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Amazon clarifies Kindle book-deletion policy, can still delete books

Nilay Patel
October 1, 2009
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Amazon might have been extremely contrite about remotely deleting 1984 from Kindles, but a Jeff Bezos apology and an offer to restore the book doesn't necessarily add up to a meaningful change in policy. As part of the settlement with that student who sued over the 1984 situation, Amazon's had to clarify its remote-deletion guidelines, and they're pretty much the same as ever: they'll hit the kill switch if you ask for a refund or if your credit card is declined, if a judge orders them to, or if they need to protect the Kindle or the network from malware. Sounds simple, right?

Well, sort of -- saying they'll delete content at the behest of judicial or regulatory decree pretty much leaves the door open to exactly the same situation as the 1984 debacle, just a couple procedural steps down the line and with less blame placed on Amazon. If you'll recall, 1984 was deleted after the publisher was sued for not having the proper rights, and Amazon took the proactive step of deleting the content -- and although Amazon won't do that on its own anymore, all it takes now is one strongly-worded motion before a sympathetic judge and we're back at square one. That's pretty troubling -- no judge can order a physical bookseller to come into your house and retrieve a book they've sold you, and saying things are different for the Kindle raises some interesting questions about what Amazon thinks "ownership" means. We'll see how this one plays out in practice, though -- we're hoping Amazon never has to pull that switch again.




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