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You bought the book so it belongs to you. Right?
... perhaps not.

 11:17 pm on Jul 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

According to a NY Times [pogue.blogs.nytimes.com] article, Amazon caved to publisher pressure and deleted purchased books from users' Kindles and credited their account accordingly.

Nice that they gave a credit, but it does raise the thorny issue of "when is a purchase final and non reversible?" Understandably, people are not happy, some likening it to a vendor entering your house in the middle of the night to "forcibly return" certain items whilst leaving you a cheque for their value on the coffee table.

Yet another reason to not use third party products that they, the third party, can control.

Oh, and the "returned" books? 1984 and Animal Farm. Rather ironic.




 8:13 am on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Exactly, and if the DRM license server says "TOO BAD" your file is toast.

Been there, done that, no more.


 12:03 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

If a court case were to ensue, Amazon would argue that the sale, whilst made in good faith, wasn't legal, therefore the terms and conditions stating that the copy was permanent did not apply.

To me, the big story here is that the capability to perform this delete operation exists at all. Without a doubt, it will have to be removed at some point.

Personally, I will never purchase anything that might cease to work because of a corporate decision or blunder. That rules out anything which must "phone home" in order to operate. I might have considered buying a kindle, but I can't do so now.



 12:17 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

I normally don't jump into discussions when I don't have the product or anticipate buying it in the near future. But it sounds like a neat idea and I thought that at some point I'd get one.

However, on this one I'm with kaled. Unless and until I know that a purchase cannot be rescinded, I will not consider buying a Kindle.


 4:19 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

If you cannot make a copy without breaking the DRM, there is no legal way of doing it.

No. If you cannot make a backup copy for your personal use without breaking the DRM, then this DRM system is illegal.


 5:43 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

amazon should aggressively go after the vendor that wrongfully put the book on the marketplace in the first place

Although it may be alluded to in this thread, my daughter has one of these, and G.O. is one of her favorite authors. The story she's getting from Amazon is very different than in that article.

So here's a closer-to-first-hand experience, from her (paraphrasing email comms.)

Daughter: Yes they did do that, they were illegal copies uploaded by someone other than amazon.....they refunded my money will e-mail me when they get a legal copy with the proper rights to the copyright. I'm not mad.....

She forwarded the email notification, also paraphrased in accordance with the TOS here:

We have recently refunded your purchase of [book] by George Orwell. This book was added to our catalog ... by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books....We are working with the authorized rights holder to make this title available....

So as it appears, Amazon is claiming it was illegally uploaded in the first place.

This of course does not affect the ethical issues being discussed, it just changes the playing field of the OP a little . . . or maybe "a little detail" the Times so artfully left out of their article, now why would a newspaper do a thing like that hmmmm . . .


 6:04 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Even if amazon had an "upload" that was illegal, amazon accepted it, offered it for sale and actually sold it, so they are the ones in the wrong no matter what.

Sweet language to their customers: clearly, but that's not unexpected. They ruined the principle behind it for quite a few potential customers of a kindle and hence they now have a PR problem.


 6:35 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

The PR problem will blow over... The staggering amount they would have had to pay in potential lawsuits would have been harder to absorb.

Or in other words this is a symptom of the society in which we live.

The point here, I think, is that there is a fundamental difference between digital and real world goods. Differences that, from another angle, are often celebrated here at WW.


 8:28 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

What will happen to those who already had read the book when Amazon deleted it. Will Amazon send out a squad of men in black to delete their memories? For example: I do not care much about a book anymore, once I have read it.

That was a rather stupid stunt from Amazon. Because they will have to pay up to the copyright holders anyway, regardless of deleting the books.


 8:35 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Personally, I will never purchase anything that might cease to work because of a corporate decision or blunder. That rules out anything which must "phone home" in order to operate.

The Kindle always struck me as being very similar to a phone service, which always put me off the idea. (Not that it's available in Blighty in any case). This makes me wonder what happens when it's considered obsolete and someone decides to switch off the servers.


 9:00 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not that it's available in Blighty in any case

Well they would be in breach of criminal law if they tried those tricks over here but as the "cousins" refuse to implement their half of the extradition treaty they would probably get away with it.


 9:16 pm on Jul 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is not the first example of Amazon "pulling" books

Some months ago they withdrew sales of a book about Scientology called The Complex
article in El Reg [theregister.co.uk]

Basically if you have legal clout,or the threat of legal clout, Amazon go for the easy life - its cheaper that way!


 3:18 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is a PR nightmare, the name of the author didn't help either, but they refunded the user the ownership is not an issue. Probably they were threatened with massive lawsuits if they didn't do that. I seriously doubt Amazon took pleasure in doing that.

As other have pointed out the digital works are very complicated and what you think you own, you actually don't, or you can't do this and that.


 5:30 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hilarious. Virtual book burning.

Check it out- I read Orwell's books in high school. Reread them in my 20s, and bought nice used copies of them about 15 years ago for my library, for, I think a buck each. Let me check, ... yep, they're still there.



 5:35 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

As regards not using software that 'phones home'. Looking through my Applications folder, there is very little major software that works without phoning home for activation.

I doubt that [NameofMajorSoftwareCompany] has built in the ability to hack my firewall and physically delete the software. But I'm sure they can deactivate it anytime if they choose.


 6:16 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It all works without phoning home bouncybunny, it just doesn't get updated, but that's not the point.

The bottom line is it doesn't matter WHY Amazon deleted files from people's devices, nothing in law grants the right to break the law to accomplish even the most reverent of goals.

I hope Amazon gets sued to send the industry a message that you cannot maintain an instrument that would allow you to access and delete customer storage devices of any kind unless to update (with prior consent and permission).


 7:03 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

If I'm not mistaken, the courts have ruled time and time again that it's perfectly legal to make a personal backup copy of your media, to protect against damage to fragile media. This includes music CDs, software, etc. Of course, you may not distribute these backup copies, but that isn't the issue at hand. So that being the case, yes, your disk (or backup) should be playable for 20 years. Unless, of course, I'm missing something here.

INAL... ;P Having said that I'm member of a video forum that was fortunate enough to have a copyright lawyer that participated in many of these discussions. I'll post the the gist of his interpretations.

If you read copyright law you'll find exceptions for software and you have the Audio Home Recording Act for audio. You may not be aware of this but the CD's you see in stores labeled "Audio" are the ones you are supposed to use to make copies of audio files, they have a special tax applied that goes to the RIAA that they are supposed to distribute to their members. Standalone recorders also have this tax, that's why standalone CD recorders are not commonplace because the tax along with software (licensed from a RIAA subsidiary AFAIK) makes them expensive. These CD recorders will reject any CD that does not have the CD audio label on it. It's also been suggested it caused the failure of the DAT format which came before CD and is actually a better format. They also tried unsuccessfully to get this tax applied to computer CD burners, MP3 players or anything else capable of holding a digital media file. The RIAA/MPAA has a long history of trying to stifle technology going back to the Betamax recorders.

So we have exceptions for software and audio but there is no exception for video. There is no case that has been brought before a court where a decision has been made whether you have the right to make copies of video you have purchased that I'm aware of.

...and there won't be because it's in the best interests of the MPAA/RIAA not to have one because they have much bigger sledge hammer with DMCA which simply states you cannot circumvent the protection mechanisms of any material. It's not copyright law necessarily but a law preventing you from breaking encryption. That applies to anything AFAIK; software; video, audio, books etc. Until this section of the DMCA is removed the question as to whether you can legally make a copy of a digital file you have purchased is a moot point.

AFAIK even being in possession of the software that allows you to copy a DVD is an illegal act. If you look at the history of this there was at first a commercial product that ended up folding and if remember correctly because of a lawsuit. You might also remember DVDcypter which was a free piece of software that could copy anything. When Macrovision who is a major player in the encryption industry released "Rip Guard" which they were touting for months as the next level of protection for DVD's was broken in a few days by the author of that tool he ended up being whisked away by the guys in dark suit jackets and sunglasses. LOL I forget the the exact story but his site disappeared and so did the software. The speculation was under threat of lawsuit from Macrovision, I'm not sure if the whole story ever came out.

The newest software available today is all from companies in countries based and hosted on servers in countries outside the reach of US law.

[edited by: thecoalman at 7:25 am (utc) on July 20, 2009]


 7:19 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

If anything illegal was done it's between the person who uploaded the content and Amazon. Nobody else could reasonably be expected to have known.

The act of accessing customer storage devices to delete files without warning or permission is a separate issue.


 7:41 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just an update, I know what Amazon did was wrong (and their ability to do it remains) so I dug a little deeper. It's wrong, end of story, and Amazon provided the New York Times with an update of their own.

Quote from ammendment to the original article. [pogue.blogs.nytimes.com]
EDITOR’S NOTE ¦ 8:41 p.m. The Times published an article explaining that the Orwell books were unauthorized editions that Amazon removed from its Kindle store. However, Amazon said it would not automatically remove purchased copies of Kindle books if a similar situation arose in the future.

Not good enough Amazon, I would think customers should have the right to turn your remote access OFF, heck, it should be off by default. This is iphone revisited.

[edited by: engine at 11:25 am (utc) on July 20, 2009]
[edit reason] added link [/edit]


 8:15 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Stallman's Right to read [gnu.org] suddenly seems a lot closer to where we are.


 8:47 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It all works without phoning home bouncybunny, it just doesn't get updated, but that's not the point.

Oh no. If I install one particular set of software on too many computers, my initial install rings home and deactivates itself, the next time I launch it whilst connected to the net.

But I agree, this is a totally different thing. I just wanted to point out that this is a direction that we may be increasingly headed towards.


 10:56 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

As regards not using software that 'phones home'. Looking through my Applications folder, there is very little major software that works without phoning home for activation.

That is only possible because consumers do not know or care about it. It is mostly not very difficult to avoid software that does that.


 11:22 am on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

That is only possible because consumers do not know or care about it.

Exactly and its these consumers that are screwing it up for people that understand. Let's see:

  • Lower quality audio file than found on CD
  • Costs more per song that if you bought whole CD
  • Limitations on what you can do with the file such as moving it to another device.

    Sign me UP!

    The media companies will keep pushing this until there is consumer backlash, the artists have their hands tied because some fat guy in a suit is sitting at a desk deciding their future.

  • Zamboni

     5:13 pm on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

    If some entity was able to upload a book they don't have the rights to and I'm guessing profit from the venture. How many more books have been uploaded and sold by ne'er-do-wells. Please take a moment wrap your Kindles in tin foil to stop the deletion rays.


     6:03 pm on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Have you guys heard about this new book format? PAPER You can go to a library and read and take books home for free. When in this format they don't usually break, there are no screens to crack. Many times you can pick them up used for a dollar or two. You can loan them out to people without having to give them ALL of your books and magazines.

    This paper stuff is really neat. You can use it as a door stop, put it under a table so it doesn't wobble, even use it to start a fire if you are out in the woods and need to get one going. Sometimes they come in handy for squashing bugs. If they get wet, they usually dry out and still function, likewise if you step on them or even run them over with a car they don't get damaged badly.

    This format has been around for a while and it seems have worked for a few hundred years. There has never been one reported case of someone buying a paper book and having the words mysteriously vanish from the pages of the book. This format really works!


     7:22 pm on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Well that does it for me - i was considering buying the Kindle for my wife who loves to read, but I will not do so now unless Amazon apologizes, makes this right with the affected customers (provides them with free copies of the book from the proper publisher), and clearly states that they will never do anything of this sort again.

    I am a Amazon Prime customer and spend thousands upon thousands with them each year - from music, books, diapers, food, boats, lawn mowers, electronics, etc (yes I've purchased boats & lawn mowers from them) and this greatly undermines the trust I've placed in that organization.


     8:18 pm on Jul 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

    The whole question of electronic "ownership" of something that doesn't NEED ownership at all, and has no natural owner at all, is going to keep causing legal problems. I don't see a general solution. In this case, though, the right approach seems perfectly simple.

    If this had been a hardcopy book, the approach would be for the copyright owner to sue the publisher: the consumer has the good that he bought fairly and in good faith, and the law-violator has to make the copyright owner good (insofar as he can--up to bankruptcy and oblivion.)

    The idea that Joe's Bookstore would go around to all his customer's homes, break in and remove the hardcopy from his bookshelf or nightstand or briefcase, and then "make the customer good" by leaving the purchase price in its place ... would seem somewhere between bizarre and unconscionable. We've definitely entered the world of 1984, when the same process is deemed acceptable just because the content is in electronic form.

    The further notion that the whole mechanism of depriving people of _fundamental human rights_ that they would have had with a printed book, simply to support a business model that may have no relevance in the information age, doesn't get any sympathy from me.

    On the other hand, if the day comes that there are compensating human rights in the electronic form -- such as the right to keep a copy in perpetuity of any DRM-locked document, regardless of technology changes, loss or destruction of playback devices, etc. ... then that business model might be tolerable, and there might be some reason for supporting it by law (rather than suppressing it.)


     2:25 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

    This was a pirated copy, so if you bought it is does not belong to you. It's like buying a stolen stereo, if your caught it gets confiscated.


     6:41 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

    This was a pirated copy, so if you bought it is does not belong to you. It's like buying a stolen stereo, if your caught it gets confiscated.

    If someone steals a book in book store and then sells it to a third party, is the owner of the bookstore or the thief allowed to break into the buyers house to get the book back?


     8:43 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Forget the status of the book, Amazon has a wide open door into places they shouldn't and apparently a severe lack of judgment as well. An apology and promise not to do it again doesn't cut it in my opinion, the door needs to be closed for both moral and security reasons.

    If it's not closed promptly, now that the world knows about the access Amazon set up for themselves, I'd expect to see hackers find a way to access Kindle devices everywhere (to steal content, to leave viruses etc)

    edit: the status of the book is irrelevant, even people who didn't download it have a backdoor in their kindle devices, that's whats most wrong here.


     8:57 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

    If you are found with stolen goods, they are confiscated. You do not get your money back.

    You may be able to sue the seller. Material damages would be the amount you paid. A reasonable settlement would be to return the cash without legal action.

    Given that the method of distribution means that the owners of stolen content are identifiable, and that confiscation of stolen goods is actionable, the whole thing seems fair. If this happened with paper books from mail-order (thus addresses are known), the police could go and retrieve the books. But this would not be cost effective. Recalling electonic copies is cost effective- that is the only difference.

    Yes, as a consumer, you feel you have done nothing wrong. But then, that is how you would feel when the games console you bought from the market gets taken off you.


     9:07 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Yes, that confiscation is actionable is a morally challengable position. From that perspective, the Kindle appeard to be a device in need of modification. Why did they have this backdoor in the first place? Is that not like the builders keeping a key to your house after they've sold it to you?

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