1984 All Over Again

By  |  Friday, September 4, 2009 at 6:40 am

Amazon KindleBack in July, Amazon.com endured a bout of bad publicity and inspired debate about the ethics of copy protection when it remotely deleted copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customer’s Kindle e-readers after discovering they were pirated. CEO Jeff Bezos eventually apologized and called the action stupid. Now the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog is reporting that Amazon has e-mailed the Kindle owners whose books it erased and offered to restore the tomes (along with any notes taken) or issue a $30 gift certificate or check.

It’s not entirely clear why Amazon is making the restitution six weeks after the dust-up, but Digits notes that a class-action lawsuit was filed over the incident.

Maybe I’m just being a Pollyanna–hey, was she an Orwell character?–but I tend to think that Amazon’s decisions and consequent humiliation served the greater good. Or at least I’d hope that other companies with the technical power to delete content from customers’ devices will remember the Amazon case and decide the bad publicity just wouldn’t be worth it.

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