Big Brother Amazon? Not Really

Books • Views: 13,339

You probably heard the reports that Amazon had unceremoniously deleted Kindle versions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 from customers’ devices. But it turns out there’s a little more to the story: the company who sold the books through the Kindle store did not have the rights to publish them.

Late last week, most of the mainstream and tech press seized upon a story that Amazon had zapped copies of Orwell’s most famous novels from its Kindle store and from Kindles themselves everywhere, sending most folks into a tizzy over Amazon taking control over its Kindle content in, well, a 1984 kind of way.

But as a number of observers, including CNET News’ Peter Glaskowsky, pointed out, the reason Amazon yanked the books, or at least made them unavailable for purchase, is that 1984 in particular is, although in the public domain in countries such as Canada and Australia, still under copyright in the United States. Amazon addressed the situation late Friday, telling The New York Times via a spokesman that the Orwell books had been added to the Kindle store by a company, MobileReference, that didn’t have the rights to publish them.

“When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener to the Times.

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