Amazon: Wikileaks has no right to publish the leaks

bezos_surprise.jpg Amazon claims that Wikileaks doesn't have rights in the leaked material, and hence was in violation of its terms of service. Here's its statement:
There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate. There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against. Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that "you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content... that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity." It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments. We've been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. Some of this data is controversial, and that's perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere. We look forward to continuing to serve our AWS customers and are excited about several new things we have coming your way in the next few months. -- Amazon Web Services
Does this add up? Amazon just happened to take an interest in the intellectual property status of government documents after being called by the same U.S. Senator who another company reports was explicitly demanding the removal of Wikileaks material? A Senator who was able to make a public statement about Amazon's removal of the material, as the removal occurred? Doesn't this affect Kindle editions of everyone who has run some of this content? Aren't a significant number of books at Amazon also in violation of this rights problem with 'state secrets'? Books about Wikileaks and these events will soon appear: will Amazon refuse to sell those which include text from the cables? Indeed, is it even the case that the government has the rights Amazon speaks of? According to the Copyright Act, Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government: there is no state copyright in documents made by government employees. They belong to you. Even if Werner Vogels really was sauntering carefree through the halls of Seattle singing "Doo de doo de doo OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT RIGHTS ISSUE," it's funny that this reasoning -- no-one has the rights to publish the government's secrets -- is only a little less creepy than the acquiescence to censorship his firm was accused of. Bear in mind that while leaking classified information is a crime, receiving and publishing it is not. Oddly, the same "IP rights" terms-of-service excuse was offered by another company for removing Wikileaks-related material, even though the material on their servers were merely visualizations of data that would not fall under copyright any more than an unemployment infographic. The fact that Amazon threw in a 'Plan B' rationale about the impossibility of redacting the documents, and marketing for forthcoming new products -- is just a bit odd! I imagine Amazon will regret this rather ham-handed defense, even if the PR damage it suffers could never match the legislative damage that Joementum could inflict on it for refusing to comply. Message [Amazon]


  1. Rob, unless you have anything concrete beyond your disbelief, then please give up on your conspiracy theory.

    1. Rob, unless you have anything concrete beyond your disbelief, then please give up on your conspiracy theory.

      If the conspiracy theory sounds more plausible than the press release, I’m more tempted to believe the conspiracy theory.

    2. Amazon isn’t the only company that was hit by Joementum. The NYT and Salon reported today that Tableau, a company that provides a platform for hosting graphs and charts, took down the charts that were on Wikileaks’ Cablegate site because they were contacted by Lieberman’s office.

      Charts! Showing the distribution of cables across some categroies. Less inflammatory than even the Times’ coverage of the cables.

      So that’s two companies who were ordered by a government official to remove content from the internet and complied willingly.

      I guess China had it right after all.

  2. uh no. it’s not credible. it is typical government / corporate collusion to keep the masses in the dark.

  3. I notice that Amazon is selling the Pentagon Papers. Wouldn’t the same argument apply? Clearly Ellsburg didn’t own the copyright and neither do those who published the text.

    1. Sen. Mike Gravel had 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers entered into the Congressional Record during a Senate subcommittee meeting. Since the Congressional Record is in the public domain, publishers were free to reprint this portion of the document.

      Classified information is *not* considered public domain – it is the exclusive property of the government. Reproducing classified information is technically a copyright violation, but it’s also prohibited under the government’s system of access controls for such information.

      The material leaked by Wikileaks is now accessible to the public, but it has not been officially declassified. It is thus still subject to the government’s attempts to control its dissemination, which can include prosecution of anyone participating in its unauthorized distribution. Amazon would have left itself vulnerable to prosecution had it continued to host this material.

  4. JUST as I was beginning to forget the incident when Amazon reached out into hundreds of kindles and stole/destroyed property that no longer belonged to the, then this happens.

    I would never buy anything or any service Amazon holds control over, they cannot be trusted.


  5. The way I see it, many of the documents are generated by governments and therefore owned by the people of that country, and so are public domain. Wishful thinking maybe, but I had thought that most government-generated material was usually an FOI request away from public domain.

    The second argument is obviously laughable. Their TOS suggests you don’t use their service to harm people. In that case they have to prove your content did harm someone, instead of proving that they can’t prove your content didn’t hurt someone. There are plenty of books on Amazon that could result in injury…for example, a quick search revealed a suicide manual.

    1. That is correct the documents are generated by government organizations so the people have a right to know. As I thumb through the IRS info on you I see some interesting items…

  6. It’s fishy, creepy, non-distinct and downright suspicious. It reads like a spin on a spin that someone printed and then forgot on their desk. I for one am not believing any of it, the document reads like a triple standard on behalf of a master of a master.

    Bad Amazon, bad, bad… (pats on the screen).

  7. Can none of you turkeys spot the difference between “selling a book on Amazon” and “using Amazon’s web services” ?

    If you tried to sell a book containing someone else’s IP, Amazon would potentially clamp down based on all the “plagiarism” laws that they have to abide by. Oh wait, there aren’t any, are there?

    Amazon’s standpoint is consistent, and rational.

    And the reason that they acted “on Liebermans request” is far more likely to be “they acted once someone pointed out a problem to them” – the fact that the someone in this case was a fascist is irrelevant. Once notified, they have to implement their stated policy.

  8. Their name is “Wikileaks” – did Amazon really think that previous to this incidence, that the material published by Wikileaks was “owned” by those who leaked the material to Wikileaks? Why would they have to leak it? What hooey. And the last two dumps – did Amazon think that Wikileaks owned that material? Why didn’t they cut them off before this?

  9. Odd that there are all sorts of U.S. government users of Amazon’s cloud services, when the U.S. government engages in wars and other military acts which have actually killed innocent people. Killings backed up by factual evidence, unlike the unproven assertion that the Wikileak documents will hurt innocent people, which there is absolutely no evidence of.

  10. What’s weird to me is, why didn’t Amazon say,

    “We have an at-will hosting policy. We may terminate the contract of any subscriber at any time for any reason. So we decided it was in our best interests to stay out of this fight and stop hosting Wikileaks material.”

    And leave it at that.

    Instead they waded in hip-deep.


    1. because a lie is always more complicated than the truth…and even corporations, like most people, lie poorly at best.

  11. “It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. ”

    But we I thought we needed copyright to protect the artists.

    This is about the artists, right?

  12. That seems to say that you can’t use Amazon to host public domain material.

    (I will say, citing copyright is fairly clever of them. As they say, they got Capone on tax fraud.)

    1. They’re using “classified” as a substitute for “copyrighted.” Doesn’t that alter it’s public domain status?

      1. I was referring to honest-to-goodness public domain works, not the leaked cables. You do not own or control public domain works, and yet that’s what Amazon claims to go by.

        Not everything produced by a United States government employee is exempt from copyright. It’s not clear to me that internal communications are; it’s not clear to me that they’re not. (I’m not a lawyer, obviously.) See

        1. Re @ post # 39

          Actually you can gain ‘ownership’ of public domain material by making material changes to it, or how it is presented.


  13. To those who believe what Amazon is saying here, I have some real estate in Florida you may be interested in.

  14. There is no copyright on goverment materials. The “rights” they are talking to are more akin to receipt of stolen goods issues. However it is not up to either Amazon or Lieberman to make the call on if it is legal or not. the legality of the documents would have to be determined by the courts.

    This type of action may risk Amazon’s fair harbor standing for other material hosted on Amazon S3. If Amazon is going to determine the legality of the materials stored on the service, it assumes some liability for illegal materials that do make it onto the service, and I assume they can be sued by rights holders when it does happen.

    Amazon has the right to do business with who they please. If they had just said “we don’t want them as a customer anymore” fine. Trying to make it seem like they are high and mighty law abiders is just dumb.

  15. As someone pointed out above, Amazon could have basically just said, “We chose to remove Wikileaks from our servers, because we have the right to do that.” Instead, they gave a logical reason for why they decided to do what they did. They didn’t even cite the USA’s questionable copyright laws as a reason. They simply stated that they didn’t believe Wikileaks owned or had all the rights to the classified material they were sharing. Whether you believe their excuse or not is up to you, but people should understand that they did nothing legally or, in my opinion, ethically wrong by not hosting Wikileaks. Though some may argue that it was ethically wrong to stop hosting them as it could lead to the USA doing more “evil”, they should remember that Amazon fully knew Wikileaks could easily be hosted somewhere else. The end result of Amazon’s actions: Wikileaks stays up, and Amazon stays out of trouble. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  16. Rob: two questions for you. 1. Do you believe that government employees have the right to private communications related to their jobs? 2. Do you think there are any cases when it is appropriate for government communications to be secret?

    If you answer “no” to both those, then we can’t really have a discussion, I don’t think. If you think all government communications should be open at all times, that’s a valid view, and we can discuss that POV. But it’s incompatible with current law.

    I don’t buy Amazon’s reasoning, and I agree with awjtawjt; they could just say, “We think it’s too big a pain.”

    On the other hand, saying that all government documents are in the public domain isn’t accurate, either. And even if they belong to the people of the US, I don’t remember electing Wikileaks on behalf of my documents to crack ’em open and, possibly, cause all kinds of shenanigans.

    1. You might want to give this a good read… (here is what IS compatible with current laws)

      Congressional Research Service report on Wikileaks around October 2010

      Especially this part in the conclusion:

      The Espionage Act on its face applies to the receipt and unauthorized dissemination of national defense information… Whether the publication of national security information can be punished likely turns on the value of the information to the public weighed against the likelihood of identifiable harm to the national security, arguably a more difficult case for prosecutors to make.

    2. “1. Do you believe that government employees have the right to private communications related to their jobs? 2. Do you think there are any cases when it is appropriate for government communications to be secret?”

      Yes and yes, sure, but neither example is salient to what Amazon does once someone else has already revealed the communications.

      The key event was Bradley Manning (or whoever else) exposing the documents to public scrutiny. What he did, assuming he did it, earned him criminal charges: he is responsible for any failings concerning your two examples.

      But once he had done so, those communications are neither private nor secret, except by classification. By the time it gets to the NYT, it’s not something they seem under any obligation not to run, at least in the broad sense of publishing classified information and there being no state copyright to deal with and so forth.

      Wikileaks is perhaps the main target because it facilitates the transaction of information between leaker and mainstream media. The devil in the details here for Amazon is that so many people have published some of this material— even at Amazon — that its rationale here seems incredible (even if it’s true).

  17. Amazon just keeps digging themselves a deeper rhetorical hole. This feels like such a crap legal argument.

  18. Dear Mr Lieberman,
    Is there something you suspect may be in these leaked documents that’s scaring you silly Joe? Is there? Some little secrets of your own? Hmmmm?

  19. “For example, our terms of service state that ‘you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.’ ”

    Well never mind that Amazon will sell books on man/boy love to sick fucks who could use the information to exploit and harm young, innocent boys. Total hypocrisy.

  20. Rob, most likely the truth is in the grey area somewhere: Amazon probably realized the potential public fallout from a huge battle with the Feds so decided to exercise their TOS with Wikileaks. I imagine they host a number of clients who violate their TOS…it’s just a matter of public outcry whether they choose to release those clients.

  21. The one area where American copyright law has it over ours is that your government produced IP is in the public domain. Canada is the place where your royalists went after your revolution. So it’s no wonder we’re closer to the monarchy, which is why Crown Copyright is applied to everything produced by our government. The WikiLeaks cablegate material may well be subject to national security constraints, but copyright? No way.

    And I would think that a major publisher like Amazon would know that. In fact, I’m sure they do.

    But Amazon is scared.

    As they should be.

    There are very powerful forces lining up against WikiLeaks.

    Maybe if the folks making decisions at Amazon had read 1984 before pulling it off the Kindle, they’d understand why they should fight it. But the thing to remember is that Amazon is a company. They aren’t in the freedom fighter business.

    Of course, neither was Lando Calrissian.

  22. Let’s see Amazon is doing what’s in their best interest and then justifying it with whatever rationale makes it sound less bad. That’s what most people do—-let’s see I would prefer not to give money to that homeless dude and instead spend it on me—-obviously the homeless dude will use it to buy drugs so you know I’m doing the right thing by not giving him the $ and you know I’m helping the economy by spending money, so maybe he can get a job then.

  23. There are some interesting aspects to all sides of the equation on this. On one hand, I’ve always had a problem with ISP’s and hosting/cloud services being threatened by the authorities for porn. My argument has always been to compare them to utility companies: Electricity (or water) flows through to each and every house on a block in a neighborhood. Just because the utility company happens to provide a resource to a house of ill-repute, does that mean the provider is guilty of being in the sex trade? Of course not – they’re simply the “messenger.”

    But then on the other hand, if someone received stolen goods from someone else – regardless of how it was obtained and from whom – does that give them the right or entitlement to do with it however they please? For example, someone steals the master digital files for an album and then decides to put it up on Amazon Web Services for free viewing and downloading, is the act itself legal? And wouldn’t that make Amazon legally – and morally – obligated to take that material down immediately?

    Taking it one step further by taking it to a personal level, what if it was personal information – YOUR personal information – that some troll had managed to find and download. Then they “handed” it over to someone else who then went ahead and distributed it all freely online to anyone and everyone who wanted to look at it. There are serious legal and moral issues that seem very clear to me anyway.

    The biggest problem I’ve seen on this particular situation seems to have been discussed very little anywhere so far: And that is the fact that Mr. Assange clearly and obviously displays classic narcissistic qualities of a sociopath, plain and simple. Sociopaths truly do not care whether they win or lose at the game but rather play for the sheer enjoyment of all the attention and suffering he/she can inflict on others. If Assange was truly in it to change the world, he would have also made sure to acquire equal parts of Russian and Chinese intelligence to release simultaneously. It would have shown more noble motivation and certainly would have created a new level playing field to all. As a narcissistic opportunist, Assange simply got lucky when the American files landed in his lap. Nothing more. I suspect that he would have probably done the same had he only had Russian files dumped into his lap. However, I might add that should he actually have Russian or Chinese files that he’s only recently talked about releasing, he’d likely already be “vanished” permanently. In fact, I’m quite surprised nothing worse hasn’t already happened to him.

    Indeed, I don’t believe that his actions can be compared to the Pentagon Papers; not even close. This was a malicious act perpetrated by one nasty excuse for a human being whose 3 minutes of fame should be expiring – right about… now.

    1. stolen goods….the wikileaks data isn’t stolen!

      is it really ‘stealing’ when one steals from a thief?

      personally, don’t know about anyone else here, but I’d like my country back, thank you very much. Someone, somewhere, needs to take some steps in that direction. First steps are always awkward and messy.

      I, for one, can’t wait until the next wikileak comes out re: financial institutions. Let all the card houses tumble. It’s time.

      1. The pigs are squealing and scrambling around the mud for safety.

        Smash the control images.
        Smash the control machine.
        Bring it all DOWN.

        – William S. Burroughs, “Quick Fix”, Just One Fix (Single) (Ministry), 1991.

        1. From the darkest hearts of Ah Pook, a hope. May their beloved Control fall like jungle rats – which are subject to die if confronted suddenly with a hopelessly true Wikileak.

    2. Narcissists typically have unrealistic expectations and think their desires can somehow shape events to their liking even if they are completely powerless. As it is, Assange does have power, as he has access to information that we don’t. Random posters on the internet who guess his motives, call him names and wonder why he’s not dead are completely powerless, yet seem to think their views matter.

      “This was a malicious act perpetrated by one nasty excuse for a human being whose 3 minutes of fame should be expiring – right about… now.”

      Uh huh.

    3. You don’t seem to understand how “leaks” work.

      Someone with access to classified or secret information feels that the public/those affected deserve to know. They take risks to get the information out. Sometimes they risk a slap on the wrist, a fine, maybe their job or their freedom, and sometimes even their lives.

      Wikileaks doesn’t get to choose where the leak is from. WikiLeaks exists to disseminate leaked material so that it gets out.

      Then you launched an ad hominum attack on Julian Assange. Quite frankly, I don’t know the man. Never met him. So I know I am not capable of judging him, let alone diagnosing him. Even so, I find the charges brought against him in Sweden to be ludicrous. Particularly now that we know the American government was aware of cablegate back then, even if we weren’t. Discredit the messenger.

      Except it doesn’t matter if Mr. Assange is a sociopath. What matters is the information WikiLeaks is publishing.

      Funny thing is, no government official has even tried to deny the truth of this content.

    4. “But then on the other hand, if someone received stolen goods from someone else – regardless of how it was obtained and from whom – does that give them the right or entitlement to do with it however they please?”

      Why do people keep insisting on treating digital things as ‘goods?’

      It’s speech. Wikileaks is just repeating what it has been told. That’s the long and short of it. If you have a problem with unrestricted speech, fine, but just say so.

  24. Amazon took out a shotgun, aimed it at its foot and pulled the trigger.

    Eventually, we will see if it was loaded or not.

    When someone sues them for something else, and quotes this statement as proof of responsibility, we will know…

    should have just admitted to being cowards, at least that was ethical.

  25. As stated above, the government can’t claim copyright over this stuff. Bezos is being a good little monkey and waving his arms, saying “look at me!” and trying to become the story. It’s all just a distraction from the facts released by Wikileaks. Of course, I’m sure WL figured this could happen, and it can be seen as a piece: The NYT has to go begging to The Guardian for the cables, which they then dutifully clear with the government before publishing; Amazon gets its chain yanked by Lieberman and they jump. It’s the Americans who reveal themselves to be thin-skinned and authoritarian. In front of the world, in front of little people who can read just as well as they can. Reputations are being slaughtered this week, keep it up WL!

  26. Wikileaks has all the elements of a classic man bites dog story. (Cue chariots of fire music): The underdog. Casting light on the truth. Transparency. Making a ____load of money on the speaker circuit and bitching about the West (the US in particular) all the way to the bank.

    The leak was a lot of hype and discounting the actual Amazon explanation is cynicism. Sorry, just an Occam’s razor explanation.

    Then again, you can never disprove a conspiracy theory.

    “The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.”

  27. Actually Wikileaks does violate copyright at least in some cases. Not too long ago they published the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions, which is a copyrighted document that they had no right to distribute. The diplomatic cables and war logs are not the only things that Wikileaks is leaking.

  28. Oh, I just remembered I need to order a whole bunch of christmas presents from Amazon today.

    Wait, was that the whole point of this for Amazon??? Why else would they not simply state “we will not do business with you”?

  29. Classified government documents, even once leaked into the public, are not public domain. And this is outside the jurisdiction of copyright law.

  30. I don’t get why everyone has their panties in a bunch about Amazon yanking their hosting. I don’t know how you would assume that ANY American corporation would host them. They are too risky and they simply don’t want the bad press. They simply weighed the risk and chose to pull the plug. If they hadn’t then Fox News would have crucified them during the holiday season and their projected profits would plummet. Pathetic? Perhaps, but completely expected for a big business. Their press release here is merely to cover their asses for their other customers. “DDos attacks don’t bother us! We won’t stifle free speech! They just broke the rules, that’s all!”

    I wonder though, if Wikileaks took all the cables and published them as a printed book and sold it, would Amazon carry it then?

  31. “If Assange was truly in it to change the world, he would have also made sure to acquire equal parts of Russian and Chinese intelligence to release simultaneously. ”

    this is just asinine. maybe you don’t understand how “leaks” work? an individual has information they feel should be more widely known. they copy/collect/steal that information and attempt to find a channel through which to disseminate it–enter wikileaks. (in some cases, they are caught and charged with violations of the law for disseminating said information.) it’s not up to wikileaks when or what kind of information they receive from sources.

    as julian assange said in this interview “We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks from the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.”

    I forgot to sign in before I made this same comment previously–sorry for the double post!

  32. I was actually fine when I felt that Amazon was just being threatened and backed down. It didn’t surprise or concern me that a company in their position would do that.

    But this pitiful justification is just BS. It’s the part that *is* going to make me take my business elsewhere. My wish list is getting copied down, and I’m ordering somewhere else. That’s at least a grand a year they aren’t getting from me.

  33. This is not news and is totally innocuous. Amazon Web Services has a EULA. Wikileaks violated it. Someone brought it to Amazon’s attention. Amazon’s lawyers said “if we let Wikileaks violate the EULA then the next guy whose service we shut down will attempt to use this as an argument that we don’t enforce our EULA systematically and therefore our actions against him are capricious.”

    Sure, probably Joe Lieberman or someone else brought it to their attention. That doesn’t mean it’s not a EULA violation.

    Amazon’s response is their saying that this isn’t a conspiracy theory, and it’s not due to government pressure, and it’s not a capricious denial of hosting. It’s based upon EULA violations. This smells like a lawyer wrote the statement, which means that one did. Next…

  34. Isn’t it completely irrelevant what the ‘excuse’ is…Amazon is a private company and can choose to offer there services to whomever they want.

    End of story no?

    1. It’s a good question, whether Amazon should be able to deny them this service or not. Once a company gets large enough, is it so similar to a public utility that it should be required to do business with anyone who asks? If Comcast decides they don’t like me as a person, should my home be permanently cut off from high speed internet? If Google and Microsoft both decide they dislike me, can I be cut off from good internet searches for life? I dunno. Amazon’s not providing an irreplaceable service, so this may be moot, but in general I can see exceptions to the rule of companies deciding who they will and won’t serve.

  35. I can’t figure out what Joe is hoping to accomplish with this campaign to get hosting sites to pull this material down. He may be a prick, but I doubt he is stupid enough to think he can put this cat back in the bag. It really is a pointless exercise, even if he managed to remove this material from all hosting sites in the USA (not going to happen, but just suppose), what then? Claim a moral victory and vigorous chest thumping ensues? He just ends up looking like a damn fool for trying. The data is still out there and it’s still going to be accessible. Why bother?

  36. Ah yes – the new enablement excuse. Simply because you can does not mean you should. For some I suppose it’s always permissible under any circumstances. Until it happens to you. Then the story changes.

    True power always seeks its own level and goes to where it belongs. There are always those who would pretend that it belongs to them or who seize it from others but in the fabric of history, it’s usually short-lived.

    Believing one has won or lost this discussion on this single site is ultimately inconsequential. We will need to re-visit this topic in 5 and 10 years to see the real consequences – intended or unintended – after everything has completely played itself out.

  37. Putty: So I can get himself re-elected in a couple or so years. Lucky for him, I don’t live in Conn..

    So, I guess this means that that whole ‘freedom of the press’ thing was just a fad, eh? Pity that… A great idea in principle but a bit of a pain in real life, eh Joe? Pity that…

  38. Has nobody else wondered if the hubub has more to do with the banks that the next bunch of documents are about, rather than with the wars we’re losing abroad?

  39. The new york times just had a blog entry on this.

    Responding on Twitter, James Ball a journalist and WikiLeaks volunteer, called the statement “disingenuous,” and noted that when Amazon decided to stop hosting the site, it had published just 300 cables, all of which had been redacted by news organizations, like The Times and the Guardian, which had discussed them in detail with the U.S. government.

    As a Gawker blogger noted, the Guardian, which has published a large number of the leaked cables it received from WikiLeaks, also uses Amazon’s Web hosting service.

    If Amazon argues that it was right to stop providing servers to WikiLeaks because, “It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content,” will it soon also stop hosting the Guardian Web site that includes those same cables?

  40. Classified government documents, even once leaked into the public, are not public domain. And this is outside the jurisdiction of copyright law.

    “Not covered by copyright law” is precisely what “public domain” means. These leaks are apparently both public domain and classified.

  41. will it soon also stop hosting the Guardian Web site that includes those same cables

    Ha ha! Could there be a petard coming into view?

  42. Would be comical if a bunch of people went to say Glenn Beck’s book pages, and published various cables in the review sections. Actually, publish cables in all the right wing blowhards review sections.

  43. Amazon should just admit it does not want Wikileaks as a customer any longer.

    Its assertions that the material violated copyrights is specious. Federal materials are not copyrighted and are in the public domain for all intents and purposes.

    All companies have terms of service that provides it an ability to terminate for any reason it deems necessary. I call it the Mack truck clause, because you can drive a Mack truck through. Amazon is no different. I worked in abuse for many years and used my company’s Mack truck TOS clause on a number of occasions when the TOS did not explicitly forbid the bad content or abusive behavior but the company was feeling the pot boil a little too much.

  44. Well, I’m a long time (10+ years) Amazon costumer. After this, I’ll never ever buy from them again.

    Your loss, Bezos.

  45. 13 had the right idea, why play this game? They always try to turn everything into a, “well, we’re powerless”. YOU’RE THE CEO, GROW A PAIR OF FUCKING BALLS AND STAND UP TO YOUR DECISIONS. I may disagree with you, but at least you’d still have your balls.

  46. Amazon’s terms of service says: “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content”?

    Does this mean that setting up public domain repository is AGAINST the terms (since no one “owns” or has control over the rights), or an open-source or creative-commons repository (which might very well be within the licensing terms of the material.)

    This is a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for Amazon to use to appease their corporate Overlords.

  47. Amazon is right. WikiLeaks does NOT have the right to publish the leaks. Some of them are classified and none of them were released by their authors.

    Whether you think this needs to be done or not, there is not always an exact overlap between what is legal and what is right.

  48. One thing I don’t understand is that there seems to be a lot of bloodlust about the leaked cables that doesn’t seem to be backed up with the facts. People are talking about how these leaks will bring down the system and how Assange is bringing evil to light, but everywhere I look I cannot find anything significant in the leaks. Is there a good resource out there for interpretation of the cables that details what sort of real impact they might have?

  49. Just goes to show no medium is immune to censorship. Perhaps media outlets/wikkileaks need to own their own infrastructure and have alternate distribution methods.

  50. This is hogwash. Ellsberg had no rights to the Pentagon Papers: Would Amazon today boot the Washington Post’s reportage if it were hosted on their servers?

  51. Putting aside, for a second, the rights and wrongs of the entire wiki leaks enterprise, is no one bothered that Julian Assange has actually lied, onstage, in front of the world’s media?

    The other day he claimed at a press conference that wiki leaks were responsible for the release of the climate gate e-mails of last year. Again, whatever your opinions of the right wrongs of that enterprise, a simple five-minute check of the chronology of those leaks will tell you that is manifestly untrue. But Julian went on to tell the press conference why wiki leaks had done what they did — despite the fact they never did it.

    Does that not bother anyone?

    He even claimed that he had had top-secret correspondence with the British intelligence service about whether or not to release the climate gate e-mails. Again, completely untrue. Especially in light of the fact when pressed to release the correspondence with the British spooks he refuses to do so.

    I’m sorry? He refuses to release something because it is secret!

    If somebody is telling you ‘don’t trust your leaders because they are all liars’, how you supposed to trust what they have to say when they are demonstrably a liar?

  52. To those trying to say that what Amazon is doing is “rational,” there is no basis for claiming violation here, since the material isn’t being reprinted or distributed illegally (hint, it is not being sold or maintained as intellectual property.) What it actually amounts to is vital public information that the citizenry NEEDS to know about.

    What has happened here is that Amazon has come up with a cheap excuse to get rid of a controversial entity. Amazon has sold out the American citizenry to protect its own ass, and I won’t be buying from them again.

    I wish there were a more reasonable way to put this, but there isn’t: If you are “upset” that an entity is informing the population as to the specifics of what they’re government is doing, then you’re an idiot, a fascist or both. That so many people are so upset that Wikileaks is “keeping them informed” is nightmarish.

  53. I’ve decided to no longer give Amazon my business and just stated as much in a polemic I shot off to the company. That felt good, honestly, but now what can I do?

  54. Wikileaks purposely contracted American companies for the server hosts and bandwith capabilities initially since they foresaw the political pressure that these companies would experience.

    So Julian scored another one for the nihilist in the end. His human all to human but rational self can continue the morality play that the US in particular and all Western countries are corrupt and morally equivalent to Iran, Venezueala, Taliban et al., therefore they have no right to criticize anyone.

    Everyone is bad so therefore no one is bad or good.

    Golf clap is in order for Julian for predicting the quasi-patriotism of US companies and the moral relativity tie-in.

    So how about that Bradley Manning defense fund Julian? I see Wikileaks has Julian Assagne defense fund/personal slush fund. Or this is how you help your sources in the end?

  55. from the horse’s mouth:

    Annoying as it may be, the DDoS seems to be good publicity (if anything, it adds to your credibility). So is getting kicked out of AWS. Do you agree with this statement? Were you planning for it?
    Thank you for doing what you are doing.

    Julian Assange:
    Since 2007 we have been deliberately placing some of our servers in jurisdictions that we suspected suffered a free speech deficit inorder to separate rhetoric from reality. Amazon was one of these cases.

  56. Unrelated but umm…whats up with this guy’s face? It looks like there are random photoshop lines on it.

  57. ericmartinex1 : So wait, you’re saying that Julian’s to blame for Amazon’s decisions, and that we shouldn’t hold them accountable for how they act at all?

  58. I have to agree with Rob’s contention here, the government’s information once it leaked is part of the public domain.

  59. No, it’s just part of the plan to posture the holier than thou attitude to the US that Julian potrays to some extent.

    1. I understand, you are saying that Assange is putting his personal political agenda ahead of the simple act of conducting information from the leaker to the public.

  60. use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity

    Wow. You can construe almost anything as violating that. For example, anything that gives me a business advantage can be said to cause injury to my competitor.

  61. Just what everyone needs: Jeff Bezos as a moral compass. Mr. Bezos should look at what his own company does, and all of the other content on their servers and enforce this policy equally. Maybe we should get the publishers of the New Oxford American Dictionary to add “Bezos” under hypocrite.

  62. I just signed into my Amazon account, clicked Help, then Contact Us, and used the “contact us via email” facility to let Amazon know that I’m boycotting them this Christmas unless they reverse their decision and restore service to Wikileaks.

    I recommend that anyone else who is likewise annoyed by their decision and who also has an Amazon account to do the same.

  63. el stinko and hettie hit the nail on the head “its all about the money or profits amazon thought it would lose.

  64. I can’t really blame Amazon for dropping them. I imagine just about any business owner would do the same with a customer that forced them to dip into their savings to lawyer up and fight the DHS on one end and DoS attacks on the other. The press release is probably just their weird way of saving face and preventing some sort of suit from Wikileaks.

    I sympathize with Wikileaks, but this hosting issue doesn’t really matter. The website isn’t important (you can’t even get to it now at its real URL). For orgs like Wikileaks to fulfill their mission, they just need to release the docs to the press and create some torrents of their files. Done and done.

  65. 1) Wikileaks was stealing from Amazon by using a credit card to sign up for a pay-by-the-Megabyte service, while they knew they were under a DDoS attack and obviously unable to cover their bill.

    2) Amazon didn’t say the content violated copyright. They said the account holder didn’t have the right to publish it. This is entirely true since it was stolen. The fact that the government doesn’t have copyright is irrelevant to the governments ability to declare documents ‘Secret’ when it shares them with people who have signed the contracts needed to attain access.

    3) Amazon retains the right to cancel any account for any reason.

    4) Wikileaks has not cooperated with redaction to prevent people being killed by their releases, so I have no sympathy at all.

    1. 1) Huh? They weren’t cut off for not paying their bill.

      2) Yeah, they actually did.

      3) Sure. That kind of makes your first two points pointless, but whatever.

      4) Bullpucky. They submitted the leaks to the US Govt. in advance, asking for redaction guidance. The US refused. It’s on their heads at this point.

  66. 1) No they were not cut off for not paying their bill. They signed up for a service which charges by the Megabyte using an unscreened signup system and knowing that because of the ongoing DDoS attack they could not possibly pay their bill. So they hired a service they had no intention of paying for. Amazon claims this was not a problem because Amazon successfully dealt with the DDoS. Even if that is true, Wikileaks had no way of knowing that in advance.

    2) The text from Amazon is at the word copyright does not appear.

    4) Five human rights organisations including Amnesty International disagree with you.

    1. 1) DDoS attacks work by frequency of requests, not the amount requested. Do you have any evidence they wouldn’t be able to cover the costs?

      2) The word may not appear, but they do cite copyright concerns, albeit in somewhat muddled fashion: “It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content…”

      4) That was the previous dump, but again the article you cite reinforces my point: “Pentagon wants to bankrupt us by refusing to assist review…” If the US won’t vet this material when offered, they’re playing games with the lives of those they’re allegedly concerned about.

  67. I have been an Amazon customer since they first opened. That ended today. Closed my account a few hours ago. I am done with them, and all related businesses and services owned and controlled by them (Zappos, Woot,, IMDB, and others). Never to return.

    You’ve chosen sides, Bezos.

    Billionaire boys club versus the loose change rabble.

  68. WikiLeaks exposes truths that the U.S. Government and others do not want you to know.
    We are sick of government lies and fraud.
    Go WikiLeaks.
    It is the U.S. Government and others like them that need to be shut down.
    Not WikiLeaks.
    We the people will continue to expose corrupt leaders, governments and others.
    We demand the truth and we will not be stopped.
    I am,


  69. All credible and true!…- but, why did amazon act now? Wikileaks have been in this business for some time? Is Zimbabwe less relevant the the US of A? Er, right, tin pot dictatorships arE, except when they are not. I think these documents expose a sort of class structure that we might not otherwise see. In the end as a tax payer these people are my employees (I know they hate that), and while sometimes painful, shouldn’t I know what they are up to? Fact is, and WL exposes this, our democracy is a figment of a collective imagination. Not new, it’s been mentioned in a couple of articles, but fact remains free speech in the west is based on readership and subject.

  70. sell the Pentagon Papers.

    Still regarded as classified.

    They are hypocrites; but then, we knew that.

  71. Actually you can easily and successfully argue that since these cables are the work product of government employees in the course of their official duties that copyright does not apply…

    § 105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works

    Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

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