- Opportunists are selling copies of George Orwell’s "1984" on Amazon with nonsense on the pages, exploiting a legal quirk echoing the plot of the novel itself.
- Cheaper, error-strewn versions of "1984," as well as other books by Orwell, are printed in countries where it is out of copyright and listed on US-based Amazon. "1984" remains under copyright in the US.
- Many of these copies omit large passages, are printed with the wrong title, or are filled with content from Wikipedia, The New York Times reported.
- The revelation that counterfeiters are altering the novel’s meaning would sound all-too-familiar to Orwell.
- In "1984" subservient employees of the Ministry of Truth rewrite books, newspapers, and songs into a government-approved version, burning the originals, and changing history forever.
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People are selling counterfeit versions of George Orwell’s "1984" on Amazon with the text replaced with gibberish because of an obscure copyright rule — echoing the novel itself.
The New York Times reports that in some countries where "1984" is in the public domain opportunists are printing cheap versions of the novel and listing them on Amazon, avoiding paying royalties owed to Orwell’s estate in the US.
The Times notes that it is a particular problem in India, where copyright runs out 60 years after an author’s death, compared to 70 years in countries like the UK and US. Orwell died in 1950, meaning copyright on "1984" in India expired nearly a decade ago.
This has led to dozens of versions circulating with inaccurate text, prefaces lifted from Wikipedia, whole passages missing, mis-translations, or editions printed with the wrong title, Times reporter David Streitfeld found.
An Amazon review of one of the knock-off "1984" novels complained how the word "faces" had been replaced in his copy with "feces," Streitfeld wrote.
Error-strewn copies are also available as digital versions of "1984," hosted on Amazon’s Kindle e-Book store, the Times reported.
The New York Times found 11 of the 12 fake Orwell books it ordered were dispatched from an Amazon warehouse and were labelled "new." The books cost as little as $3.
It is not just "1984" that is being edited. In one case, Streitfeld wrote, a copy of "Animal Farm: A Fairy Story" was titled "Animals Farm: A Fair Story."
In another incongruous edition, Orwell’s "Homage to Catalonia" was printed as "Homepage to Catalonia."
One version of Orwell’s first book "Down and Out in Paris and London" was listed without his estate’s permission, the Times reported.
Business Insider contacted Amazon for comment, but is yet to receive a response.
aaron tam/AFP/Getty Images
The edited copies of Orwell’s books echo the alteration of works of literature by the Ministry of Truth in "1984."
The ministry, which is responsible for propaganda, employs Winston Smith — the novel’s de-facto narrator and protagonist — to edit and amend literature, re-writing history as the ruling party sees fit.
This passage, from an accurate edition of "1984," explains the process:
"As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of ‘The Times’ had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead."
"This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
"Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date."
After the edits are made by Smith, the original copies are tossed down "memory holes," where they are incinerated.
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