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Amazon’s Big Brother Behavior Brings Suit

kindlesIf you were to define irony by example, a book seller going “Big Brother” and secretly deleting your previously purchased copy of 1984 is about as letter perfect as you can get.  It’s the kind of thing you cannot script; the truth people deem stranger than fiction.   But believe it or not, that’s exactly what happened in mid July.

On July 16th and 17th, Amazon, after recognizing it had sold eBooks it didn’t have proper rights clearances to sell, attempted to fix the problem by dropping a heavy hand on the delete button.

Using previously undisclosed remote access technology the company systematically deleted the books from customer’s Kindles. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Though rebates were provided, the uproar and backlash was fast and loud.  And now the inevitable has happened: a lawsuit has been filed.

17 year old Michigan high school student Justin Gawronski filed papers Thursday seeking monetary and injunctive relief for the damage caused when the deleted files rendered linked notes on his Kindle obsolete. (court document follows below)

Reportedly, Gawronski’s primary interest is legal precedent.   He’s not in it for money but he wants more than to be able to tell a teacher, “the Kindle really did eat my homework.”

With an apology (aka an admission of wrong doing) already on the books from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (see below), chances are Gawronski will get what he’s after.   A settlement, a prompt settlement for that matter, is highly likely.

Just in case there’s any doubt,  plaintiffs firm KamberEdelson has taken the case on Gawronski’s behalf.  The Chicago based firm, which was formed by the merger of a boutique NYC firm and a similar Chicago outfit, has built a solid reputation chasing down digital trespassers.  The firm has previously targeted  EA (over SecuROM), AT&T and Facebook.

The case against Amazon, which is seeking Class Action claim, charges the company with Conversion, Trespass and computer fraud. Amazon is also accused of violating its own Terms of Service.

Settlement, here we come.

[Update: Oct. 1 – The case appears to have been settled according to reports from Tech Flash in Seattle.]

The following is the text of an apology published by Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s website on July 23rd:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO

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