Amazon Settles Kindle Lawsuit, Hopes To Put 'Big Brother' To Rest

Amazon has settled with two Kindle users who sued Amazon over its removal of George Orwell's "1984" from their Kindles back in July. The settlement, whose details were posted to a number of news sites Thursday, was filed in Seattle in September 25 and states that Amazon will pay the plaintiff's lawyers $150,000 and that the lawyers, from firm KamberEdelson LLC, will donate their share of the settlement to charity.

The settlement doesn't state how much either of the plaintiffs, high school students Justin Gawronski of Michigan and Antoine Bruguier of California, will receive.

In July, Amazon unceremoniously erased copies of Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" from users' Kindles. Both books are still under copyright protection in the U.S., and were loaded into Amazon's Kindle library by a third party without permission from Amazon, but it wasn't so much the reasoning as Amazon's actions, which prompted a media brouhaha and accusations of Orwellian "Big Brother"-ish behavior for the abrupt removals.

Amazon has been walking the "mea culpa" trail ever since. First, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called the move a "painful mistake" and said that Amazon would use the "scar tissue to help make better decisions going forward." In early September, Amazon also sent an e-mail to affected Kindle users offering either a return of the Orwell material with users' annotations intact, or monetary compensation.

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The settlement also states that Amazon promises not to erase Kindle material, and can only do so in cases where it's under court order, or to protect consumers in cases where, say, downloading a product contains a security risk because the Kindle store has been hacked.

Whether Amazon's learned anything beyond how to handle sticky public relations situations remains to be seen. With the Kindle at the top of an ever-growing pile of e-reading competition, especially from the likes of Sony, Plastic Logic, Barnes & Noble and iRex, PR snafus are the type of ammunition its opponents would love to have more of.

For more on the e-reader landscape, check out a comparison of the Kindle with e-readers from Sony and Plastic Logic, and also see a look back at from dedicated e-readers to applications.