Michigan student and California engineer sue Amazon for remote deletion of 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Justin Gawronski and Antoine Bruguier sued Amazon.com on Thursday for remotely deleting their digital copies of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four from their Kindle devices. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, argues in part that Amazon violated its terms of service, as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Gawronski, a Michigan high school senior, originally purchased both his Kindle and an e-book of the novel for his Advanced Placement English summer reading. He made regular annotations using the Kindle's facility, noting "If [...] something [...] catches my eye as I am reading, I just place a note there". After reading online that Amazon was deleting some copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, he switched his Kindle on, and watched the copy he had purchased vanish. He later found that the notes he had written were effectively useless, stating, "all my notes refer back to nothing". He said he would probably have to re-read the entire book.

Bruguier, a Silicon Valley engineer, also had his copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four remotely deleted. According to the complaint, Amazon sent him an email saying they were "writing to confirm that we have processed your refund." In response, Bruguier wrote that "I would like to keep the title 1984. I like this book." Amazon refused to allow him to do so, and said they would not provide any "additional insight or action". Eventually, Amazon wrote a new email justifying the deletion by claiming they had lacked the right to sell him the book. Bruguier noted in response that he was "annoyed by [Amazon's] deceit" and that he "thought that once purchased, the books were [his]." His emails also quoted the portion of Amazon's terms of service cited in the suit.

Both clients are represented by KamberEdelson, and the lawsuit seeks class action status. Several classes are delineated, representing relevant sub-groupings of Kindle owners.