Amazon’s recent (these are getting rather common it seems) flub involving the erasure of George Orwell’s 1984 from customer’s Kindles without any notification (smooth move Amazon), brought an interesting and difficult issue to light that I had not really realized before. Orwell’s books are still copyright protected in the States. Amazon pulled copies from people who had downloaded an unauthorized version of the book put up in the Kindle store by a company other than the publisher. You can still get the publisher’s version, albeit at a higher price. The thing is though, you can go to sites outside of the U.S. and still get cheap downloads of the book. Other countries don’t follow the same copyright law as the U.S. Orwell’s books are public domain in these other countries. This poses some dilemmas for publishers. How do you legitimately try to sell copyrighted books for regular ebook prices when it’s available in the public domain from other places around the world? While many are too lazy to go hunting around to take advantage of this, it certainly appears to be a money-losing situation for the publishers.
I personally don’t have much knowledge in the area of copyright law or all of the issues generated by this problem being faced by publishers regarding world rights conflicts, but it certainly is interesting, and I’m certainly far more likely knowing this, to go look for classics elsewhere (if and when I get an ereader) than spend my 6.99 for it at Amazon.