It’s bad enough that when you ‘buy’ an e-book, you’re really only renting it, but now we hear that at least one e-book seller will, it has been alleged, wipe your device if it sees fit.
Norwegian writer Martin Bekkelund tells the story of a chum, called Linn, who claims to have had her Kindle remotely wiped by Amazon UK.
Linn not unreasonably asked Amazon what was up and was told via email by one Michael Murphy, Executive Customer Relations at Amazon.co.uk, that “we have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled”.
As for the remote wipe, Amazon’s Ts&Cs say, according to Mr Murphy, that “Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion”. [our italics]
Bekkelund’s pal maintains she had no Amazon.co.uk account. Instead she says she used Amazon.com. But the British offshoot refused to accept this point - or provide her with any further details that might provide her with a way back to the content she claims she acquired legitimately.
“While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened,” was all Mr Murphy would say, according to correspondence reproduced by Bekkelund.
Further, equally reasonable requests for more information seemingly fell upon deaf ears, leading to a final “we wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters”, from Murphy.
Of course, a seller has every right to refuse to sell to a customer, especially if it believes he or she has, say, been using their Kindle to generate unauthorised copies of downloaded works.
That may or may not be the "abuse of policies" Linn is implicitly accused of. It could be something else entirely - there's so much fine print in the average EULA, it's impossible not to violate some clause or other, Cory Doctorow notes - or it might be nothing at all. We don't know because Amazon won't say. We invite it to do so.
Meanwhile, folk buying from other suppliers need not feel smug about this. Undoubtedly, many, possibly all, of Amazon’s rivals also have content erasure clauses in their terms and conditions. A number of them may even have made use of it.
Amazon famously deleted without warning copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindles in 2009, though it did so because the copies, sold by a third-party, had not been authorised by the owner of the works in question. Shortly afterward, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” ®