Friday, July 31, 2009

Student sues Amazon despite finding 1984 notes

Update to earlier articles (1)  and  (2) on the Amazon '1984' debacle

  Note that an interview with the "1984" student will be broadcast on The Kindle Chronicles podcast tonight (Friday).

When the student was last interviewed by The New York Times's Brad Stone about the sudden removal of his copy of '1984,' Stone reported:
' Whether or not people are bothered by these possibilities may in part be a function of their age, as a new generation grows up with an implicit understanding of the rules around these networked devices and learns to live with them.

“I’d like to live in a perfect world where I own this content and can do whatever I want with it,” said Justin Gawronski, a high school student whose copy of “1984” was erased by Amazon, but who recently declined when a lawyer asked him to join a class-action lawsuit over the incident. Mr. Gawronski said, “This is probably going to happen again and we just have to learn to live with it.” '”
That last thought was more relaxed than my own reaction as I feel that Amazon and other e-reader companies have seen that they'd best not do anything like this again, just for what it would do for their bottom line, as customers definitely don't want this done.  Amazon acknowledged this already by changing their systems, they said to Stone, so that this wouldn't happen again on even a book that was found to not be a legal edition, once it had been sold.

Yesterday, the Wall St. Journal reported that Justin has gone ahead with the lawsuit after all (no doubt with the help of some persuasive lawyers).

  Though other newspaper reports didn't mention this, there is another plaintiff name involved, "A. BRUGUIER," who wants another book to replace the one removed.  The lawsuit also focuses on what it calls "unfair and deceptive business acts and part of a pattern and generalized course of conduct."
  For most people I talk with on Amazon forums, this description just gives the suit less credibility, as Amazon's strong point has been the overall quality of its customer service in the last couple of years.  

Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles announced the other day that Friday night's podcast will include separate, unrelated interviews with Ian Freed of Amazon and with Justin Gawronski.

  The interview with the student came about because of the interesting, almost entertaining way in which he found out ("The rest of the story") that he still did have the notes after all, on his Kindle, after feeling his work had been stolen.  That can be read, with hyperlinks added by Edgerly.  It should be good to hear from Justin himself in the interview.  Len said, at the unsympathetic Amazon forum thread discussing this, that in his interview
' Justin comes across as a pretty good kid, trying to do the right thing in a situation that is getting pretty intense.  I agree this lawsuit doesn't look very good on paper, but hearing his side of the story in his own words puts the matter in a different light, IMO. '
  The notes were, by normal programming, put into a separate pure-text file ("My Clippings" file) which Kindle users can then copy or move to their computers for editing and printing.  Justin confirmed the notes are still in that file.
  About a day later, Justin received a used e-copy of the book that had been available at some time ago.  It wasn't provided by Amazon though.

 The Lawsuit acknowledges that the notes were not lost (despite many current newspaper reports).  It states, instead, that Justin considers the notes "rendered...useless" because he no longer has the book for reference and that some notes, which give location numbers in the Kindle book, referred to items such as "this paragraph" in the book.

This includes the detail from TradingMarkets's story.

1. License for Life: Jay Edelson, of the firm of KamberEdelson uses the following rationale: his main point seems to be that “People are given license for life” (to an e-book), but I think the problem there is that Amazon found out from the copyright owner that Amazon didn’t have the "rights" to License the e-book at all as the book is still under copyright in the U.S., and Mobile Reference, who uploaded the book ‘1984? (as well as ‘Animal Farm’) didn’t have the right to offer it for sale.

  If Amazon didn’t have the right to license that book to anyone, can they license that book "for life" as Edelson puts it?

  I still feel that Amazon handled it poorly, even if giving refunds as they did, and really should not have removed the book(s) from customers' Kindles, but they have given two apologies, with the assurance (reported in The New York Times) that they’ve changed their systems so that it will not happen again despite illegal book uploads having been sold.

2. "Hacking" into peoples Kindles - TradingMarkets reporting Edelson's points).
  TradingMarkets reports, "The class action seeks injunctive relief barring from improperly accessing peoples Kindles in the future."

What is 'hacking' or 'improper' accessing in a network environment with ongoing interaction and file handling and backups?
  Amazon's normal network processes include ‘removal’ of a current daily blog to replace it with the most current daily blog subscribed to, and to ‘move’ customer-deleted books to the Kindle “Archives” area so that these deleted books can be re-downloadable via a click from the Amazon servers.  Also, older subscription issues are moved to a Periodicals folder, and all kinds of file handling (including back-ups of notes and notations on books with customer approval) are everyday file-handling.  In other words, deletions are part of the everyday processes.

 Ironically, a long-standing demand by some customers has been that they be allowed to have 'permanently removed,' from the Server logs forever, any books they thoroughly dislike and have deleted from their Kindles, so that they never have to see the title in their Kindle's Archives listing anymore, but Amazon has been reluctant to do this when the customer had bought it and when there is no legal issue involved that presses for permanent removal.  What if customers were to decide later we wanted a book again after all, for a second look, and called to say we had purchased it and should be able to download it?

3. Personal property / Network client device
  Another key point will be whether or not the Kindle doubles as personal property AND as a network client device, the latter covered by Title 17 of United States Code:
(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks at Direction of Users
which is discussed in an earlier report.

To download a copy of the federal lawsuit, click here.
Photo Credit: KamberEdelson
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