Amazon Settles Kindle Suit, but Will Other Issues Follow?

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-10-03 Print this article Print
  settled a lawsuit over its summer deletion of George Orwell's books from its Kindle e-reader, and used the opportunity to publicly state its new policy with regard to the deletion of works from users' devices. Despite tighter controls over what it can and cannot do, may be faced with legal action in the future over deletion issues, particularly as it integrates the Kindle service more fully with third-party developers and companies. settled a lawsuit leveled against it by a Michigan student and another plaintiff, who claimed that the online retailer's deletion of George Orwell's "1984" from their Kindle e-readers was illegal. By settling for $150,000, a portion of which will be donated by the plaintiffs' lawyers to charity, seems to have dodged the specter of a class-action lawsuit.

As noted by the court, agreed to either restore copies of Orwell's magnum opus to those whose copies were deleted in July, or alternatively offer a $30 check or gift card. "Those who elect to receive the previously purchased Subject Work will have any and all annotations or notes made prior to removal of the Subject Work restored automatically," court documents read-a salient point, considering that the deletion of accompanying notes was one of the motivations for the plaintiffs pressing their lawsuit in the first place.

This particular settlement shuts the door on one case. However, other issues could potentially arise in the future for the relatively new industry of e-readers.

According to the settlement, still retains the right to remotely delete works from Kindle users' libraries under specific circumstances, including a legal order to delete or modify a file, an attempt to protect a device or network from malware, or with the consent of the Kindle's owner. 

While the settlement establishes a precedent for e-reader users' rights, there is likely enough gray area for another case to arise at a future date.

The court documents state that's new deletion policy "does not apply to (a) applications (whether developed or offered by Amazon or by third parties), software or other code; (b) transient content such as blogs; or (c) content that the publisher intends to be updated and replaced with newer content as newer content becomes available." has previously signed deals with a number of newspaper companies and textbook suppliers to port their content onto devices such as the Kindle DX. As the publishing industry finds itself devastated in equal measure by the economic recession and the rise of online content, it is likely that more companies will sign deals with e-purveyors such as even Apple-in order to create new revenue streams. That may create a Wild West-style situation where controversies and legal action erupt, and precedent needs to be established.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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