By Harry McCracken | Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm
Amazon’s decision to remotely delete pirated copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindle e-readers and refund their money was stupid, thoughtless, and self-inflicted. That’s not an irate blogger talking–it’s Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who indulged in some serious self-flagellation at the company’s forums, as reported by TechCrunch’s MG Siegler.
Bezos’s mea culpa is one of the most refreshingly humble statements I’ve ever seen from a tech company CEO. But it’s pretty much standard that examples of major tech companies making boneheaded DRM-related decisions are followed up by backpedaling and apologies. If other companies remembered that, they’d make fewer boneheaded decisions in the first place and spend less time apologizing. Sounds like a win for everybody involved.
Here’s Bezos’s post in its entirety:
This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.
As far as I know, Amazon hasn’t said what it intends to do in future instances of publishers selling pirated books through Kindle–a situation that’ll surely happen again, and one which copyright holders have a right to be upset about. But maybe part of the solution lies in figuring out better measures to prevent the stolen goods from getting into Amazon’s virtual bookstore in the first place.