A law firm known for bringing class-action suits on behalf of consumers against Internet companies says it's readying a case against Amazon for deleting George Orwell books on users' Kindles.
"This is an incredible situation," says Jay Edelson of the law firm KamberEdelson. "What Amazon did was plainly illegal."
Last week, Amazon stunned consumers by deleting copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Big Brother from users' Kindles after learning of a copyright problem. The company, which sold the books for 99 cents each, discovered last week that the books had been added to its catalog by a company that didn't have the rights to them.
Amazon gave customers refunds, but Edelson says that's not a sufficient remedy. "Imagine Amazon had shipped a book to someone's house that it wasn't supposed to ship. It can't climb into the person's window, take it back, and leave $1.57."
Edelson says he intends to argue that the recall infringes on consumers' property rights. He will also argue that Amazon's ability to delete books makes the Kindle less valuable to consumers, who believed they were purchasing a device that would allow them to store books forever.
Edelson says he intends to seek to represent all Kindle owners in the case against Amazon.
Amazon's user agreement says that consumers who purchase e-books are buying the right "to keep a permanent copy" of the material. Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, says that a court might be sympathetic to Amazon because the company was apparently trying to mitigate potential copyright infringement.
Other Web companies sued by KamberEdelson include NebuAd and Facebook.