Plaintiffs and Amazon propose settlement to Kindle deletion lawsuit

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Amazon Kindle in a 2008 file photo

Parties to a lawsuit against agreed September 25 to a proposed settlement resolving claims that Amazon unlawfully deleted content from users' Kindle reading devices. Justin Gawronski, a Michigan high school senior, and Antoine Bruguier, a California engineer, had sued on July 30, after Amazon deleted George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four from their Kindles. Gawronski also said his digital notes lost value because they were no longer associated with the relevant text. The plaintiffs argued that Amazon had breached its terms of service and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Washington Consumer Protection Act. Amazon had first claimed it was forced to delete the books when it learned it did not have the right to sell them. However, it apologized on July 23 and on September 7 offered affected customers either US$30 or a copy of the deleted book.

The proposed settlement includes a commitment that Amazon will only delete e-books remotely under four circumstances: the user consents, the user fails to pay or gets a refund, the government mandates it, or the deletion is necessary to "protect" the consumer, device, or network. Amazon would also pay KamberEdelson, the plaintiffs' firm, US$150,000 in legal fees, with the proviso that it go to charity. Michael Aschenbrener, an attorney at KamberEdelson, described the agreement as a "great settlement" that "provides protection for Kindle users and provides confidence to them that the books, newspapers and magazines they purchase will not be subject to remote deletion by Amazon. It sends a message to digital media purveyors of all kinds that sellers really need to respect users' rights to that content." Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener refused to comment.

The agreement is still subject to court approval.

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