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Jeff Bezos Offers Apology For Erasing 1984 437

levicivita writes "From the down-but-not-out NYT comes an article (warning: login may be required) about user backlash against Kindle's embedded DRM: 'Last week, Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, offered an apparently heartfelt and anguished mea culpa to customers whose digital editions of George Orwell's "1984" were remotely deleted from their Kindle reading devices. Though copies of the books were sold by a bookseller that did not have legal rights to the novel, Mr. Bezos wrote on a company forum that Amazon's "'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles."' Bezos's post is here."
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Jeff Bezos Offers Apology For Erasing 1984

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  • Farenheit 451 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:06AM (#28835389)

    Just got a lot cooler with a hot gadget like the Kindle.

  • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:44AM (#28835655) Journal

    ... until they can convince me beyond reasonable doubt that they removed the ability to delete books on their customer's devices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:54AM (#28835745)

    If it's true that the publisher of the book had no legal right to publish the work, then this is nothing more than an electronic recall-and-destroy that all publishers and distributors have to go through once in a blue moon. Although I'm not at all interested in a device that can remotely delete my content without my permission, in this particular instantance it's not really the fault of Amazon or the DRM so much as technological progress in general. At least it's not an instance of the publisher deciding retroactively to yoink electronic rights to the work.

    Still, damned unfortunate and/or stupid of Amazon to include the function in the first place, as it likely gives them ltitle wiggle room. If you've got the ability to recall unauthorized works, then the legal system can make you use them.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:55AM (#28835753)

    Amazon has refunded their customers according to the article, but if I was halfway through a book and it got deleted from my device I would be very annoyed. To me it seems that the better solution would be for Amazon to arrange the correct rights from the copyright holder and arrange some form of deal to make sure that those who have a copy of the book on their Kindle can continue to use it or receive a new copy with the proper rights and at no cost. In the end, the material was offered through their service and they do have responsibility to their customers, even if it is not illegal for them to use this solution.

    I would be beyond fucking annoyed -- I would call it what it fucking is: tresspassing. In U.S. Law - if someone ships you an item, on purpose or by accident, they can't demand it back (only unless a contract was signed beforehand hand and purchase doesnt fulfill it). It could be a thousand dollar ring, shipped to you by accident, doesn't matter. It's yours.

    Amazon shipped the item. You, as the user of the device, purchased it, with your consent, and it went on the device. And then when Amazon found out it shouldn't have done that, did they pay the consequences to the copyright holder? No, without notice, they trespassed on your device to steal it back.

    That's what it was. I don't care if it's covered by some unsigned EULA and just because it's on the digital world. The corporates made plenty sure that Congress covered their ass with computer laws. We as private citizens should have the same rights.

    This is hacking and trespassing in it's most basic fucking form.

    [quote]The apology posted from Mr. Bezos sounds heartfelt indeed.[/quote]
    If Gandhi had #1 product on Amazon get a slew of hundreds of 1 star ratings in days, a good 10% of the ratings that were already posted over months, killing sales, he too would be able to do some convincing crocodile tears.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#28835777)

    Talk is cheap, and it costs nothing to apologise. Clearly, this is an attempt to mollify angry customers, and nothing more. This is rather typical of Amazon's contempt for their customers. They've demonstrated through their actions -- imposing odious DRM on their paying customers, and setting a dangerous precedent for Big Content to rape their customers at will -- that they cannot be trusted.

    Trust is very hard to build and very easy to destroy. I will not spend a red cent with Amazon again.

    Interestingly, beyond Jeff's cheap talk, they seem to be showing very little remorse. All my enquiries to their "customer" "service" contact either get a form letter, or are ignored entirely. Likewise, my requests to them to close my account have been ignored.

    Amazon doesn't deserve your business. Don't shop with Amazon, and spend your money with book retailers who show their customers at least a token amount of respect.

  • Re:Three Words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mick88 ( 198800 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:07AM (#28835883) Homepage

    one word: library

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:21AM (#28836027)
    Is this why amazon offers DRM-free MP3s to its customers at lower prices than DRM-laden itunes (something like $0.75 per song on big albums)? Apparently knee-jerk business bashing earns +4 insightful these days; I suppose being a successful company and screwing up once in a while is the best way to earn hate on slashdot. Are you really comparing AT&T to Amazon?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:39AM (#28836259)

    for "wasting my time" going to a brick and mortar book store, perusing the catalogs of new and used books. Maybe it's just me but there's noting like the feeling of a buying a new (to me) paperback, reading it and having the freedom to pass it along to someone else who may enjoy it just as much as I did.

    Buying books from Amazon is convenient but doesn't compare to spending an hour or two in a Barnes and Noble.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:46AM (#28836345)

    OK, Amazon trespassed on your device and stole a book (or two) from you ... if you took them to court could you substantiate a claim for any monetary damages other than the price you paid for the book(s)?

    You don't seem to understand, breaching a computer system, unauthorized access to a computer through a network is a felony. I doubt any of the Kindle owners ever signed an Eula (at purchase????) and authorized Amazon to take the book off. Maybe I'm wrong, and at the purchase of every book there is an Eula that says they get to fuck you in the ass and have the resulting baby from it too.

    All I know is if a private person were to do the same, they'd be headed to jail if caught.

    The Kindle's not a computer system where you could (try to) put forward a claim that the intrusion required you to audit everything you kept on it to determine what other damage the trespassor did.

    I'm sure the flash drive has definite traces, unless they took care to explicitly overwrite the memmory it occupied(which I doubt).

  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:58AM (#28836485)

    Nonetheless, I just remain amazed that they didn't put this out earlier, right on top of the news curve, along with giving every person involved a free copy of a legit rendition of the book(s) they had bought. It would not have been terribly expensive, and would have been incredible PR: yes, we screwed up, you already got your refund, here's the book for free anyway.

    A simpler solution would be to negotiate with the publishers. Perhaps not to have distribution rights in the future, but retroactive distribution rights. Offer them 100% of the money paid for the Kindle versions out there, or 110% or something. What publisher is really going to stand their ground in the face of a nice check without giving away any future rights? Then nobody knows anything happened, except the book is no longer available for purchase. Instead, this bad PR could cost them quite a bit of Kindle purchases and Kindle book purchases.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:04AM (#28836557) Journal

    >>>For me, the "apology" doesn't sound heartfelt at all.

    Amazon's been going downhill rapidly. The whole "we can erase your books" philosophy is why I never bought a Kindle. I like to keep my books indefinitely, read them at least once, and then resell them to somebody else. A Kindle doesn't let you do the first or the last.

    Of course the other possibility is that I'm biased against amazon. I was a seller on amazon for three years - nothing special - just selling my old books, games, or videos. I had a 100% rating until I made a mistake and violated a rule by selling a Zenith DTV Converter box (for some reason this is not allowed). They suspended my account, I apologized, and then was reinstated. I was careful to obey the rules but they suspended my account again saying, "You issued a $200 refund which exceeds our new selling standards." Well yeah. A guy bought a $200 air conditioner, then he changed his mind, so I politely and happily refunded the money. That's what you're supposed to do.

    Long-story short they refused to listen and just kept saying refunding $200 is a lot of money an unacceptable. Now they are holding almost $500 of my money earned off previous sales, and won't return it to me. I can understand a temporary hold but almost half-a-year has passed.

    Amazon is rapidly following the path to destruction that Ebay followed last year when it alienated its sellers.

  • Re:the cat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by opus7600 ( 1250684 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:06AM (#28836593)
    And do you have *proof* that they can't reach in and delete your non-DRM media? Amazon is stonewalling all attempts from all journalists trying to figure out the actual boundaries the Kindle has. Given what they've shown they can do so far, I'd be very surprised if they were unable to delete an arbitrary file from an arbitrary Kindle, but the fact is, we don't know because they won't say. Seem you're a lot safer just avoiding the Kindle until they start answering some questions or making some changes.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:08AM (#28836613)

    I would be beyond fucking annoyed -- I would call it what it fucking is: tresspassing. In U.S. Law - if someone ships you an item, on purpose or by accident, they can't demand it back (only unless a contract was signed beforehand hand and purchase doesnt fulfill it). It could be a thousand dollar ring, shipped to you by accident, doesn't matter. It's yours.

    Coincidentally, Amazon has tried similar shenanigans in the past. A minor error on their website turned a DVD promotion of buy 1, get the next one 50% off to buy 1, get the next one free. They corrected the error on their website but still shipped orders up to three days later.

    A month or so goes by and they threatened everyone that received shipment with an ultimatum - return it or pay what amazon thinks you should have paid. They even went so far as to actually charge some people's credit cards for the extra fee and people had to dispute the charge - a big hassle for a handful of people who had banks that were not willing to back them up in the dispute. Anyone who had paid for their year-long express shipping service "amazon prime" essentially had that service held hostage - if they did not comply with amazon's demands then amazon would no longer do any business with them and would not refund a pro-rated amount for their Amazon Prime fees.

    Amazon's got a good rep, but it is undeserved. When the shit hits the fan, they seem to always take the anti-consumer choice. (Another general example of Amazon being anti-consumer, if your website gets amazon referrals, you are forbidden from allowing any discussion of amazon coupon codes on your website.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:36AM (#28836989)

    Yes, true, and before this happened we could have said; "It's okay, I trust Amazon not to start deleting stuff from my Kindle."

    Now, we no longer trust them with remote-wipe capability.

    Anyway, refunds could just as easily be implemented by "verify that customer deleted book" DRM-functionality. No need to have the delete be automated.

    But then they couldn't act like the BOFH.

  • by quadrox ( 1174915 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#28837179)

    Up until the point where they - either "rightfully" or by accident - deny you accident to any game you bought on steam EVER. Or the company goes bankrupt or whatever else could happen.

    Seriously, let's go as far and say you cheated in a multiplayer game once. They can suddenly take all the games you ever bought for good money away from you. It's just gone. Poof.

    While it may have been wrong for you to cheat, should they really hold the power to take all the games you ever bought away from you with the flip of a byte?

    Allowing you to redownload your games from your account can be done without DRM as well. Yes right now they are only willing to do it with DRM, but it could be done without. DRM is not a benefit, people need to learn this.

    And before somebody complains - I buy all the games that I play (unless I quickly decide it's not for me - but then I stop playing). I just want to have control over my own games that I bought with my money. If I can't have that, I won't buy it.

  • by 3vi1 ( 544505 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:34PM (#28839159) Homepage Journal

    >> if they couldn't be assured that the numbers of pirates were kept very low by Steam.

    What makes you think they can? A simple Google search turns up several "Steam Cracking Packages".

    I wish you the best of luck with your games, but don't be under any illusion that Steam prevents piracy. At best, it will prevent multiplayer play on servers that use Steam's auth-servers. Any game running it's own account-based multiplayer servers enjoys this benefit, it's not a feature specific to Steam.

  • by ukyoCE ( 106879 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @01:05PM (#28839749) Journal

    Yeah, it can hurt to admit, but for example by using DRM, Apple was able to get iTunes such huge market share that they could:

    a) demonstrate to the music industry that online distribution was possible and profitable

    b) after (a), force the industry's hand into getting them to remove the DRM, due to customer complaints and (maybe more importantly) customer's and apples' willingness to increase prices for the non-DRM versions of the songs

    Likewise Valve has jump-started PC game digital distribution with Steam, making more products available online. And unlike iTunes, Steam carries with it various advantages over retail distribution, such as being able to download and play your games without a CD. Not that this is impossible without DRM, but the DRM enabled Steam to offer these features for games.

  • by firegarden7 ( 808626 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @01:42PM (#28840449)
    I purchased 1984 on my Kindle back in March, and I always leave wireless turned off except for when I want to purchase another book. As ErikZ mentioned, it extends the battery life for weeks. I fully expected 1984 to be deleted from my Kindle once I turned wireless back on and purchased another book, but it's still there (I reopened it to make sure it was still readable as well), and I received a refund for the purchase as well. The book is also still there on my iPhone Kindle app. So maybe leaving your wireless turned off can prevent Amazon from remotely deleting your purchases? Doesn't seem likely that they would have left that kind of hole in their kill switch, but it did the trick this time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:20PM (#28842051)

    While it's true that DRM itself isn't going to be a benefit to a consumer, in the preferred case, it also wouldn't be a hindrance (other than technically to "pirates", though we all know that's useless), and would allow the companies providing us with the content to actually allow us to use the content as we by law should be able to (whatever rights those end up being). If we can do X with a physical version of the product, then we should presumably be able to do X with an electronic version.

    For example, DRM could allow us to sell/return digital content (our license is revoked so we can't use it, and if it was a sale then another license is created for the buyer so they can use the content). Of course, all things are technically possible without DRM, too, but it seems like DRM's the only way we're actually likely to have a chance at having the same rights we expect to have (since then the providers at least feel like they're still in control of their product). Though of course even though DRM makes it more provider-friendly (they have some sort of "guarantee" that the seller can't use the content they sold), we of course aren't given that right by anyone (which is obviously annoying and for some (many?) is a deal-breaker when dealing with electronic content).

    If done right, DRM could give us a "common ground" of sorts, where we as consumers have all the rights that we expect, and the companies have some sort of assurance that the content won't be used outside those expected bounds. When done wrong (as is pretty much universally the case currently), it's more like armed thugs harassing you, rifling through your belongings, and shooting you in the leg (or face) just for the hell of it.

    DRM doesn't have to be bad or restrictive (to an honest consumer), even though pretty much all current implementations are. I'm just hoping that these providers come to their senses, since otherwise we may end up with fewer digital rights than we already have as draconian DRM implementations are bypassed and honest consumers have to turn to the pirates just to use the content they paid for.

    Or maybe this is all like Communism vs. communism, and DRM the implementation bears little relation to DRM the idea. In which case we're pretty hosed as the choice of "good DRM" (protecting our rights and the provider's interests both) is not available and providers only see "no DRM" (good for us, "bad" for them) and "bad DRM" (horrible for us, very good for them).

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry