Sued Over Deleted Digital Book

August 3, 2009

“ ate my homework.”

That’s a legitimate excuse for one high-school student whose notes for a homework assignment vanished when the online retailer remotely deleted digital copies of George Orwell’s “1984,” off consumers’ Kindle devices.

Justin Gawronski of Michigan claims his copy of the classic title about the dangers of totalitarianism, purchased in June for $0.99, disappeared along with the “copious notes” he took.

“Mr Gawronski powered on his Kindle 2 only to watch ‘1984’ vanish before his very eyes,” according to the complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington.

Gawronski and a second plaintiff claim Amazon does not have the right to delete any digital content from its customers’ Kindles, the much-touted electronic readers made by the company.

In deleting the content, Amazon breached the terms of its own contract with its customers, the lawsuit claims.

“Amazon has no more right to delete e-books from consumers’ Kindles and iPhones than it does to retrieve from its customers’ homes paper books it sells and ships to consumers,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit cites what it calls Amazon’s “unfair and deceptive business acts and practices” and seeks class-action status.

Earlier this month, Amazon acknowledged it had deleted certain purchased e-books from the Kindles of an undisclosed number of owners.

It said a third party had added the books to the catalog using the company’s self-service platform. Amazon deleted the copies from consumers’ devices after learning that the third party did not have the rights to the books, it said.

The complaint filed Thursday is the second consumer lawsuit filed in two weeks against the Seattle-based Internet giant.

A Kindle owner has also sued the company claiming the protective cover of the Kindle can damage the device’s screen. That lawsuit also seeks class action status.

In the case over the deleted notes, the second plaintiff, California resident Antoine Bruguier, claims that Amazon never revealed why it deleted his copy of 1984 and did not provide a substitute version when asked.

The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief as necessary.

Amazon’s Kindle is one of several electronic readers on the market that allow consumers to read books, magazines and newspapers on a tablet-like device that downloads content digitally. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing Bernard Orr)

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