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I read all sort of things on my kindle, not only ebooks bought on Amazon, so often I want to get hold of the highlights and use them as notes or memories of what I've read (think there are online apps that let you do that too).

So I was wondering: in principle, do the contents of that file belong to me and can be used at my own discretion, or by accessing it I break some of the Amazon's rules?

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I am not aware of any Amazon or other usage policy regulating the use of this file.

The highlights are excerpts (quotes) from the book's content, so the copyright to those excerpts belongs to whoever owns the copyright of the content of the book.

However, in most jurisdictions there are exceptions to copyright law that let you do a lot with quotes/excerpts without breaking the law (e.g. fair use in the USA, fair dealing in the Commonwealth area, private use exception in the EU, etc.).

This means that while the contents of the clippings file does not belong to you, you can do almost anything you can imagine with it for your own personal use. However, you do not have the right to republish your clippings (e.g.: "Clippings from XYZ selected by magicbirth") as an ebook or physical book.

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