Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Kindle ate my homework: lawsuit filed over 1984 deletion; Ars Technica, 7/31/09

John Timmer via Ars Technica; My Kindle ate my homework: lawsuit filed over 1984 deletion:

A suit filed on Amazon's home turf claims that the company's recent deletion of e-books from consumers' Kindles violates its contract with users and constitutes computer fraud.

"Amazon attracted a lot of unwanted attention when it used its Kindle e-book reader's always-on network connection to delete copies of works by George Orwell that had been sold without a proper license. The company has since apologized to its users and promised that it will never happen again, but those steps aren't enough for some. A lawsuit has been filed in Seattle that seeks class action status for Kindle owners and Orwell readers, alleging that Amazon has done everything from committing computer fraud to eating a high school student's homework.

One of the plaintiffs, Justin Gawronski, has a compelling story about his experience with Amazon's memory hole. Apparently, he was reading his copy of 1984 as a summer assignment for school, and had been using one of the Kindle's selling points—the ability to attach notes to specific parts of the e-book text—to prepare for his return to school. Since he was actively reading the work when Amazon pulled the plug, he actually got to watch the work vanish from his screen. He's left with a file of notes that are divorced from the text that they reference. A second plaintiff is named, but he just seems to have gotten poor customer service when he complained about the deletion.

But the firm that filed the suit clearly expects that these two individuals are hardly alone, and it seeks class-action status, with three different degrees of harm. The first is simply Kindle owners, who have allegedly seen their device's resale value drop due to Amazon's actions. The second is those that lost a copy of a digital work, and the final class are those, like Gawronski, that have put effort into annotating a work, only to see the underlying text vanish."

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