23 July 2009

[liff] But Then Orwell Rather Lends Itself To Such Irony

2164.Inasmuch as Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of my favorite books, I found this kerfuffle incredibly amusing: it would seem that Amazon has not only deleted Orwell's famous dystopian novel from its e-book stocks, but also remotely removed it from every Kindle on which it was downloaded.

The irony inherent in Nineteen Eighty-Four being chuted down the memory hole should need neither introduction nor explanation.

The truth is actually as prosaic as it was amusing; the publisher who released the e-version of the novel was not the publisher who had the rights to do so – in the USA, anyway. Nineteen Eighty-Four is in the public domain in several countries (notably, Canada). Just as with much other net goodness (vintage video-game ROM images and porn come to mind) the responsibility lies with the downloader or, in this case, the entity making such content available for sale to others – Amazon, in this case.

Thus, the deletion of Nineteen Eighty-Four from the Amazon e-book stock and the Kindles. Amazon was, essentially, selling a pirated work (at least as far as USA law is concerned)

The subtlety to the jest comes in the apology that Jeff Bezos published to the Kindle community. It was all mea culpa and no explanation. I don't mean to criticize the policy really; there could have been exculpation and explanation in equal measure, though. But CNet columnist Peter Glaskowsky leapt unto the breach with a succinct, clear message.

Myself, I prefer actual books, not networked devices that the vendor can delete content at will on (hell, can't afford a Kindle anyway). Which reminds me, I got some Harlan Ellison I need to get into.

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2 comments:

Dale said...

Interesting. It can be dizzying to think of the assorted international intellectual property laws all the way to their logical conclusions. It must be the case, for example, that simply carrying certain DVDs with you on a trip overseas converts you into a "smuggler" of "contraband."

I, too, am not sold on the Kindle. And is it me, or is the price for the device rather obscene? I mean, isn't the conventional approach to such thingies to make the device a loss leader and then make the money from content, extras, and add-ons? They seem to want to make a haul from the device itself, and this actually reduces my confidence in its future -- to me, it suggests *they* have doubts about it.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

It must be the case, for example, that simply carrying certain DVDs with you on a trip overseas converts you into a "smuggler" of "contraband."

Indeed I'm sure it can be interpreted as such. As a matter of fact, back in the days of the mixtape, it was – strictly speaking – illegal to mix your own tapes and give them out. Moreover, anyone who recorded an album on cassette and gave it to you was prima facie breaking the law. Even making copies for your own use could be a violation of the law!

Record companies couldn't chase you down then – there was no way to catch everyone. Making a mixtape made no IP stream. Also, it could be argued that sharing tapes created demand and had a 'back door' sort of promotional effect.

I completely agree with your take on the Kindle. Yes, it's embarassingly expensive. I guess the days of the "loss leader" are over.

The DRM fun doesn't just end with Amazon just pulling media they shouldn't have sold you in the first place. If you become a suspect customer with Amazon, they can cause your Kindle to become a brick – useless for everything.

All in all, the Kindle doesn't seem to be that great a deal. Fun toy, sure. Way to distribute content? I don't trust it.