Kindle lives up to its name

I noticed an interesting story in the New York Times today, discussed in more detail (and with more up to date information) in the Guardian here.

Essentially, Amazon remotely deleted purchased copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindles, crediting their accounts with the values of the books removed.

Amazon initially stated the publisher had changed their minds about selling the books, later it clarified that in fact they were unlicenced copies sold by a company which wasn’t a rights holder, they have since stated that they will not delete books from bona fide purchasers in future.

That last statement I suspect comes from the negative response this has received, leaving aside those who were part way through the books when they were deleted, it meant a sale was not final. That a book purchased, wasn’t really owned. It’s a big deal. And while the corporate policy has been changed to prevent such deletions in future, corporate policies can change again and not necessarily with prior announcement.

For me, this damages the Kindle as a brand and a concept. There is already an issue with the inability to lend or resell books published electronically, with some overeager early spokespeople for the ebook industry referring (inevitably) to lending books to a friend as a form of theft. That sort of rhetoric is no longer bandied about (though lending is not enabled, it has been recognised that it’s not smart to insult your customers), but this is if anything a more worrying development.

Personally, I struggle in any event to be comfortable with an ebook named in reference to bookburning, it just seems fundamentally crass. But that’s an aesthetic point, this is a practical one. Digital rights management issues and the use of proprietary software already threaten the development of a vibrant ebook industry, suspicions that books we buy may not even be ours won’t help matters.

For me, ebooks need a format similar to the MP3 for music, one that does I grant risk piracy but also allows me to change my device (or reader) and yet keep my collection (or library). As long as shifting to an ebook means transferring control of my library to a third party publisher, with the prospect that if they go out of business or cease to support the format my ereader utilises my library ceases to exist, I won’t be buying an ebook. The prospect that my books may simply be deleted without my consent, that would prevent me buying any device with remote access. And that’s not even touching on the possibilities of post-purchase revisions to the text…

It reminds me of the tivo debacle, where in the UK tivo overrode people’s preselected recording choices to record a new show which the BBC wanted to promote. Once tivo demonstrated, on just one occasion, that it rather than the customer had control of the device in the home, sales never recovered.

As I’m generally optimistic about the prospect of ebooks, in a way I rather hope the Kindle doesn’t recover from this, though it likely shall. Ebooks are I think a good idea, the Kindle perhaps not so much.

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35 Comments

Filed under Ebooks, Publishing

35 responses to “Kindle lives up to its name

  1. As an addendum, I do have to agree with one comment made on the NYT blog, it would have been better if they’d deleted Fahrenheit 451.

  2. I don’t see myself owning any ebook any time soon. Like most new technology waves, they’re improving substantially every 6 months to a year and price keeps fluctuating incongruously with the fluctuating technology. And this one has so many policy holes that need patching before I’d feel confident in the product. I’m sure it will all get polished fairly soon and that here in a few years the improvements in technology and form will slow down to the point where I’ll feel like if I buy one it won’t be outdated within a few months. It will be interesting to watch how they iron out their policies though. Thanks for the interesting post!

  3. Very interesting post. The deletion of already purchased books is quite troubling. As you say, corporate policies change, then they change again. While I love the feel of a real book, I sometimes regret that I cannot do a text search to find that sentence I loved or that Bowles reference I thought I remembered. Ebooks have great promise, but they are not a substitution yet.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I had missed it.

  4. Max Cairnduff

    I’m of similar mind Trevor, I think the technology will mature, but I don’t think it’s there yet and I’m not sure that early adoption makes sense in this particular instance.

    Give it a few years though, and I think it will all look much more inviting. Hopefully, anyway.

    Kerry, thanks for popping over. It is troubling, I only caught the story by chance, which was why I thought it worth talking about in case others had missed it. Besides, it’s interesting in its implications. If you’re having a look around at all by the way, one of the categories is Literary Fiction and I suspect that’s where you’ll find the stuff more interesting to you, Translated is also worth checking.

  5. I agree with the conclusion that you and Trevor have reached — there is no point in being a beta customer when in a few years you know the world is going to look a lot different. And it seems to me the real damage to the Kindle project here is that it was exposed as serving as the vehicle for selling stolen goods (which is why my sympathy for people who bought the books is somewhat muted, although it wasn’t their fault). Like most proprietary new technologies, I suspect Kindle was doomed to a short run even before this problem.

    In a totally selfish sense,what makes me happiest, however, is that this is a technology that I am old enough and established enough to know that I will never have to adopt (just as the gambler in me will never play a video slot machine and the communicator never own a Blackberry). There are more than enough physical books in the library and basement to keep me amused for the rest of my life — if authors choose to publish new works only in electronic versions, I think I’ll just choose to ignore them.

  6. A question for you Max, since you are a lawyer and I am not. If Amazon is distributing copyrighted material, charging for it and remitting those charges (less their commission) to whomever is stealing my material, don’t I as the copyright holder have grounds for action against Amazon? And if they have the ability to wipe this illegally sold material off the Kindle machines to which they have sold it, are they not obliged to do that?

  7. Check out this NY Times piece — http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/opinion/20hotchner.html — for another bit of revisionism.

  8. Guy A. Savage

    Funnily enough I did look into a Kindle recently as many classics for Kindle seem to available either free or close to it. But I decided to wait. No big rush and then this business with 1984 is a bit odd. I mean, what if you were half way through the book, went to bed and then returned the next morning only to discover that it had DISAPPEARED? What a pisser.

    The new book titles available on Kindle are a bit pricey.

    But basically I prefer good old fashioned books. Some years ago I visited a library while doing research and I wasn’t allowed to actually go to where the books where. I could look in a computer catalogue and then request the book to be sent to me via some contraption rather like a dumb waiter. Vainly I tried to explain that sometimes while browsing through library shelves, you actually find the best books NEXT to the one you thought you wanted. I was assured that this was the wave of the future, and in my non-professional opinion–after all I am just a reader and not a librarian–you can stuff this sort of system.

  9. Kevin,

    On the legal side, I’m English law qualified which won’t be the legal system the dispute is under. I can make some general comments though.

    Firstly, as a matter of law, it’s nto stealing. It’s copyright infringement. That can depending on circumstances be a criminal or a civil matter (or both), whereas theft is plainly criminal. In this case, we’re almost certainly talking about a civil dispute between the rights’ holder and Amazon (and the unlawful distributor).

    Amazon here is essentially providing a marketplace, it may not be practical for them to ensure in advance that everyone using that marketplace is honest. Where, as here, they learn that a rights violation is occuring I would expect them to be required to do two things (1) prevent the continuation of the violation by ceasing sales of the offending items; and (2) turn over any profits gained from such unlawful sales to the rights’ holder.

    There would not however normally be a requirement to go to a third party bona fide purchaser who has bought the item in question and confiscate their copy. That there isn’t such a requirement is actually shown here, as Amazon have announced that in future no such deletions shall occur, if they were obliged to delete that would be an announcement of an unlawful policy.

    The law is usually pretty friendly to people who buy in good faith stuff the seller shouldn’t have been selling, as they too are in a sense victims of the wrongful act. This isn’t like someone buying a shiny new high end stereo from a dodgy pawnbroker’s after all, there was no reason to suspect the sellers of the books lacked the necessary rights to sell.

    Now, I said that copyright infringement isn’t theft. That’s key here, and the point of the distinction is this, with theft you lose the original item, with copyright infringement you don’t. The rights’ holder still has the original, what has been lost is not that but rather the revenues that could have been generated from sales of those rights.

    So, the loss to the rights’ holder is not as in theft a loss of property, rather it’s a loss of the revenue that would have been made by selling those customers those books. Accordingly, that wrong is remedied in full by reimbursing the rights’ holder (and preventing further sales), there’s no need for an additional and arguably punitive step in relation to the ultimate purchaser.

    Where it all gets very controverial is, if your measure of loss is lost revenue, it follows that if a person illegally downloading would not otherwise have purchased the item in question, there is no loss and therefore potentially in law no wrong to be remedied. Now, here they clearly would have purchased, we know that as they did. In music and software, it’s less clear and all we know is that some people would have purchased but for the piracy option, and some wouldn’t have (due to lack of funds, limited interest or other reasons).

    The trouble is, the pirates have a vested interest in saying the group that wouldn’t otherwise have bought is a big part of those downloading, rights’ holders equally have a vested interest in downplaying the size of that group and exaggerating the size of the group who would otherwise have purchased, nobody really has an interest in accuracy (which may be impossible anyway), so it gets very hard in general to say how much harm is actually occurring, which from the point of view of legal remedies is a big deal.

    Here though as I say it’s clear cut, as the eventual consumers did actually pay for the wrongfully sold goods, so clearly were willing to pay and would otherwise have paid the rights’ holder.

    Note, the above is all about law, I’m not talking about the ethics of downloading or piracy or copyright infringement, just to the legal side of it which is much more complex than the position for theft.

  10. Kevin,

    That NYT article is an ugly business all right, I loathe that sort of revisionism. I dislike it when the artist themself does it (as George Lucas did with Star Wars say) but absolutely detest it when others do it. It’s a form of vandalism. As Hotchner notes, it’s open to the reviser to write their own book in rebuttal, there’s no need to change the original.

    What concerns me with the Amazon piece is many people, perhaps even most, don’t really care about issues like this. But if we allow the possibility of deleting or revising texts, it opens us to the risk of loss of authoritative versions and of textual corruption and I think that’s a real issue.

  11. Guy,

    Sadly many of those now managing libraries don’t really understand their benefits. In the UK we have them being renamed as Ideas Spaces and similar terms, with the idea being that they become places where people gather to access the internet, read magazines, talk, exchange ideas etc. Books hardly get a look-in.

    I think saying to a government minister or local authority procurement officer that there is a serendipity to browsing shelves that we have yet to sucessfully replicate online (and plenty of people are trying, so far without much joy) would I fear result in a blank stare by way of response.

  12. Max,

    As a U.S. attorney, I want to compliment your legal analysis. Spot on. I had been going to respond to Kevin’s comment, but you have so thoroughly explained the relevant points that the only thing left to say is “bravo.”

  13. Thank you Kerry, that’s very kind.

    It’s an interesting area, not mine but it is one where law, technology and public interest are combining in fascinating ways.

  14. My thanks as well for an excellent legal analysis, Max — in my previous life in the newspaper business, I would expect to pay a lot for such a cogent explanation. And as someone with some interest in copyright issues in the electronic distribution age, this is one of the more cogent explanations that I have read. Not only is this something that is not going to go away, it is only going to get more complex. I hope Trevor drops in here and also offers an opinion — U.S. copyright law is quite a bit different from those of us under the British common law tradition (Kerry — that means you might well add to this debate). As far as I can tell, the U.S. is the only place where Orwell’s works are still under copyright, which adds another tricky dimension to this particular dispute. And I was very surprised that Salinger won his recent case, because I don’t think it would have got far in most Commonwealth jurisdictions (even if I think he had a legitimate ethical complaint).

    On the other issue, I tend to be interested in authors who decide to revisit earlier works and develop a new version. A good, but somewhat obscure example, is one of my favorite authors, Keith Maillard, who took one of his first books — Difficulty at the Beginning — and rewrote and expanded it into a tetralogy (if your reading calendar was not so crowded I would recommend it — it is to the United States in the Viet Nam war era as Powell’s Dance books are to Britain around World War II). Being able to see how an author’s view has changed has value. But heirs eliminating material is an entirely different matter. I can’t believe that a reputable publisher would do this — as you suggest, by all means let them write a separate volume, but don’t let them practice revisionism.

  15. I just read your analysis for the third time (it gets better with every reading) and now have another question. Is there an issue on whether the Kindle buyers of these Orwell works bought the “book” (a good) or, in fact, bought access to an electronic version of the book (a service)? If Amazon can right the wrong by removing the service, are not they obliged to do that?

  16. I don’t think so Kevin, though not having seen the agreements I can’t be sure.

    If you were buying access to a service, Amazon would I think be obliged to discontinue that service where it became apparent it rested on an unlawful footing. If the ebook were stored on Amazon’s servers and what you were buying was a right of instantaneous access (which is a very credible future, though not current, business model), then I think that right would need to be withdrawn. Effectively that would equate to deletion.

    Here though you’ve bought a product, albeit a virtual one. You’ve actually downloaded something and taken possession of it, so I think the analysis is different. This feels to me like the purchase of a good, not a service.

    A key test might be that if Amazon were to go bust tomorrow, anything on your Kindle would remain there. That suggests you’ve taken possession of something. If it were a service, one would expect the loss of the service provider to also mean the loss of the service.

    I don’t think it’s clear cut though (for clear cut you need a judge). One could construct a service argument (maybe anyway, depending on the actual contracts involved), but my instinct is that where you’re actually downloading rather than remotely accessing we’re more in a sale and purchase situation than a contracting for services situation.

  17. Thanks, Max. All of this does suggest that Kindle is a transitional business model — and that whatever the final version turns out to be, it won’t be Kindle.

  18. That’s certainly my view Kevin. I think online realtime storage and access is likely to be a feature of the future, but possibly not for a few years yet.

    I also think that free versions of many books, particularly older ones, will become available and that publishers will need to find a way to engage with that.

    There’s an interesting thread at the Guardian bookblog here discussing these issues in part: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/jul/21/ebooks-worry

  19. Max’s instincts are right, I think. But your question, Kevin, was a very insightful one. The winner of the battle between Amazon and the customers would likely be determined by whether the ebook was deemed a service or a good/product.

    According to the version of the Amazon Kindle License Agreement and Terms of Service, the “Digital Content” seems akin to a product not a service.
    The relevant language is:

    “Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.”

    The language “a permanent copy” seems pretty straightforward. I perused the remainder of the License Agreement and Terms of Use, but found nothing that seems to override this. While “Amazon reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Service at any time, and Amazon will not be liable to you should it exercise such right”, the “Service” is explicitly defined as the wireless connectivity and “provision of digital content”. You do not need wireless connectivity to access the “permanent copy” of an ebook you downloaded, I assume. And once the download is complete, the “provision of digital content” has been accomplished. So, while Amazon may modify or discontinue the Service, it seems they do not have the right to delete content.

    That said, the License Agreement and Terms of Use has arbitration provisions, limitations of liability with respect to incidental and consequential damages, etc., that probably pretty much shield them under these facts. The customer was refunded the purchase price of the ebook, so they have no real economic damage. As noted, incidental and consequential damages are limited (assuming that provision is enforceable in these circumstances), so what could you sue for? While technically the customers’ rights may have been violated, the fact that Amazon was trying to do right by the other innocent party, the copyright holder, and the fact that customers suffered de minimis or no monetary damage may make this a case where the law does not provide a remedy to the customers beyond the refund they already received. The refund is probably sufficient to make them whole.

    Certainly a creative lawyer could come up with theories (invasion of privacy, emotional distress, particular inconvenience because a book reviewer missed a deadline, etc.), but I doubt any of them would gain much traction.

    Kevin, you definitely get bonus points for nailing the key issue, service v. good.

  20. Oh, wait, Amazon did put this is:

    Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees.

    However, that provision is only triggered by a violation of the agreement by the customer.

    Finally, in looking through the Agreement a second time, I noticed that one section contains this:

    The Kindle Device (the “Device”) is a portable electronic reading device that utilizes wireless connectivity to enable users to shop for, download, browse, and read books.

    So, the Kindle “utilizes wireless connectivity to enable users to…read books.” Amazon lawyers would probably argue, if they had to, that Service includes “wireless connectivity” which is defined to include the user’s ability to “read books.” I think it is a stretch, but the Agreement is not without language that Amazon can try to interpret. There are also myriad other rules and terms on other pages, including perhaps on the page for downloading books, that may have additional and dispositive provisions.

    In the end, the Agreement, rather than copyright law, will determine any dispute between Amazon and a customer relating to the deletion of a book.

  21. Many thanks Kerry — I’ve never had access to so much interesting free legal advice in my life. It does seem to me that Amazon is in a bit of a bind, selling licenced access to works that are protected, if someone wanted to pursue that. And I do think the business model gets a little complicated by the fact that if they can delete the “permanent” copy that you bought, how permanent is it? And couldn’t I make the argument that they have downloaded a service, not a product?

  22. Max Cairnduff

    Kerry, good analysis, I agree with it completely.

    Kevin, Kerry’s bit on the customer’s loss is important. The loss to the purchaser is really the loss of value in terms of what they paid, which loss is remedied by the reimbursement. There’s a certain loss of convenience, but I think the books are available from other esellers and are of course available in hardcopy, so I doubt you’d see much by way of real damages for that. A creative lawyer could indeed come up with arguments for an aggrieved customer, but I agree they likely wouldn’t gain much traction.

    However, I think what the customer has bought is a copy of a book in electronic form. By deleting it, it looks to me (on a cursory analysis) like Amazon probably breached the terms of the sale, but without causing real harm because they refunded. What does it mean to say it’s a permanent copy? How permanent is permanent? The answer appears to be that practically it doesn’t mean very much, it’s only as permanent as Amazon wish it to be, which may have implications for Kindle’s business model.

    On the service point, looking at the excerpts Kerry pulled out, I think you’d struggle to argue the book is itself a downloaded service. An argument could be constructed (as Kerry notes), but I think you’d only do so if you had to, it looks very producty to me. I think you’d only argue service if you were otherwise clearly in breach with real unremedied harm caused which you were liable for, otherwise I doubt the argument would be worth the cost of advancing it.

    As an addendum, Kerry is quite correct that copyright law isn’t dispositive with respect to a dispute between a customer and Amazon, that would be a matter disposed of by reference to the terms of their contract.

  23. Thanks Max — if this is boring you, just don’t respond, but I find it interesting.

    My interest comes more from the copyright holders’ side than the book buyer (I agree that courts are generally going to find them an innocent victim). So consider this case:

    — as a legitimate copyright holder (and I will admit my interest is in living ones, not the Orwell estate, but the legal issues are the same, I think) Amazon has violated my rights by distributing an unauthorized copy for a fee.
    — for whatever reason, through their agreement with Kindle owners, they have the ability to right that wrong by deleting the unauthorized copy.
    — from my perspective as a wronged copyright holder, are they not obligated to right that wrong and delete the offending material?
    — or pay costs — which given the American civil court system would be substantial, not to mention the legal costs that would be involved in reducing them.

    It seems to me that as long as Amazon retains the ability to remove the material from the Kindle, there is an argument that they are selling a service not a product (i.e. the guy who sold me my kitchen pots has no right to repossess them if I burn stuff on them). Why would they retain the right if they would not exercise it? And once it is determined they have sold a product that they have no right to sell, don’t they have to exercise the right?

    Certainly if I was an author, I would expect that to happen.

  24. Max Cairnduff

    Kevin,

    I’m very happy to answer questions. Not a problem at all.

    Taking it point by point.

    Amazon may not have violated the rights of the IP holder. I don’t know enough about Amazon’s business model to speak to this with any certainty, but if they were held to be a pure marketplace they would only be violating those rights where they were notified that someone was using their platform for illicit sales and they failed to block further sales. The mere fact of historic sales does not of itself necessarily mean Amazon have breached the IP holder’s rights, though the ultimate seller plainly has. Amazon may have breached the IP holder’s rights, but it’s not certain.

    Amazon possess as a matter of fact the ability to delete customers’ copies, it’s far from clear they have the right to do so. Indeed, on Kerry’s excerpts my initial view is they probably don’t have the right, they just did it anyway and then remedied the harm caused by their conduct by reimbursing the customers. Accordingly, it’s far from clear that Amazon possesses any such right, the word permanent implies strongly that they don’t.

    Even if they had the right, not necessarily. Your interest is primarily in the position of the rights’ holder, but the courts would look to the interests of all affected parties. There’s a strong argument to be made that once further sales are blocked and the IP holder is reimbursed for their lost revenue they’ve received their remedy. It’s not clear to me how deleting customer copies improves that remedy, and it is arguably punitive from the perspective of innocent third parties – the customers.

    I can’t speak to costs in a US context, certainly some companies do use costs as a means to effect remedies that the courts wouldn’t grant, but it’s usually a PR disaster. It would also potentially expose the IP holder to action from the customers, if Amazon’s contract with them doesn’t permit deletion but theyuse the threat of costs to force such, they’ve induced a breach of contract and may have a tortious liability to the customers – albeit one that may be remedied by the refund. I don’t do litigation work though, so this isn’t stuff I’m expert on.

    The costs point though essentially goes to an IP holder saying “I may not have the legal right to this remedy, but can I use the threat of unsupportable costs to get it anyway?” Maybe, but Amazon has deep pockets and if the suit was seen as essentially vexatious or undeserving, the costs allocation might well go against them. That’s a big risk to take, for an additional remedy with no financial value.

    In summary then, I doubt Amazon had the right to repossess. Even if they did, however, that doesn’t imply an obligation to repossess. The rights’ holder’s wrong was remedied by the cessation of further sales and reimbursement. To go further provides them with no further meaningful remedy, but is punitive towards a third party bona fide purchaser for value. Even if Amazon could contractually repossess, I don’t think it’s at all certain an English court would grant an order to require Amazon to do so and I suspect a US court might be similarly unsympathetic.

    After all, the IP holder may want Amazon to do that, but the customers want to keep the copies they honestly paid for. Both wants are valid, just like the rights’ holder the customers have done nothing wrong.

    This could be clarified by the technological fix of having the books held on a remote server with real time instantaneous access, at that point there would definitely be an obligation to block access as the customer clearly would have purchased a service. I think we’ll see that model used in future, by some providers at least. But here it really does look like Amazon is selling a good, and their ability factually (even contractually if they have that too, which I presently doubt) to revoke it doesn’t I think sufficiently change that. The courts generally will look to what something is, not what the parties choose to call it. Calling it a service doesn’t make it so, if the clear expectation of the parties is better characterised as the sale and purchase of a good then that’s how the courts will treat it.

  25. The other thing I’d add is that this is very much an area of developing commercial practice, and therefore developing law. I’d expect some of these issues to materially impact future business models, the marketplace one in particular has already been the subject of a fair bit of litigation.

  26. All great points, Max. Simply excellent analysis. I particularly agree that, because the ebook seems more like a product (at least in this case), a court would be very reluctant to require deletion.

    In the US, courts will usually only order “specific performance” (i.e. order a party to do something besides pay money, like delete books) where monetary damages are inadequate. I think, as Max points out, monetary damages are sufficient to remedy the wrong. Further, basically restating another of Max’s points, the doctrine would likely be more compelling in a case where the specific performance would require penalizing another innocent third party. Basically, what Max said is exactly right. I doubt a court would require deletion.

    I think the deletion was not to honor any right of the copyright holder, but was taken because of Amazon’s calculation of their own self-interest.

    As a practical matter, let’s assume the author (copyright holder) can either (a) force Amazon to delete the ebooks or (b) force Amazon to turn over revenues (or the author’s lost profits).

    Which do think authors would most often choose?

    If I were the author, I would choose the sales. Deletions will not necessarily result in new sales for me, but money is money. Unless the author has some weird hangup about ebooks, I am having trouble imagining reasons not to choose the hope of money over actual money.

    I think Amazon decided it would be cheaper to refund the money (and maybe get it back when Kindle owners chose another book) than to incur a fight with the copyright holder (which would result in damages, legal fees, etc., as you pointed out, Kevin). My guess is that Amazon’s (short-term) self-interest was the driving factor in the deletions. The New York Times story changes the dynamics and, hence, the policy.

    That is all speculation, but it makes sense to me. And, maybe, that’s what you (Kevin) were getting at with your fourth point.

    I am still with Max that the ebook looks like a product not a service, but you are right that an argument can be made (particularly if more textual support can be found in the contract or other binding documents). You and Max are both right that the business model and contract could be changed to make the ebook a service rather than a product. That might change things, but I think the reason an ebook seller would do that would be for their own selfish interests.

    I do think your question about whether an author could force deletions is an interesting one. Remember, the author will incur legal fees to force those deletions, assuming Amazon resists in some future case. Under the American rule, the winner and loser each pay their own legal fees. So, again, as a business matter, I think a copyright holder probably would want cash instead of deletion.

    Anyway, an interesting case. Thank you Max for pointing it out. Thanks both for letting me join the conversation.

  27. I meant: “I am having trouble imagining reasons to choose the hope of money over actual money.”

  28. Kerry,

    Your thoughts are very welcome. Thanks for the point on costs (that each side bears their own), I thought that was the case, but wasn’t sure.

  29. Thank you both for interesting and worthwhile opinions — I think I now have a much better understanding of what is obviously an evolving area.

    And, having done some consulting work on communication and reputation management, I do think Amazon missed the boat on at least one count. I read somewhere (I think the NY Times) that they were selling a legitimate version of at least one of the Orwell titles. My advice to them would have been to give that title to the customers with an explanation of why the change had been made. It seems to me that at very little cost that would have shown good will to all the interested parties.

    Max’s follow-up post does a good job of contemplating some of the possible directions that this may take. As I said some messages ago, I think I’m just selfishly happy that this is a development that I can quite safely avoid.

  30. That would have been a much better solution Kevin, you’re quite right.

    The IP holder would know the offending copy was no longer out there.

    The customer would still have the book.

    Amazon wouldn’t have to issue refunds (though they’d probably have to pay the guys selling the legit version, still probably less expensive overall though).

    Amazon would have got some good PR, instead of some terrible PR.

    Good advice Kevin. I may check out your Kevin Maillard recommendation by the way, do you know of any good reviews I could look at?

  31. Sorry Max, I don’t know of any good reviews of Keith Maillard’s Difficulty at the Beginning and a quick google search only turns up amazon and chapters reviews. I am toying with the idea of a revisit myself — probably will decide after the Booker longlist is out and I can plan the rest of my summer reading. I’ll let you know in a week or two.

  32. Wow! I just stopped by to see this discussion again, and it’s too much for me to read right now! But it all sounds fascinating and intriguing to my currently deadened legal mind :) .

  33. Pingback: My Favorite Lit-Blog Things This Week of July 20th « Hungry Like the Woolf

  34. Max,

    Thought this was as good as anywhere to point you to a vaguely related post over on the legal blog, Volokh.com. The title of the post is the best summary: “Do Lexis and Westlaw Infringe Copyright When They Post Briefs Filed in Court?” Just thought you might find it interesting. Cheers.

  35. Thanks Kerry, I’ll take a look.

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