowledging that Amazon handled the situation in a "stupid" and "thoughtless" manner. Now, they're offering something more substantial: anyone who had an ebook deleted can now have it restored, apparently with annotations intact. Any customer who isn't interested in a new copy can get either an Amazon gift certificate or a check for $30.

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256 comments

damage (5, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320707)

I think that the damage has already been done. Amazon handled the situation poorly and when confronted about the situation took a lot more time to attempt to remedy the problem than was necessary to degrade their image.

Re:damage (0)

farrishj (1329519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320745)

Seeing as it's a big company, I can see the evolution of the response over time as both useful and considerable. Amazon does not want to lose business, but in a discount world that's hard to justify; however, loyalty matters when the bottom lines are all similar. So, in the end, saying (and proving) they are sorry is ultimately meaningful months later, when specifically it doesn't seem to be all that significant.

Re:damage (4, Informative)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320773)

No, it's not significant. I've worked for a few very large companies, larger than Amazon and apathy for the customer isn't acceptable no matter how big you are.

Yes, acknowledgment of the colossal stupidity of their decision months later is nice, but that doesn't resolve the bigger problems.
1) It takes months for Amazon complaints, even serious ones to reach a decision point and have action taken.
2) Amazon retains remote kill-switch features in the Kindle and they have shown their willingness to use it.

Re:damage (1)

farrishj (1329519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320805)

Point(s) taken. Although, why do you characterize it as 'apathy for the customer'?

Re:damage (4, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320851)

How else would you explain the 2 month time period that elapsed before a decision was made?

Both very large companies I have worked for in the past corrected decisions that affected the customer in hours, not months. When you do something hilariously stupid, you fix it immediately and ponder the ramifications later. That's just good business.

Re:damage (4, Insightful)

bhartman34 (886109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321065)

How else would you explain the 2 month time period that elapsed before a decision was made?

You may be over-simplifying the situation. The thing you have to remember here is that this wasn't a simple matter of Amazon shipping people the wrong color sweater. In essence, they shipped out stolen property. They were never free to just shrug their shoulders, say "Oops!", and pretend nothing happened. Their ebook business model depends on them rigorously defending the rights of IP owners. If copyright holders get the idea that anyone can just upload a copy of a work to Amazon without their permission, and start making cash off of it, the Kindle will fail. Of course, none of this is to say that Amazon handled the original situation well. What they probably should've done was to first make a statement about what happened, and then explain that customers should delete the books on their own, but if the user chose not to do that, it would be automatically deleted in an "update" after some predetermined date. (Of course, they would need to point to the part of the user agreement that allowed them to do this, but in this case, giving notice to users would've been the right thing to do, even if they weren't actually required to do it, legally.

But, as to the original question: The reason Amazon took so long to react after they made the mistake they did was simple enough to understand: There was undoubtedly some behind-the-scenes maneuvering with the copyright holder, and some bean-counting in terms of how much they could afford to pay out in credit should someone not want to re-download the book.

Re:damage (5, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321349)

In essence, they shipped out stolen property.

Not quite. If you (the customer) purchase stolen goods then you can lose them without compensation as they are returned to their rightful owner. I'm not sure the same is true if you purchase goods which infringe copyright.

They were never free to just shrug their shoulders, say "Oops!", and pretend nothing happened.

If they had shipped an infringing physical book, they would have said "Oops!" and simply paid damages to the copyright holder. They wouldn't break into the homes of all their customers and retrieve the books.

Re:damage (1)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321143)

How else would you explain the 2 month time period that elapsed before a decision was made?

The time it took Amazon to analyze the bad press. Kindle buyers are netizens - and pretty sophisticated ones, overall; the very demographic that read the stories about that incident. It took 'em two months to work out that their most likely customers know about the incident and are pissed.

Had it not hit pretty much every major tech blog and news site, I doubt Amazon would've bothered even apologizing. By now, they've likely noticed their numbers are not recovering and are trying another round of the damage control thing.

So not exactly apathy for the customer, IMO, but checking whether they could get away with apathy.

Re:damage (1, Insightful)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321279)

Azamon's CEO was quoted as saying "We'll return *our* property, *this time*, as long as you forget that we own you and keep giving us money in exchange for something that we may decide to take back at a later date..

Re:damage (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321439)

By now, they've likely noticed their numbers are not recovering and are trying another round of the damage control thing.

It's too late. It only takes one very conspicuously nasty action on their part to sour customers' attitudes. People who already have Kindles are pretty much stuck with them, but attracting new customers will be harder.

The fact that Amazon CAN swipe content off your device after you've bought it in good faith is damaging enough. The fact that Amazon has demonstrated that they WILL do so makes it worse.

This also brings up the inadequacy of their "cloud" model for storage of annotations etc.: if you have any content you want to keep, you had better handle storage yourself, because nobody else can be trusted. This principle, of course, goes beyond Amazon, but is brought into focus here. This means, of course, that although Amazon was an early starter with e-book readers, I would not be surprised if they were surpassed at some stage by some other (hopefully open-source?) product with more robust storage/backup options.

Re:damage (5, Informative)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321183)

The situation originated because Amazon did not have the legal right to distribute copies of 1984 in the first place. They refunded the purchase, but they could hardly turn around and knowingly redistribute illegal copies. I mean, you can rightfully criticize them for the original circumstance, but to be fair it may have taken them 2 months to acquire the rights to legally restore those copies.

Re:damage (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321297)

I doubt it took them two months to get around to 'protecting rights holders' whilst recovering something bought in good faith. Ultimately, everyone pretends that the customer is king; fairplay to Amazon for demonstrating clearly that this isn't so.

Re:damage (5, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321363)

Nobody is saying they should have redistributed the copies illegally.

The proper course of action would have been to never have a remote kill-switch in the first place. The fact that Amazon remotely deleted everyones copies of the copyrighted work did not remove their civil liability for copyright infringement. It might have made the copyright owner more palpable but had they chosen to sue Amazon, Bezos would have found himself none the safer.

From a simple customer fairness perspective, Amazon's customers purchased the book in good faith. Amazon should have no more right, let alone capability to forcibly take the book away than a brick and mortar store has to force you to return a physical book. If you buy a physical book from Barnes & Noble and it turns out that the printer didn't have copyrights to produce it, B&N doesn't call you demanding you return the book-they resolve the issue between the copyright holder and publisher behind the scenes.

Amazon should be no different.

Re:damage (3, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320861)

Something else that's been bugging me is the offer regarding user annotations. Are those supposed to be stored elsewhere because if they aren't amazon just gave away that they don't just have a killswitch but also keep watch on what you do with the kindle.

Re:damage (5, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320973)

My understanding is that the annotations are stored seperately and could indeed be accessed after the book dissapeared. The trouble is without the context provided by the exact version of the book they are meant to go with the annotations lose a lot of thier meaning.

So if amazon has restored the exact version of the book they killed then I don't see the annotations regaining thier context as too serious.

Re:damage (2, Insightful)

bhartman34 (886109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321103)

Something else that's been bugging me is the offer regarding user annotations. Are those supposed to be stored elsewhere because if they aren't amazon just gave away that they don't just have a killswitch but also keep watch on what you do with the kindle.

Your annotations are saved along with the electronic book, both on the Kindle and on Amazon's servers. A while back Amazon announced the online storage of annotations. I was actually surprised at first that annotations were caught up in the Orwell fiasco, considering that they're stored in files independent from the book itself. I can only assume that the original copyright holder put the squeeze on Amazon, claiming that the notes were "derivative works" or some such thing, and that since the users didn't have the right to the books, they didn't have the rights to the notes. Or else the copyright holder didn't want the user to retain clippings of the book.

IANAL, and I don't mean to imply that either of those are valid reasons to delete the notes from the Kindle, but I could see the copyright holder's legal counsel trying that kind of argument.In particular, I could see a lawyer looking at the Kindle's clipping capability and wondering just how much of a book you could save as a TXT file (or a series of files) that way.

Re:damage (4, Insightful)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321259)

A small vocal handful of people actually give a shit about this whole thing. The rest of us are happy with the apology from Bezos and the refund/restore of the book. They're not going to do this again.

Re:damage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29321311)

Lucky for you that people with a clue exist.

Re:damage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29321305)

If memory serves, the apology came days if not hours after the incident.

To me, the most disturbing fact is not that Amazon DID remove the content, but rather that they CAN. If it's possible for Amazon to blow away a file on my Kindle, what's preventing some kind of error or bug from accidentally deleting ALL of the files on my device? What's keeping some malicious attacker from doing the same?

That being said, you can pry my Kindle from my no-longer-ink-stained fingers.

Re:damage (5, Insightful)

SputnikPanic (927985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320757)

And Amazon also did the right thing by not going taking the typical non-acknowledgment position and instead admitting -- quite publicly -- that they screwed up big. I still have some problems with how Amazon does particular things (read: Kindle DRM), but it's refreshing to see a company fess up in no unequivocal terms when they do something that upsets their customers.

Re:damage (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321323)

It's meaningless though; Amazon are offering something more substantial.. they're gonna put things back to how they were before they started messing with you. woohoo! Gee thanks. All hail Amazon.

This is nothing more than an attempt to put the cat back in the bag but it's too late.

Something more substantial would be:
  * an enforceable (contract) guarantee that they're not going to trash the paying customers' rights at a moment's notice when someone asks them to in future. Anything less is just offensive.

Re:damage (5, Insightful)

Falcon4 (946292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320811)

And somehow, them actually doing the best-possible thing is "handling the situation poorly"?

Let's recap.
- Amazon automagically pulled books from peoples' Kindles that were unauthorized copies (sold, yes, but apparently not legally by the "publisher").
- Amazon provided everyone with a refund.
- People got pissed.
- Amazon's CEO apologized profusely in public and swore to make it right.
- Amazon put the books back even though they were never - and still aren't - entirely legitimate copies. Again... paid for, yes, but that's like paying zomgdownloadlimewirenow.com $9.95 a month to download songs (and viruses) through a scam copy of Limewire.
- People get free books.

Instead of:
- Amazon pulled books.
- People got pissed.
- Amazon craps out standard form-response of "that book wasn't legally purchased by the reseller" and refunds money.
- People sue Amazon.
- Amazon wins.
- Whine, whine, whine.

Somehow what Amazon actually did is considered being handled "poorly"?

Re:damage (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320887)

Somehow what Amazon actually did is considered being handled "poorly"?

instead of paying the proper royalties for having sold the book they decided to retroactively void a contract between Amazon and the consumer. Only now are they realizing what they have done and attempt to repair the damage the way they should have done in the first place.

Re:damage (1)

Falcon4 (946292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320943)

I think you're missing a key detail, that the books were pulled because the SELLER (that is: not Amazon) was selling the books illegally via Amazon. There were legit versions of 1984 being sold by other sellers on Amazon (or Amazon itself), but that particular version of the book was sold without authorization of the publisher...

At least, that's what I recall. Too lazy to go back and double-check the details when there seems to be only one person one missing the point...

Re:damage (0, Troll)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321097)

I think you're missing a key detail, that the books were pulled because the SELLER (that is: not Amazon)

no; I don't think that we're wrong because of that. There are two choices:

  1. this is Amazon's buisiness transaction in which case they are responsible for the sale and should make it good
  2. this isn't Amazon's buisiness transaction in which case they should not interfere.

If you are right, then Amazon has made a big tactical mistake. They turned on the DRM features too early. They have shown that there is no way no know if you have a Kindle book or not. At any time, Amazon can take it away. Compare that to a normal book, where, if you buy an illegal copy which is identical to the legal one and which you thought was legal, it is the person who copied it who has a problem. Not you.

This is a tactical, not strategic mistake, however. The only thing they did wrong was to delete a book early enough that there is still non-DRM competition. A feature like "remotely delete books" does not get created by accident. You can't risk using it without extensive testing that it will delete exactly the book that you want it to delete and no others. The FSF has been right all along; you can't trust DRM [gnu.org]. In some years, Amazon hope to be able do this kind of stuff and you won't complain because all their competition will do it at the same time too.

Re:damage (5, Informative)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321221)

I think you're missing a key detail, that the books were pulled because the SELLER (that is: not Amazon) was selling the books illegally via Amazon.

You are mistaken. The publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic version. The copies were sold legitimately from a publisher with the rights to do so. Linky [nytimes.com].

Re:damage (1)

bhartman34 (886109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321171)

Somehow what Amazon actually did is considered being handled "poorly"?

instead of paying the proper royalties for having sold the book they decided to retroactively void a contract between Amazon and the consumer. Only now are they realizing what they have done and attempt to repair the damage the way they should have done in the first place.

Granted, they didn't handle the situation well, but they also didn't void any contracts.

This is part of the terms of service which every Kindle user agrees to when they buy one:

No Illegal Use and Reservation of Rights. You may not use the Device, the Service or the Digital Content for any illegal purpose. You acknowledge that the sale of the Device to you does not transfer to you title to or ownership of any intellectual property rights of Amazon or its suppliers. All of the Software is licensed, not sold, and such license is non-exclusive. [Italics mine.]

The fact that the Orwell book was obtained illegally (i.e., without the rights holder's permission) means that that book was never a legitimate purchase. Users weren't entitled to keep it. This kind of thing doesn't operate on the Finders Keepers Principle.

Re:damage (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321339)

At the point of sale, everything was legal. Only afterwards did the seller have a change of heart.

Sales are customer-initiated. Once the sale has completed, no further action should take place unless the customer initiates further contact.

Re:damage (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321057)

'Somehow what Amazon actually did is considered being handled "poorly"?'

Yes. What gives some corporation the right to remove content from MY device? Oh, the draconian licensing agreement that comes with the Kindle! Which is why I have no interest in one.

Still, removing content from a user's device? I could see it if perhaps the device were somehow paid for by Amazon. But if I buy it, I don't want someone else removing my content.

Re:damage (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321127)

Yes. What gives some corporation the right to remove content from MY device? Oh, the draconian licensing agreement that comes with the Kindle! Which is why I have no interest in one.

So, you mention you don't own a Kindle, which means you weren't affected by this incident yet you're stomping your feet as if someone stole your big wheel. Odd behavior.

Still, removing content from a user's device? I could see it if perhaps the device were somehow paid for by Amazon. But if I buy it, I don't want someone else removing my content.

And you're forced to buy the Kindle how? It is possible to buy e-books to read on your PC, cell, etc. You have alternatives, so quit your bitching.

Re:damage (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321347)

So, you mention you don't own a Kindle, which means you weren't affected by this incident yet you're stomping your feet as if someone stole your big wheel. Odd behavior.

This is an example of someone having principles; they can be interested in the details, even when it doesn't affect them. You should try it. Free yourself from defending positions based solely on whether you benefit and consider what is right or fair.

Re:damage (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321209)

The bigger damage is that they've demonstrated that no matter what book you buy for it, they can take it away at any time and you're powerless to stop it. Paper copy is still the best option.

Re:damage (2, Insightful)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321239)

Let's be a little more fair with Amazon. They realized they screwed up *right away*. They were apologizing left and right and acknowledged they made the wrong call and its a pretty safe bet it won't happen again anytime soon (unless there's a court order, for instance, forcing Amazon's hand).

Understand what lead this to this:

1) The book was listed through Amazon by someone claiming it as a public domain work, which it was, in *Canada*.
2) Amazon sells said book, only later realizing that the "rights owner" selling the book did not have said rights, at least not in the United States.
3) Amazon makes a bad call, probably on advice of some legal department grunt, and makes a lot of people mad.
4) Amazon realizes that was the wrong call, but can't undo it without breaking the law so they apologize -- a lot -- and meanwhile negotiate with the real rights holder to put themselves into a position (now) where they can offer to replace the book.

Yes, mistakes were made, but they've been pretty honest and apologetic about them. If you can still hold a grudge after this, well then you're just a bit too bitter for my tastes. A 30 dollar check is more than generous, and probably more than you'd get as a class action settlement after the lawyers took their cut. Hell, for 30 bucks I'm wiling to bet you can buy the book in the new format and still have enough left over to go buy yourself some ice cream or something.

Really, what is there to still be mad about?

Yes, amazon still has a kill switch, but I think they've been sufficiently humbled to the point where we're very unlikely to see it ever used again. And while I dont love the concept, pretty much all DRM systems have them. Apple can do the same thing to your iPhone apps. Not only can they remove them from the App store, but they can actually reach out to your phone and tell your phone to delete the app. I could give other examples, but suffice to say, MANY people have this sort of power over the "digital property" you think you own but you're really just renting. It's a bitter pill, but you're just gonna have to swallow it. Know that companies are going to be very careful about how they use that power, at least, as a result of this incident and so you probably have nothing to fear.

Re:damage (3, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321417)

its a pretty safe bet it won't happen again anytime soon (unless there's a court order, for instance, forcing Amazon's hand).

Yes, amazon still has a kill switch, but I think they've been sufficiently humbled to the point where we're very unlikely to see it ever used again.

You've hit the nail right on the head here but have somehow not realised yet. There is a big problem that now that Amazon has demonstrated the existence of a killswitch, it opens the door for a court to order them to use it even if they don't want to themselves. The killswitch should *never* have been present in the first place. If this fiasco had happened with paper books then Amazon would have just paid damages to the copyright holder rather than breaking into everyone's homes and retrieving the books - that's exactly what they should have happened with the ebooks too.

Re:damage (3, Insightful)

rhizome (115711) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321445)

Really, what is there to still be mad about?

Begging the question a bit, aren't we? You assume that everything you laid out is the entire situation. However, just because you are satisfied with an apology and a mere statement of good intentions doesn't mean you're the arbiter of good sense. Maybe your standards are too low. "Mistakes were made" is a joke, you know...a satire on passive voice.

You give Amazon entirely too much credit and benefit of the doubt here. Some "legal department grunt?" You can't be serious.

Amazon could certainly have worked this out differently, also without breaking the law: they pay the rightsholders and leave existing copies in place. For a book like 1984, I think it's just as likely that a check for $30 for each copy sold, written to the rightsholders, would be as effective as all of this was. Maybe $50, but Amazon multiplied the number of people screwed by orders of magnintude here anyway.

As for your weak-ass "Welp, that's just the way it is. Best we get used to it, guys!" blather, consumers are allowed to have standards and I have no idea why you would want to dissuade them from expecting better than they got. It's almost like you're arguing that people just plain shouldn't have higher standards of behavior and quality than corporations. I don't think you know what you're talking about when you assert that Amazon has been "sufficiently" humbled, because where I'm sitting it's just the same old same ol'.

Re:damage (3, Insightful)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321381)

Amazon has given us all a great gift: a real-world object lesson on why DRM is anti-consumer.

Some people never learn... (0, Redundant)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320713)

I'm amazed it happened with an Orwell book too... Damn it 1984 was not an instruction manual!

Re:Some people never learn... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321375)

I've no clue which publisher changed their minds but... given that they're the publisher of 1984, perhaps they subscribe to the ideas within? Perhaps this was a neat demonstration that we live in a 1984-type world already, with Amazon as the tool ?

Wild and crazy theory but that would make this whole situation somehow perfect :D

Nice, but... (4, Insightful)

Kufat (563166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320729)

...this would make it better:
"The new firmware update for the Kindle removes the remote deletion capability. We pledge [in some legally binding fashion] that this capability will never be reactivated."

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening.

Useless (1)

SlothDead (1251206) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321035)

See, the terms of use already specify that you own everything you buy from amazon forever. That they won't take it away from you.

By deleting the Orwell books amazon already broke their own rules. Even if they said "We pledge [in some legally binding fashion] that this capability will never be reactivated." as you suggest I would not trust them.

Re:Useless (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321175)

>the terms of use already specify that you own everything you buy from amazon forever.

Does it infact ever say that in so many words?

Or does it say in effect you own every *legally* purchased item?

Re:Useless (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321387)

It was legally purchased. Only after the sale did the publisher recant. This decision doesn't somehow ripple back in time making the sale illegal.

Re:Useless (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321429)

I'm not defending Amazon's actions here, merely questioning SlothDead's characterization of the terms of sale.

Amazon did not have the right to sell it, because the their supplier did not have the right to sell to them.

It is somewhat akin to stolen property at this point, and can not be legally bought any more than stolen jewelry or cars.

But unlike cars, all Amazon had to do was pay the rightful copyright owner a royalty out of their pocket, and chock it up to damaged goods, and write it off on their taxes.

Taking it out on the customers was the wrong thing to do.

Re:Useless (1)

k8to (9046) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321427)

And moreover, they can say it all they want, but if there's DRM involved, it's a lie.

Re:Nice, but... (2, Interesting)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321101)

Of course not, it would be bad for business if they did that.

George Orwell books like "1984" and "Animal Farm" deserve to be deleted because they cannot have customers drawing parallels from the books to their business model or even the way modern governments are run. But it was just a coincidence that those two books happened to be pulled and deleted.

Amazon.com got caught and had to backpeddle and do some Public Relations and offer to restore the books or at least offer a discount.

Anything to get people to forget that it is a DRM device with a backdoor in it to delete any book or file purchased from their store if the owners of the book or media decide to pull it from the market.

After all Kindle owners weren't really using those rights and freedoms anyway, and now they have learned to love Amazon.com and the Kindle device that watches them as they read books and deletes any book for whatever reason.

Me, I don't use Kindle devices for that reason, but I'm a crazy guy who cares about my rights and freedoms and expects that if I bought something not only do I legally own it, but the owner of the IP and company that sold it to me shouldn't be able to take it away from me. Silly me, and my paranoid rantings that consumers actually own what they buy and it shouldn't have a kill-switch on it to remove it.

Re:Nice, but... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321403)

I'm a crazy guy who cares about my rights and freedoms and expects that if I bought something not only do I legally own it, but the owner of the IP and company that sold it to me shouldn't be able to take it away from me.

You are crazy. Kneel before your corporate overlords and be happy!

Re:Nice, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321167)

> Kindle removes the remote deletion capability

Agreed that would be the best solution. Anything else amounts to a rental.

But from the summary: "apparently with annotations intact" suggests to me it may never have actually removed from the device in the first place.

Perhaps a little careful hacking may reveal how to undo Amazon triggered deletions.

Or perhaps only the annotations, stored in a separate location remain.

Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (5, Insightful)

Wingfield (872389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320731)

I would really like to see Amazon make a commitment to not allowing purchased e-books to ever be pulled from the e-book readers of it's customers. I would like for them to think of e-books like people think of physical books in terms of ownership. If a bookstore sells me an illegal or stolen copy of a book by mistake, they damn sure can't come into my house and take it back.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320769)

The bookstore can't, but the authorities can. Which would you rather had the ability to remove it from your Kindle, Amazon or the government?

Don't get me wrong, I fully agree with you. I'm just saying...

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320787)

There's really no legitimate reason for such a capability to exist. But it was very deliberately included in the Kindle. This was a planned thing, and there is absolutely no plausible excuse for such a feature.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (4, Informative)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320795)

If you buy a stolen stereo on the street, it can be confiscated by the government. Same for a stolen car, that's why we have chop shops that launder parts from stolen cars back out into the market. So, granted IP rights may be different than real world stuff (did anybody suffer harm because unauthorized copies were distributed? was anybody deprived of anything? don't quote anything in parentheses, or this sentence, this isn't what i'm here to discuss), if you are in possession of a stolen item, it can be confiscated. It looks like amazon was just trying to jump the gun and possibly assumed that the copies would equate to 'stolen'.

Other side of the coin, let's say that these were just counterfeit copies. I.E. unauthorized copies of a protected item. I feel that this is closer to the truth. Current law says that it is NOT within the government's rights to seize a single counterfeit item if that is the only copy in your possession and you do not intend to sell it. That's why you never hear about a non-seller's collection of bootleg dvd's or fake-gucci purses being siezed. So had amazon realized that, it would have classified the re-seller as a digital counterfeiter and possibly resolved the matter by shutting off transfer rights (to another account, not another device within the account.)

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (4, Interesting)

itsme1234 (199680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321061)

If you buy a stolen stereo on the street, it can be confiscated by the government. Same for a stolen car, that's why we have chop shops that launder parts from stolen cars back out into the market. So, granted IP rights may be different than real world stuff (did anybody suffer harm because unauthorized copies were distributed? was anybody deprived of anything? don't quote anything in parentheses, or this sentence, this isn't what i'm here to discuss), if you are in possession of a stolen item, it can be confiscated. It looks like amazon was just trying to jump the gun and possibly assumed that the copies would equate to 'stolen'.

Other side of the coin, let's say that these were just counterfeit copies. I.E. unauthorized copies of a protected item. I feel that this is closer to the truth. Current law says that it is NOT within the government's rights to seize a single counterfeit item if that is the only copy in your possession and you do not intend to sell it. That's why you never hear about a non-seller's collection of bootleg dvd's or fake-gucci purses being siezed. So had amazon realized that, it would have classified the re-seller as a digital counterfeiter and possibly resolved the matter by shutting off transfer rights (to another account, not another device within the account.)

I think the first problem is that while the government can (legally) do many things (from taking your goods to killing people) Amazon can't . After they sold you the stolen or fake or infringing or whatever goods they can't (legally) just reach to your computer/kindle and "correct" the mistake by helping themselves just because this is the way they designed the system.

Plus I'm sick and tired of this DRM double dipping. Copyright gives rights not only to authors but also to customers AND all other people. With DRM authors are giving themselves technologically rights they don't have legally. Copyright owners don't have the legal right to stop you from selling your music collection. They don't have the right to take back what they sold to you. They don't have the right to prevent you from playing your US DVD in Europe. They don't have the right to forbid you to take small parts to use them in a research work (fair use). They don't have the right to kill your collection because they don't think maintaining the authentication servers is profitable for them (yes, Yahoo, Microsoft, Wallmart I'm looking at you). And above all they don't have the right to keep their creations from falling into public domain (although they are very close to their desired "forever less one day" in extending the copyright terms).

Not that there's any chance in hell for this to happen but I vote to have any (legal) copyright protection removed for any material that has DRM. You, author, want to break the deal with customers and with general public by not giving them all the rights they have (via technological means). FINE. There's no deal then. No (legal) copyright protection for whatever DRMed crap you sell.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321273)

Actually, in most cases, they do have a right to do all of those things that you mentioned...you just didn't read the license agreements.

Mod parent up (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321327)

any (legal) copyright protection removed for any material that has DRM. You, author, want to break the deal with customers and with general public by not giving them all the rights they have (via technological means). FINE. There's no deal then. No (legal) copyright protection

Yes.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321441)

Not that there's any chance in hell for this to happen but I vote to have any (legal) copyright protection removed for any material that has DRM.

Why limit yourself?

The benefit governments/corporations have over the rest of us is information, organization and commitment. If a sufficiently large chunk of citizens/customers had sufficient information and the ability to come to a consensus viewpoint and take action/inaction to represent this viewpoint, 'we' could have anything we like.

I'm pretty sure this is nominally the role of government but it doesn't seem this way to me; it seems more like a them-and-us situation and I'm tired of being herded around for some politician's/corporate-ghoul's benefit.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320835)

The government. At least with the government, there is some form of representation and recourse, however flawed it may be. With corporations, there is none aside from what they deign to bestow at any given moment.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321405)

Which would you rather had the ability to remove it from your Kindle, Amazon or the government?

Option (c), neither.

Re:Nice gesture, but that's not what worries me (2, Insightful)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320857)

Unfortunately, it's going to take more than even a firm "commitment" to fix the Kindle. The whole Kindle firmware needs to be redesigned so it's actually not possible for things to be remotely deleted. I know that may sound radical, but honestly, nothing less is going to cut it.

If I sold you something that I later found out I wasn't supposed to, sneaked into your house to retrieve it, but ultimately offered to make it up to you, that's one thing. I made good, right?

Now what if I kept the copy of your house key that I made to sneak in? Would you feel better if I assured you I won't use the key in the future unless you invite me over?

The lesson here is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320741)

Companies want to own and control ideas indefinitely; not works, not art, not inventions, not mechanical devices,; not a tangible device, but the intangible, non-object of the idea; an electrical patterin in your brain. They want to control thinking, and with that actions, because it is profitable. Billions are spent per year in just researching advertising; finding the new way to force people to understand your ideas and in some ways manipulating them.

The sharing of ideas is necissary for evolution to continue.

Companies act with no moral or ethical motive, nor any regard for human life; their members act in only their own self interest and the company becomes a personification of individuals who do not know what each other are doing, all guilty of the same crimes. When companies are taken over by CEO's who encourage their employee's to lay limp and never fight, the company also destroys itself, slowly. Wal-mart is an example of this.

As this goes on, people become more detached from feeling; they become numb to the world around them and fall victim to the worst sort of death; a life never lived.

There's a crowd of people who will never purchase anything they do not fully control; doing otherwise is inviting someone to control you.

Re:The lesson here is. (0, Flamebait)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320821)

WalMart is the prototypical company when it comes to self-serving conglomerates that are so large and so evil that no one person could stop it. It's like a rolling freight train with so many people interested in it's financial success that nothing could stop it, short of terrorists blowing up a bunch of stores. Even that wouldn't work I think, since they have like 4,000 stores.

Every decision the company makes, even down to workplace safety is pulled from actuarial tables, risk management formulas and cost/benefit reports. The company has no ethics, no morality, no desire to benefit it's employees beyond what is required to keep them from quitting at a rate they cannot train new employees. Like the individuals in an execution each playing a small part, each individual in WalMart fills a small, largely benign role in the contraption. The cumulative actions sustain a great evil drain on the US economy, decimating local economies in small towns across the country.

For all the good the free market has done, WalMart is the yardstick for measuring where capitalism goes horribly wrong.

Re:The lesson here is. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321195)

The cumulative actions sustain a great evil drain on the US economy, decimating local economies in small towns across the country.

And they do this... how? You mean by providing competition that local businesses can't compete with? Well, I have one thing to say to that: tough shit. That's capitalism in action. What would you rather they do? Deliberately inflate prices to protect those precious little mom-and-pops?

For all the good the free market has done, WalMart is the yardstick for measuring where capitalism goes horribly wrong.

Please, tell me: why?

Re:The lesson here is. (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321333)

Just a few reasons, I'll try to be brief.

Walmart, for many years has refused to offer any type of parking lot security due to costs. Numerous employees have been raped, assaulted and robbed in their own parking lots because Walmart refuses to address the issue.

Walmart flaunts many state and local environmental laws about lawn and garden goods being stored outdoors, such as storing pallets of fertilizers outdoors in stream and river watershed areas. Fertilizers have detrimental effects on fish reproductive cycles.

Walmart exercises gender discrimination for promotions with surgical precision. They have been sued numerous times over the years for policies that make it difficult for women to come up in the ranks.

The average Walmart employee works just 28-32 hours per week, with a total monthly income of about $1100. Over 50% of Walmart's employees lack health insurance. Even those that have it pay through the nose because Walmart's contribution is so low. Monthly premiums are often as high as $200+. A disproportionate number of Walmart employees receive Medicaid benefits compared to the general population. In effect, Walmart shifts the medical care cost burden of it's employees onto taxpayers more than any other country in the US.

Walmart has settled charges in numerous states for hiring illegal immigrants. Immigrants lower the value of jobs because they often are willing to work for less than a citizen, leaving more citizens unemployed or underemployed than would be otherwise. Those unemployed or underemployed citizens are often on multiple public assistance programs, amplifying the cost to taxpayers.

Walmart directly operates slave labor factories in China, India and Indonesia through subsidiaries. The employees often live in huge scale dormitory like buildings where they eat, sleep, work and live. The conditions are often poor and the income is very low, even by their own local standards. These factories have little regard for the employees with no concept of OSHA, ergonomics, reasonable breaks, health care, anti-discrimination laws, etc.

Walmart is the single largest foreign products importer in the United States. While no exact figure is known, it's common knowledge that a high percentage of Walmart's revenue is shipped overseas. With such a high percentage of their products coming from Indonesia, India, China, Taiwan and South Korea, each dollar you spend at a Walmart is that much less effective at boosting your own local economy. Numerous local and regional businesses have gone under because Walmart sells for less and consumers are often blind to the damage Walmart does to their region.

To sum it up, Walmart is effectively the devil of all corporations.

Re:The lesson here is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29321385)

So you're saying that it's bad that Walmart pays people who are willing to work, and instead should pay more for people not willing to work. You're saying that walmart is bad because they don't hire Blackwater private armies to patrol their private fortresses. They're bad because plastic bags get rained on. They're bad because they pay for things that they buy from people who want to work. They're bad because they're hiring people who desperately need work, instead of fat, lazy Americans. By the way, you mention slave labor, but you failed to notice that slave labor is real, and it's not in the countries you mentioned. Outside of the sex trade, almost all of the slave laborers are in southwest Asia and the subcontinent. You're a fucking hypocrite.

Annotations?? (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320797)

... can now have it restored, apparently with annotations intact.

Wait a second-- where are these annotations coming from? When they erased the text of the books from Kindles, they didn't erase the annotations, but apparently archived them somewhere?

Does this imply that Amazon can remotely access (and read?) any private notes anybody makes using their Kindle?

Re:Annotations?? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320819)

the annotations were stored elsewhere in the kindle but were rather worthless without the context provided by the nearby book-text. They could still be accessed, but weren't much good alone. I.E. you can talk about how This Passage would be good to discuss for My Paper, but without This Passage, your annotation is worthless. So now that the book is returned, hopefully it will be smart enough to tie the old annotation attached to This Passage with the corresponding This Passage in the new text.

Re:Annotations?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320839)

If they are, you really don't *have* to look at this in a paranoid way...
it could be extremely handy if you spent hours annotating a book and then lost your kindle. You could just grab your notes from amazon's site, or just from another kindle.

If they are storing notes remotely, they should really inform the customer though, and give them an option to disable it.

On one side it could be a breach of privacy, on the other it could be done with the customer in mind...

I guess it's all about how they handle it...

Re:Annotations?? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320885)

Each Kindle has a setting to "back up annotations", which defaults to "on". You can get at your own annotations from http://kindle.amazon.com/ [amazon.com], sync them to another device, and get them back if you delete the book and redownload it from your "archived" items at a later date.

Re:Annotations?? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320897)

Wait a second-- where are these annotations coming from? When they erased the text of the books from Kindles, they didn't erase the annotations, but apparently archived them somewhere?

They better be. If by having access to those notes, it means we can prevent just one future terrorist from blowing himself up -- it will all have been worth it. Besides, server space is cheap and it's just all text anyway. There is really no reason -- not to keep them.

Re:Annotations?? (1)

koxkoxkox (879667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321033)

Yeah, I totally see a future terrorist annotating the difficult parts of his "How make a bomb for dummies", bought on Amazon ...

Scary that they can restore the annotations. (2, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320833)

Just how often do these Kindles phone home, anyway? And just EXACTLY what information do they send?

Re:Scary that they can restore the annotations. (3, Insightful)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320915)

They don't restore the annotations. The annotations are still on the Kindle, except they're not tied to a book anymore. By restoring the book, the annotations are just linked back by the device. See the lawsuit about the guy who had taken notes on his kindle for a paper on 1984. He still has his notes, he just doesn't know what they are referring to without the book.

Re:Scary that they can restore the annotations. (2, Informative)

schwaang (667808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321395)

In the "run ubuntu on a kindle [slashdot.org]" story, the guy said the kindle uploads syslogs twice a day. That's probably more about monitoring errors and basic usage than any individual tracking, I hope.

It's a normal part of the kindle's operation to sync the last position read in your books. That's what lets you pick up where you left off on another device tied to the same account.

So in theory they know how fast a reader you are, and more interestingly, they could see for any particular book if there are parts where a lot of readers get bogged down or give up at. No idea whether they keep any of those stats, or whether the privacy policy/TOS permit/allow that.

It's also normal to backup to the cloud any annotations, but you can turn that feature off.

It also has gps, and I have no idea whether it ever sends that back to amazon. But potentially it knows that sometimes I read in the bathroom.

The thing that distinguishes the kindle from any other ereader I've seen is that it fully incorporates the cloud for downloading and backing up books, annotations, blog updates, etc. Which is really really cool, and also an honest potential threat to privacy.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29320869)

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy
      2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
      3. No animal shall wear clothes.
      4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
      5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
      6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
      7. All animals are equal.

The fact that the, (originally 1945 published), E-Book was pulled from the Kindel is enough to satisfy my ever wanting to purchase such a device. If I have a paper copy of "Animal Farm" printed by some other publisher than that which the current "copy right holder" has approved, who gives a shit? The book is 50 plus years old for fucks sake! Is there anyone, other than a corporate shithead able to profit from this?

Corporations: All the privileges of the individual without any ethical, legal or moral considerations of same.

Re:WTF? (1)

sharkbiter (266775) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320965)

It's copyright, not "copy right" or are you attempting to differentiate between legal rights and ill-gotten gains?

What the offer doesn't do (3, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320911)

It doesn't remove their ability to delete the books you bought and paid for if they deem it necessary. This is different from buying a physical book in that generally to take the work away from you they have to come to where you're keeping it, preferably with guns.

It doesn't remove the inherent unreliability of a system that can take away the content you've bought at any time. To resolve that you need a solution that doesn't involve DRM.

Fuck you, Amazon. (3, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320919)

Break into my device and delete a product that /I PAID FOR/, and then, months later, offer me a fucking coupon?

Fuck you.

Re:Fuck you, Amazon. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29321025)

Break into my device and delete a product that /I PAID FOR/, refund the original purchase price, and then, months later, apologize and offer either a coupon , or a check for $30, or a restoration of the original product, in addition to the refund?

Fixed that for you.

Seriously, did you even read the summary? Amazon could have handled it better, yes, but the way they did handle it is hardly as bad as everyone's making it seem.

The real reason they probably did it (4, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320945)

It was coming to bite them in the a**... with a student [cnet.com] suing them and everything.

They finally realized they were getting widespread negative publicity, poorer reviews, more people recommending to stay away frmo kindle and get something else, and maybe, just maybe, it put a small dent in their sales.

Enough for them to stand up and take notice...

If it were just a few customers effected by the deletion and hasn't been widely publicized in the news, I have my doubts that Amazon would have ever done something to right the situation.

Wait, what?! (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 4 years ago | (#29320979)

Doesn't this mean that Amazon has backed up every single Kindle? Presumably if you tried hard enough after losing your Kindle you could get all your books back...

Re:Wait, what?! (2, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321251)

Doesn't this mean that Amazon has backed up every single Kindle? Presumably if you tried hard enough after losing your Kindle you could get all your books back...

Mod parent "+1 so innocent it's funny". Amazon can have their own copy of all the material (for archival and backup) if they want. They can also keep a list of all the things they sold you. Then they don't have to "back it up" to restore it. The reason they won't restore it is because then they can charge you for the same material all over again. You have no legal come back; giving you back your stuff isn't in your contract. This is exactly what the point of the DRM is. It gives them power; it takes away your power and rights.

So.... (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321053)

... does this mean that Amazon has secured legal rights to distribute the ebook now?

If so, then what they are doing is definitely the right thing... good for them.

If not, however... then all this amounts to is a company deciding to willfully break the law to satisfy the customers that it pissed off.

But in fact, when Amazon removed those materials from people's Kindles, they did the only thing they _could_ do, at least within the framework of law, which was to refund and retract the reading privileges to those people that it had mistakenly sold them to in the first place. I don't think even Amazon would dispute that they are entirely at fault over this whole mess, but with push coming to shove on the issue, them refunding the money and pulling the infringing material off of the kindles when they discovered their error was almost certainly the only legally viable course of action they had. It's hardly likely they did this with the intention of annoying people, even though they certainly were aware that was going to be the most probably outcome. But y'know... if they had never had such an ability to do so in the first place, then they could not have been so legally obligated to have taken that action (but they'd have certainly been on the hook for a lot more to the rights holders, and somebody at Amazon would have probably lost their job over it, if someone hasn't already)... which I suppose just goes to show that DRM can sometimes bite the seller just as badly as the consumer.

Soooooo... (3, Interesting)

nanospook (521118) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321069)

Who got fired?

Re:Soooooo... (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321193)

Who got fired?

Hopefully nobody. I've worked for companies that liked to fire people for making one mistake -- the air of paranoia was such that nobody was willing to do anything, for fear of screwing up and not being able to find someone else to blame. Companies that do that tend to stagnate until there's a culture shift or they go under (or get bought out, as with the place I worked).

Too late... (3, Interesting)

SlothDead (1251206) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321111)

I seriously considered buying a kindle from amazon. Sure, the technical possibility of remotely deleting my books irritated me in the beginning but I thought "Aw, amazon is such a nice company. Their customer service is excellent, they don't censor negative reviews... Surely I can trust them to never do that. And look, they explicitly said in the Terms of Service that they will never do that. So let's just quit being so paranoid and trust a company, just this time".

Then they started to delete Orwell books and for me, a world broke down. Do you know this feeling, when you figure out, that a good friend of you has been lying to you? Well, that's how this digital book burning felt to me. It completely destroyed my trust in that company. And since amazon was my most trusted company, I now no longer trust any other company with ultimate online access to my devices.

So, instead of buying a kindle I bought a simple chinese ereader without web access. Sure, it's not as pretty as a kindle, it has no wikipedia access and the poor translation of the manual starts with "For safely and efficiently use the product, please strictly abide by the rules, otherwise the danger will happen" but at least I know that nobody can take my ebooks away from me.

The memory hole's still there... (3, Insightful)

comingstorm (807999) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321113)

It doesn't matter how much they protest; it doesn't make the whole episode any less ironic. The more they promise they won't do it that way again unless they feel they have a legal right to, the more they point out the fact that they can delete your books (and modify them? and inspect notes? reading patterns? what else?) any time they really want to.

The upshot is: they've demonstrated the presence of the memory hole and their ability and willingness to use it. They're sorry they got caught, and they'd like you to forget all about it and by yourself a Kindle.

Re:The memory hole's still there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29321285)

I think you are right. They are probably thinking "If everyone would keep all their blog posts on the Kindle, this HAS never happened!" The only sensible thing to do would be to remove the feature from the code, but how would we know?

Just think (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321177)

Just think - in the year 2044 the copyright will expire on 1984 (written in 1949 and presumably renewed) - and all of this will be moot!

Completely ridiculous.

Irony City (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321233)


Dear customer,

We apologize for acting like Big Brother. Here's your copy of "1984" back.

Sincerely,
Amazon

Refund is worthless -- are they going to fix it? (3, Insightful)

k8to (9046) | more than 4 years ago | (#29321419)

So when are they changing the firmware so that deletes always require a user-interface confirmation?

It's the right fix. It still allows refunds, the user just has to manually acquiesce to the deletion on the kindle itself.
It's not like this changes amazon's ability to be sure the delete happened.
The firmware would be just as secure or insecure with the change.

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