back to article Amazon coughs $150k to student over lost notes

A student who sued Amazon for deleting George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four from his Kindle ebook, rendering his notes useless, has won $150,000 along with protection for other Kindle users. The agreement (pdf), which was spotted by Seattle's TechFlash, effectively prevents Amazon reaching out and deleting or modifying works …


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  1. James O'Brien


    "That deal sees $150,000 handed over, to be divided between Gawronski (whose counsel's share will go to charity) and another defendant."

    So this idiot gets a wad of cash (as for his lawyers share going to charity im guessing its the charity for the lawyers retirement fund) for being a moron? I seem to recall that Amazon offered another copy of the book after all this started to those who were affected so why couldnt he just take that and tell it to use his notes there? I seem to remember hearing you can do something like that with the device. And I cannot see how the page numbers would be that far off, if at all, of the first copy.

  2. Pablo


    I must say I'm rather surprised at this turn of events. And on the one hand, it does seem like overkill, but on the other, much less and it wouldn't mean anything at all to a huge company like Amazon.

    It has been pointed out in the past that their promise not be worth much next time someone puts legal pressure them to do this. And it's bound to come up again, now that everybody knows they can do it.

    But now, not only does Amazon have a motivation to fight any such attempt, but they can point to this case and say "look, we CAN'T do that. A judge told us so."

  3. Kevin 9
    Thumb Up


    I rarely agree with people calling up their lawyers for every little thing, but in this case I do. My only regret is that it doesn't set a firm precedent on user control over their purchases. A good slap on the wrist for Amazon.

  4. Roger Ruffley
    Big Brother

    Only partly stupid.

    @James O'Brien

    "why couldnt he just take that and tell it to use his notes there"...

    Well, personally, if I had to choose between another copy of the book, or $150,000, I would probably go for the $150,000 as well I'm afraid. Gawronski may be and idiot and a moron... but he isn't THAT stupid.

  5. Alan 6


    By doing as you suggest he wouldn't trouser $50k, or whatever his half of the settlement is less his lawyer's "charitable" donation...

  6. Ad Fundum

    @ James O'Brien

    I think you're missing the point. The fact is that Amazon removed an item that they had sold to him without his knowledge or consent. It's the fact that they behaved as though they were above the laws that protect consumers. If you came home one day and found everything that you bought on your credit card repossesed without your knowledge or consent, would you accept a book token in exchange? Or would you want to see whoever did it taken to the cleaner's for acting that way?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    @James O'Brien

    First of all, the Kindle doesn't HAVE page numbers, and annotations just "go here" in a book.

    Second of all, Amazon deserved an ass-beating. I just wish it'd been legally binding.

    And as for getting a wad of cash, you do realize he had to stick his neck and spend the time and money taking Amazon to court in the first place, right? He didn't just magically get handed a bunch of money.

    You forget that Amazon was the idiots in this case, yanking people's property away from them.

  8. jim 45

    just say no to closed systems

    And what good would it do for Amazon to "ask first", if it's a closed system and you have no way to offload your notes? What if you answered "no it's not ok"?

    Closed systems have no future.

  9. DZ-Jay

    Re: WTF?

    Read the story, Amazon acquiesced and *settled* with him--it was their decision, not the court's. In fact, it did not get to the courts. He sued Amazon, and given the bad publicity they have suffered so far, they decided to spare themselves more aggravation and public scorn.

    So the lesson to be learned from this is not that "this idiot (Gawronski) gets a wad of cash for being a morn", is that "those idiots (at Amazon) paid a wad of cash". Given the circumstances, I'd say the guy is brilliant for getting so much money out of them.


  10. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    @James O'Brien

    "So this idiot gets a wad of cash (as for his lawyers share going to charity im guessing its the charity for the lawyers retirement fund) for being a moron?"

    Well *I* wouldn't buy a Kindle but I wouldn't call him an idiot or a moron for it.

    " I seem to recall that Amazon offered another copy of the book after all this started to those who were affected so why couldnt he just take that and tell it to use his notes there?"

    They offered the copy of the book over a month and a half later. I don't know about you, but when I take notes for a class I need them soon, not months from now.

    "I seem to recall that Amazon offered another copy of the book after all this started to those who were affected so why couldnt he just take that and tell it to use his notes there?"

    They were offered a dead tree copy. I don't know if the notes can be printed out or what for sure.

    I think $150,000 is a bit excessive, but certainly removing a purchased item without notice, and initially with no recourse or compensation (other than the 99 cent purchase price refunded) is quite unacceptable.

  11. Tam Lin

    Napoleon Gawronski

    I guess this means he's moving into the farmhouse with his lawyers.

  12. Graham Marsden

    "once a book is downloaded from Amazon you should be able to rely on it not to change."


    1) Download book from Amazon

    2) Amazon screws up and deletes it

    3) Profit!

  13. J 3


    Glad Amazon lost the money, too bad it did NOT go to the end in the courts. If they settled, they must have thought they were likely to lose, no? It would be good for the legal precedent to be established here -- against Amazon's acts, of course.

    @James O'Brien

    And some idiots and morons think it is fine for corporations to remotely mess with people's property and get away with it. Funny world, innit?

  14. Matthew 4
    Thumb Up


    Do copyright holders not see they are shooting themselves in the foot with their dacronian copyright enforcement. it makes it easier and safer to protect yourself and download it for free

  15. Real Ale is Best

    Why are companies so stupid?

    Amazon should, when they found out about the copyright, have stopped selling the book, then gone to the copyright holder and said something along the lines of: "We're very sorry, we didn't realise this work was still in copyright. We sold 2000 copies, here is the money to buy 2000 licences off you."

    If they'd done that, it would have probably cost them less than $150,000, they would have had good PR as opposed to bad, and if they were lucky, they'd have got a licensing deal to keep selling the books.

    Some PHB that made this decision should be sacked.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Some real Einsteins involved in this whole sorry affair!

    Now while I support screwing a corp for flipping great wads when the corp messes up, I still have one huge question in mind.


    These are your thesis notes FFS! These notes no doubt took weeks and weeks to collate and they are so precious as to wipe out an entire term's study, so WTF was your safety net? Oh yeah, you're a fucking moron for thinking that technology is infallable!

    So, was there any proof these so-called notes actually existed? I assume there must have been why else would Amazon cough up money. Why didn't he keep backups? If the device allows notes to be made on it directly AND doesn't allow backup copies of documents+notes to be taken, it's a pretty fecking useless thing to rely on, especially as technology is not 100% perfect, you could well be the 1 in 10,000 to have the "Friday tea-time" one!

    Finally how flipping stupid are the developers of this device, when it can remove any related docs alongside the primary ones requested to be removed! Surely this kind of idea has LAWSUIT in 50 foot high letters, written all over it! FFS!

    "Something smells fishy, and I'm not talking about the contents of Baldrick's Apple Crumble!"

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I buy in good faith

    And the rights holder is happy to have whatever it is I bought actually sold* then any mistake should be covered by the seller and not me. In instances like this it seems clear that, as my Camra-esque friend has already said, Amazon should have ponied up the royalties to the holder and taken steps to avoid this happening in future. It is clearly not right on any level that they can just go and delete shit without any warning, notice or even opportunity for the recipient to legitimise the purchase themselves. No fucking wonder they settled.

    *If the rights holder refuses to allow whatever it is to be sold then that is a different matter and would need to be dealt with in some manner that removed it from teh buyer but compensated them appropriately.

  18. frank ly Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Choose the right country (not Oceania)

    Since '1984' is now classed as a work in the public domain in Canada, Russia and Australia, perhaps Amazon could have delivered it from a server in one of those countries (I'd suggest Canada as being most convenient since it's a relatively short distance to the north and they mostly speak the same language).

    As for Amazon selling it in a market and jurisdiction where there is copyright (the USA), that would be a different matter. Maybe they could give the book away as a 'free gift' and charge a 'packing and delivery' fee to 'cover their costs'?

    Oh....wait a minute.....what's's public domain in Australia (one of those pesky countries that have different laws). So, a quick search on the internet reveals:

    CAUTION: it is illegal to download that webpage if you are in a country where the work known as '1984' by George Orwell is still in copyright. USA and UK citizens must not download from that web address.

    I'm sure you will all be good citizens and not even consider committing a thoughtcrime.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Real Ale is Best

    I suspect that the reason they didn't do that is because of US copyright law.

    The rights holders gets to go for *punitive* damages - so they don't get to claim for 2000 licences at slightly expensive rates (even at the cover price for the book, they'd pay out $20,000), they get to claim for 2000 licences at expensive rates, plus 'a lot'.

    Well done RIAA and MPAA for damaging your own interests.

  20. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @Some real Einsteins involved in this whole sorry affair!

    "pointed out that the notes were backed up online anyway"

    Or were you too busy ranting to actually read the whole article?

  22. William Boyle

    Can vs Will

    I think that the problem with the Kindle and similar devices isn't whether or not the service provider (Amazon in the case of the Kindle) does remove content, but whether or not they CAN remove content. Just having that ability is unacceptable to me and the sole reason why I will not purchase and use one of these devices. Though I would like the bigger format that the Kindle provides, I am perfectly happy using my Palm TX as an ebook reader.

  23. cordwainer 1

    Did anyone except Michael2 actually READ the facts before spouting moronic nonsense?

    1) The suit was filed primarily to keep Amazon from ever again deleting purchases without notice. There is now a court order forcing Amazon to adhere to its Terms of Service - which the court ruled Amazon violated by its actions - and to notify users and obtain their consent before deleting a book they have purchased.

    Justin Gawronski - the plaintiff many of you here referred to as an "idiot" and a "fucking moron" - did not ask for or receive any money in the settlement.

    He had his notes backed up - he didn't lose anything. But, again, he filed suit because he believed Amazon was wrong in its actions

    The entire $150,000 went to Gawronski's attorneys. To the "idiot" who wrote, "as for his lawyers share going to charity im guessing its the charity for the lawyers retirement fund," perhaps you should stop guessing and consider getting the facts straight before you post.

    I quote here from the Stipulation of Settlement: "Kamber Edelson LLC will donate its portion of that fee to a charitable organization that promotes literacy, children’s issues, secondary or post-secondary education, health, or job placement."

    It's incredibly scary to me that the majority of the comments here are based COMPLETELY on speculation, not a single fact, and are full of insult, profanity, bile spewing, and illogic.

    What the hell is wrong with all of you? What are you, 6 years old?

    Is there any point to posting comments that are nothing but uninformed, ignorant rants? Have ANY of you ever considered checking your facts before you spout off your ridiculous insults, and what might as well be libel of the parties involved?

    I have written this before to the Register, and I write it again here. Please, please, PLEASE, if you're going to moderate these comments, MODERATE them. Stop encouraging the children and trolls, and stop allowing comments through that add nothing intelligent to these discussions.

    I acknowledge, that could easily be interpreted as a request for censorship. It is not. I don't believe in censorship. But I do believe that comments should be relegated to the appropriate place, and the appropriate place for most of the comments is somewhere else. They are irrelevant to this article. They provide no intelligent discussion of the case, the settlement, Amazon's actions, or copyright law.

    I have proposed before that a Reg "sandbox" be created where ranters can fling sand all they like. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will someday happen.

    Apologies, as always, for losing my temper. But I defy any intelligent person not to boil after reading the majority of the comments.

    All best,


  24. lukewarmdog


    welcome to El Reg

    What the hell is wrong with all of you? What are you, 6 years old?"

    Quite possibly.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Amazon recently announced

    they are to make the Kindle available in Australia.... Given that 1984 is not copyright here, I wonder if Amazon will make it available for the Kindle here in Australia.

    Given that they don't even have an Australian site, I'm guessing it won't be available.

    Good on this guy for getting $150k out of Amazon, as it's blatantly wrong to reposes something that's been sold and paid for in full and giving a refund doesn't make it all better.

  26. stuartnz
    Thumb Up

    Not so unhappy now

    At first I was staggered that Amazon had decided to realease the Kindle only on the penal side of the Tasman, rather than the English-speaking side, but now I'm thinking our convict cousins across the ditch are welcome to it. Android for the Courier, anyone?

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