Pirated copies of Orwell books pulled from Kindle

Jul 18, 2009 By HILLEL ITALIE , AP National Writer

(AP) -- A pirated e-book of "1984" led to an Orwellian moment for Kindle customers.

Users of .com's device were surprised and unsettled over the past day to receive notice that George Orwell works they had purchased, including "1984" and "Animal Farm," had been removed from their Kindle and their money refunded.

It was conspiracy time on the Internet. Big Brother's revenge? Pressure from the publisher? No, says an Amazon spokesman - the deletion of pirated copies that had been posted to the Kindle store.

"These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third party who did not have the rights to the books," spokesman Drew Herdener said Friday.

"When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances."

Herdener's explanation differed from what Kindle users were told by Amazon's customer service, which made no reference to piracy, but implied that the removal was the publisher's choice.

"Published by MobileReference ... (the books) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase," according to an e-mail sent to customers. "When this occurred, your purchases were automatically refunded. You can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although a rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store."

Herdener said the customer service statement was incorrect, and reiterated that the works were pulled because of legal issues. MobileReference is a digital publisher that offers a wide range of literary titles, although Orwell's books were not mentioned on the company's Web site as of Friday night.

An e-mail message sent to the publisher's owner, SoundTells, was not immediately returned.

The Orwell ordeal highlighted two concerns in the virtual world - that a book already paid for and acquired can be revoked by the long arm of an e-tailer (the Kindle operates on a wireless connection that Amazon ultimately controls); and the difficulty of stopping bootlegged texts.

The digital library is rapidly growing, but numerous classic works, from "Catch-22" to "Lolita," remain unavailable as e-books. Piracy has been one concern for rights holders, although illegal works have yet to have a measurable impact on sales.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 4

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KenFretz
5 / 5 (1) Jul 18, 2009
This explanation still doesn't change the Orwellian characteristics of the situation.

Ken
VOR
5 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2009
I would never buy a device that can be modified at will by a remote party without my permission. The closest thing I have to that is a dvr that I rent from the cable company. If Kindles were free or rented I might feel differently. Its a question of ownership.
LariAnn
4 / 5 (1) Jul 18, 2009
Welcome to the brave new world of "you own nothing" computing, otherwise known as "cloud computing". In the near future, Microsoft and others will be able to reach in and cut you off from your software, even if you have paid for it. This is truly Orwellian, and the only way to put a stop to it is to boycott any company that can do this to you. Let Microsoft and others twist in the breeze; I want my ebooks and software on my computer, not theirs.
SiLiass
not rated yet Jul 18, 2009
"Welcome to the brave new world of "you own nothing" computing, otherwise known as "cloud computing". In the near future, Microsoft and others will be able to reach in and cut you off from your software, even if you have paid for it."

Yes "Cloud Computing" does worry me, however, what if you/we could set up a free internet network completely independant from the mainstream used only for independant news, information sharing forum/blogs, mail, and maybe file sharing, no buying or selling. The Independant Public info Net based on this cloud computing, after all internet 2.0 will destroy the freedom on the net soon anyways