Amazon settles Kindle case with '1984' reader, promises not to delete e-books

As first reported by TechFlash's Eric Engleman, Amazon has elected to settle out of court with a Michigan high school student, who sued the Kindle maker last July after having remotely deleted copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from his and about 2,000 other users' Kindles. The electronic publisher in that instance did not actually have the rights to those works from Orwell's estate; but as Amazon acknowledged in its published settlement order (PDF available here, courtesy Puget Sound Business Journal), deleting those works from their systems was a violation of Amazon's own Terms of Service.

The settlement is unique in that Amazon was willing to let its terms be known. Student Justin Gawronski's attorneys will receive $150,000, on the stipulation that the attorneys' portion will be donated to a charity that promotes literacy, educational, or children's causes. Amazon will continue to honor its plan to give purchasers a $30 gift card.

But the settlement also contains a promise from Amazon never to remotely delete e-books installed on customers' Kindles, except in certain circumstances:
"For copies of Works purchased pursuant to [the Terms of Service] granting 'the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy' of each purchased Work and to 'view, use and display [such Works] an unlimited number of times, solely on the [Devices]...and solely for [the purchasers'] personal, non-commercial use,' Amazon will not remotely delete or modify such Works from Devices purchased and being used in the United States unless (a) the user consents to such deletion or modification; (b) the user requests a refund for the Work or otherwise fails to pay for the Work (e.g., if a credit or debit card issuer declines to remit payment); (c) a judicial or regulatory order requires such deletion or modification; or (d) deletion or modification is reasonably necessary to protect the consumer or the operation of a Device or network through which the Device communicates (e.g., to remove harmful code embedded within a copy of a Work downloaded to a Device)," the settlement order reads.

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The promise only applies to e-books, the order goes on, and not to system software or to periodicals or newspapers to which the customer subscribes -- issues of those items may possibly be deleted when they "expire."

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