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WikiLeaks Back on Amazon - via Kindle - for Now [Update]


WikiLeaks is back on Amazon. It's selling for £7.37 ($11.64), and it's angered plenty of reviewers who don't understand Amazon's not exactly complicit in the act.

Self-publisher Heinz Duthel, who has several books about Julian Assange already on the site, has a title called "WikiLeaks documents expose US foreign policy conspiracies. All cables with tags from 1- 5000 [Kindle Edition]" on the U.K. Kindle portal for around $11. The title suggests an extract of the Cablegate files, which are freely available from the numerous WikiLeaks clone sites that are popping up online (although Wikipedia itself has just brought down the list of alternative sites).

The title's reviewers are typified by one user: "These documents are already now 'free' in every sense of the word, why should anyone pay? The fact you're profiteering from someone you've mistreated sickens me. I am now an ex-customer, permanently. I'm not doing business with you any more." There follows an extensive, and growing list of complaints that follow the same line—anger at Amazon, voiced through the review process, partly directed at Duthel but mainly at Amazon for its decision to abandon hosting WikiLeaks in the first place. This is a really tangled web, which is at least in keeping with the complex and tangled status of the WikiLeaks case itself.

Whatever you may think about the ongoing WikiLeaks saga, Amazon's position is pretty straightforwardly negative—and its claim that WikiLeaks is violating its terms and conditions is at least on more solid ground than some other companies involved, since it notes that publishers have to own the content they host on Amazon servers, and WikiLeaks clearly does not. 

It seems unlikely that Amazon will keep the title available for two reasons. Firstly Amazon acted to take down a self-published pedophile text recently, and it may react with similar speed in this instance. Secondly, while WikiLeaks "ownership" of the leaked cables is questionable from one legal standpoint (especially if you argue it's a publishing outlet, something like a newspaper), Duthel certainly has no rights to them.

Update: Amazon seems committed to keeping the title in the store and insists via a statement attached to the e-book description that, "This book contains commentary and analysis regarding recent WikiLeaks disclosures, not the original material disclosed via the WikiLeaks website." But AP reporters in London that read the book say it does contain excerpts of the original documents with analysis. Peter Kafka argues that this is the same as the New York Times selling editions of the paper with similar excerpts and analysis, but whether Amazon will change its tune when it learns its selling bundled chunks of the documents that led it to boot WikiLeaks off of its servers remains to be seen.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.