When Amazon remotely deleted George Orwell’s 1984 from the Kindle reading devices last week I’m sure that George Orwell rolled over in his grave. Orwell’s novel written in 1949 predicted that Big Brother’s censors would erase anything that the government found objectionable by sending down a “memory hole.” I’m happy to report that my paperback copy that I read in junior high school is still on my library shelf!
When Amazon discovered that its source of the Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm did not have the rights to the books, Amazon remotely deleted copies from the Kindles. This got some headlines and irritated many, but since Amazon did not have the right to distribute the books it did the next best thing, it deleted copies.
Where Are We Going With This?
The Free Software Foundation is soliciting support from many sources (including librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals) to present a petition to Amazon asking that Amazon reconsider its use of software called digital rights management (DRM). DRM is software that restricts the use of copies and devices so for instance the version of 1984 that Amazon distributed could only be viewed on a Kindle and Amazon could delete copies. This runs against the grain of the Copyright Act’s "first sale doctrine" that permits a purchaser of a copyrighted book to sell that copy, but not make other copies. Many individuals are concerned about users of copyrighted materials are losing their rights guaranteed under the Copyright Act. It also seems that George Orwell’s predictions may have come true, not necessarily in 1984, but in 2009.