Great news: Amazon remotely deleting books from users' Kindles

Most of you will have already read about this at InstaGlenn or elsewhere but I want to use our little platform here to help make the publicity as painful as possible so that they’ll never do it again. I was set to splurge on the DX for my mom’s birthday; now I’m leaning towards Broadway tickets. If there’s a more sensational example in recent years of a company with an up-and-coming product shooting itself in the foot, I’d like to know what it is.

The books that ended up being flushed down the memory hole by Big Brother Bezos, incidentally? “Animal Farm” and “1984.”

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said…

Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading “1984” on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” he said.

Property law experts are using this as an object lesson on the difference between ownership rights and digital licenses, but how relevant is that in this case really? Quote:

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.”

The counterargument, per Instapundit’s wife, is that Amazon’s actually protecting property rights by yanking stuff that violates copyright out of people’s hands. Technically true, but commercial law has traditionally let purchasers of stolen goods keep them so long as they made the purchase in “good faith.” Click here and scroll down for a legal explanation of the term or see, e.g., sections 1-201(9) and 2-403 of the Uniform Commercial Code. If the holder of the Orwell copyright wants justice, by all means let him sue Amazon and the unlicensed publisher of the digital books for damages. That’s the surest way to get Bezos and company to more closely police the copyright status of books being sold in their Kindle store. Why they’re not already doing that is frankly unfathomable to me, but doubly unfathomable is them reaching into your virtual bookshelf to forcibly repurchase a book you’ve already bought. Exit question: Is this a dealbreaker for would-be Kindle purchasers?