Amazon.com’s efforts to prevent copyright infringement have landed it in hot water. A federal class action has been filed in response to the site’s recent Kindle blackout. The blackout, which was poetically reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, resulted in the deletion of several classics by controversial authors such as George Orwell and Ayn Rand. Amazon refunded its customers and apologized, saying that the deletions were made because the independent bookseller did not have the legal right to sell the novels through Amazon.

The suit, which was filed in the Western District of Washington, alleges that Amazon violated its own terms of use. The terms of use state that Kindle purchases grant customers “the nonexclusive right to keep a permanent digital copy . . . to view, use and display . . . an unlimited number of times.” The aptly named “Big Brother Class” in the complaint further alleges that not only did Amazon delete e-books without its customers’ knowledge or consent, but it also deleted any electronic notes made by those customers. For example, one such plaintiff said that notes such as “remember this paragraph for your thesis” became worthless when Amazon deleted his copy of George Orwell’s 1984.

The class alleges fraud, breach of contract and conversion, and seeks declaratory relief, damages, and restitution. So much for copyright protection. Apparently, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and deep pockets.

– Abbey Morrow

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