18 Jul 2009

Big Brother Deletes “Animal Farm” and “1984”

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Maybe readers allowing you to purchase electronic copies of books from giant impersonal corporations are not such a good idea after all.

What happens when Amazon decides, for reasons of its own, that you should not be in possession of a particular book? Pop! It’s gone. Eliminated by your friendly corporation’s software update system.

Big Brother came calling on Amazon customers yesterday, as the New York Times reports.

In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

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.

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One Feedback on "Big Brother Deletes “Animal Farm” and “1984”"

Dom

The columnist of the New York Times wrote, at some point:

“An authorized digital edition of “1984” from its American publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was still available on the Kindle store Friday night, but there was no such version of “Animal Farm.”

Okay… now I am curious to know the extent to which Houghton Mifflin Harcourt might feel obliged to render available a digital version of “Animal Farm”, since it appears that there is a market for it – be it small, in the worst of the cases – and since it certainly feels somehow “challenged” by its unlawful competitors? For, let me assume that this case might constitute a precedent likely to inspire a few, in this regard.



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