October 2, 2009

Amazon settles with student for stealing his Kindle copy of 1984, but gets him to accept it as a credit on his Amazon Mastercard with a fifty two percent discount

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A Wall Street Journal report says that Amazon “has settled a lawsuit with Justin D. Gawronski, a  17-year-old Michigan high school senior, whose copy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four [sic]was deleted from his Kindle in July.” Of course, Amazon effectively committed breaking and entering on innumerable other Kindle’s across the country (see this earlier Mobylives story). But in this instance, according to an earlier Journal report, the suit, filed by law firm KamberEdelson, “seeks class-action status, claims that when the company wirelessly deleted a copy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from Gawronski’s Kindle earlier this month, it also deleted the notes he had taken on the device for his homework.”

The suit also sought to prevent Amazon from deleting books from Kindles again, and sought monetary relief for people, like Gawronski, who lost work from the incident.

The settlement, first reported on by TechFlash, says that Amazon has agreed it would not “’remotely delete or modify’” digital books, magazines or newspapers on Kindles (with a few exceptions). The Journal report adds that Amazon also paid Gawronski’s law firm $150,000, with the stipulation that the money be donated to charity.” Although don’t think better of Amazon for that one — the stipulation came from KamberEdelson.

Not that Amazon can’t still delete content from Kindles — as the Journal goes on to explain, the company could do it all again “if they get a judicial order and if they need to stop a computer virus. The promise also doesn’t apply to third-party apps (which, as of yet, aren’t sold on the Kindle), or prevent the process by which ‘transient’ content such as blogs and newspapers are replaced with newer content.”

Meanwhile, Gawronski lawyer Jay Edelson says Amazon did “a lot of aggressive negotiating” to reach the settlement. No surprise to those of us in the publishing business … much as it would have been pleasant to see Jeff Bezos sentenced to some community service with a First Amendment advocacy group as part of the deal.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.

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