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Kindle Lawsuit, Digital Rights Go Courtroom

By Neetal Parekh on August 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

1984 is back and making up for lost time.  

A public and self-critical apology may have smoothed ruffled feathers for the vast majority of Kindle users who purchased e-books of George Orwell's classic novels 1984 and Animal Farm; however, it was not enough for two readers who recently filed a class action suit against Amazon for the abrupt removal of the books from their Kindle accounts and as well from the accounts of any users who purchased one or both of the e-books.

As covered earlier, Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos recently apologized publicly for the removal of the e-books from users' Kindle accounts.  However, for Antoine Bruguier of California and high school student Justin Gawronski from Michigan, the apology fell short of perceived justice.  Their complaint sets forth six causes of action including a claim for conduct violating Amazon's own Terms of Use, which promises buyers a "non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy..." of the e-book upon purchase.  Also cited in the lawsuit is a claim for breach of contract, another for violation of property rights claiming trespass and conversion, as well as a couple of claims for violation of state and federal codes guarding against computer abuse.

The complaint does not specify a specific amount of damages but does request restitution and damages for the deletions.

Do the claims hold water?

The Amazon-centric Digital Rights Management (DRM) agreement that users must agree to before using Kindle has irked customers and observers for some time because of the overarching control Amazon reserves even after the purchase is complete.  That being said, it is pretty rare for a group to claim that Amazon violated its Terms of Service by actually exercising them.

The digital rights argument is moving from computer screen to court room with the help of Big Brother and Snowball.  Perhaps the case will shape the amorphous area of digital rights, or cause websites to alter their DRM's...or maybe it will just fizzle and quietly disappear from memory like a pop-up ad.    


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