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Amazon Sends Orwell eBooks Down the "Memory Hole"


"In George Orwell’s '1984,' government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the 'memory hole.'

"On Friday, it was '1984' and another Orwell book, 'Animal Farm,' that were dropped down the memory hole — by

"In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

"An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. 'When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,' he said.

'Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. 'We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,' Mr. Herdener said" (, accessed 07-25-2009).

"Books in the real world are covered by a notion of copyright called the 'first sale' doctrine, which allows a purchaser to do pretty much whatever he or she wants with the book–including reselling it or lending it to a friend.

"But digital books–especially if they’re sold as part of access to a networked system such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Google’s online books collection–don’t necessarily fall under those same rules. 'We have not matured our understanding of copyright to work in a digital environment in way that provides a set of protections and meets people’s expectations for how we use digital content,' said Brantley" (, accessed 07-25-2009).

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