Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick Take - Digital book burning edition

I'm a little late to this party, but I couldn't help myself...  

Last week, Amazon got a big dollop of egg on their face for helping themselves to Kindle owners' virtual bookshelves and performing a mass purge of legally purchased copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindle digital book readers  around the globe.

Seriously, I'm not making this up.  

Apparently, there was an issue with Amazon's legal right to sell the book.  In response, they yanked the book from their online bookstore.  No big news there, but what happened next drew fire from conspiracy theorists and  DRM opponents around the globe.  

Apparently, the Kindle has had a "feature" all along that allows Amazon to remotely delete items from users' virtual bookshelves.  Purchasers of digital books don't actually own the books they purchase for their Kindle, they only own a license to read the book.  Under the terms of that license, Amazon may revoke the license under certain circumstances (although their right to do that is disputed).  Anyhow, until last week, Amazon had never made use of this take-backsies feature.  

You can't help but enjoy the irony in the fact that the first title they chose to purge was George Orwell's 1984.  Also,  this mishap once again demonstrates  that purchasing the right to use digital content is not the same as purchasing a physical embodiment of that content.

For his part, Jeff Bezos fell pretty hard on his sword in his response to the incident over at the Kindle Community on Amazon.


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