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SAN FRANCISCO — Last week, Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, offered an apparently heartfelt and anguished mea culpa to customers whose digital editions of George Orwell’s “1984” were remotely deleted from their Kindle reading devices.
Jeffrey Bezos, chief of Amazon, apologized last week for the digital deletion of a book from its Kindle reading devices after a copyright dispute.
Though copies of the books were sold by a bookseller that did not have legal rights to the novel, Mr. Bezos wrote on a company forum that Amazon’s “ ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles.”
An apology was not enough for many people.
A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books, lest it be forced to one day change or recall books, perhaps by a judge ruling in a defamation case — or by a government deciding a particular work is politically damaging or embarrassing.
“As long as Amazon maintains control of the device it will have this ability to remove books and that means they will be tempted to use it or they will be forced to it,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation.
The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. This week it plans to present a petition to Amazon asking it to give up control over the books people load on their Kindles, and to reconsider its use of the software called digital rights management, or D.R.M. The software allows the company to maintain strict control over the copies of electronic books on its reader and also prevents other companies from selling material for the device.
Two years after Amazon first introduced the Kindle and lighted a fire under the e-books market, there is increasing awareness of how traditional libraries of paper and ink differ from those made of bits and bytes. The D.R.M. in Amazon’s Kindle books, backed up by license agreements with copyright holders, prevents customers from copying or reselling Kindle books — the legal right of “first sale” that is guaranteed to owners of regular books.
THE US PRESS thought it had a really good bit of irony on its hands after Amazon moved to delete 1984 and Animal Farm from its database of books. Copies of the two George Orwell novels were sold to Kindle owners on behalf of an independent publisher. Most of the world's press were furious. After all, is not 1984 all about free speech? Who is this Amazon which can digitally burn books? However according to Cnet, if anyone had done the slightest research they would have discovered that the books had been published illegally. 1984 is still under copyright protection in the US and therefore can't be printed by anyone, although it is public domain in Canada, Australia, and other countries.