Pirated copies of Orwell books pulled from Kindle

July 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.

Explore further: Amazon lowers Kindle e-book reader price to $299

Related Stories

Amazon.com buys Stanza e-book app maker Lexcycle

April 28, 2009

(AP) -- Kindle e-book retailer Amazon.com Inc. has purchased Lexcycle, a year-old company that makes the iPhone e-book application Stanza, in a move that ratchets up Amazon's presence in the electronic book market.

Sony e-book reader gets 500,000 books from Google

March 19, 2009

(AP) -- Google Inc. is making half a million books, unprotected by copyright, available for free on Sony Corp.'s electronic book-reading device, the companies were set to announce Thursday.

Group protests Kindle e-reader's read-aloud limits

April 7, 2009

(AP) -- A group representing the blind and other people with disabilities protested limitations to the new read-aloud feature on Amazon.com Inc.'s latest Kindle electronic reader Tuesday, arguing that the restrictions unfairly ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.