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On Thursday, some Amazon.com customers discovered that e-books they had bought by George Orwell had disappeared from their Kindle e-readers.
It wasn’t a scene from Orwell’s dystopian classic, “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The customers reported on Amazon’s discussion boards that Amazon refunded them the cost of that book as well “Animal Farm,” and used its “Whispernet” wireless access to their Kindles to wipe away the e-books. Some were surprised and upset, to put it mildly.
The issue, says Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener, is that the Orwell books had been added to the company
Books in the real world are covered by a notion of copyright called the “first sale” doctrine, which allows a purchaser to do pretty much whatever he or she wants with the book–including reselling it or lending it to a friend.
But digital books–especially if they’re sold as part of access to a networked system such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Google’s online books collection–don’t necessarily fall under those same rules