Amazon, Big Brother, and Orwell’s 1984


In 2009, Amazon Kindle readers were surprised to find that their copies of George Orwell’s 1984 was missing from their devices. Amazon had remotely deleted these copies after it found out from the publisher that the third-party vendor selling them did not own the rights to the books. Amazon refunded the cost of the books but told its readers who were affected that they could no longer read the books and that the titles were “no longer available for purchase.” This was not the first time that Amazon removed books from customers’ devices. Previous examples include pirated copies of the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer, books from the Harry Potter series, and works by Ayn Rand. An Amazon spokesperson, Drew Hardener had told the Guardian that Amazon was changing its policy so that in the future if something like this were to occur they would block downloads of illegal copies but not remove books downloaded innocently from customers’ devices. 

Following this incident, a high school student sued Amazonfor removing his copy of Orwell’s 1984 along with all of his notes. Amazon settledthe case just a couple of months later in September 2009. As part of the settlement, Amazon apologized and said it wouldn’t repeat its actions, under a few conditions. The retailer said it will still wipe an e-book if a court or regulatory body orders it to do so if doing so is necessary to protect consumers from malicious code, if the consumer agrees to have the e-book removed, or if the consumer fails to pay. 


Source:, and

Author: Bobbie Johnson, Todd R. Weiss, Jared Newman respectively. 

Publication: The Guardian, PC World, and PC World respectively. 

Publication Date: 17 July 2009, 31 July 2009, and October 1, 2009 respectively. 

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