Amazon shows us why DRM is a bad idea

Summary:I wonder if anyone at Amazon thought it ironic to use the remote wipe feature built into each Kindle device to wipe copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm that users had purchased.

I wonder if anyone at Amazon thought it ironic to use the remote wipe feature built into each Kindle device to wipe copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm that users had purchased.

The reason for the mass delete, according to Amazon, was that a third-party had added the books to Amazon but didn't have the rights to do so. Be that as it may, it doesn't change the fact that if a third-party had illegally made available a physical book via Amazon, and customers had bought it, Amazon would have no right at all to enter people's property and burn the book. But thanks to the insidious nature of DRM, right that we have in the real world aren't being carried forward into the virtual world. Amazon believes that it has both the power and the right to access people's Kindles remotely and delete content. Sure, users got a refund, but that's not the point. Amazon took it upon itself to snoop through owner's Kindles and delete content with no notice or warning, let alone consent.

And this folks, is why DRM sucks.

DRM sucks because users get, at best, an illusion of ownership. Buy a book or CD or a DVD and you have that content until you lose it, damage it or pass it on to someone else. But with virtual DRMed content, you are at best borrowing it. You can lose access to your content in a heartbeat. All it takes if for the company to go out of business, your PC to get wiped or for someone somewhere to make a bone-headed decision and press the remote wipe button and your content is gone in the blink of an eye. If you're lucky you get your money back, but I know plenty of people who are out of pocket thanks to DRM.

Amazon has claimed that if the situation was repeated, it wouldn't delete content. Personally, unless Amazon adds that to the user's terms and conditions, and additionally disables the remote wipe feature, then the claim is nothing more than hollow PR words.

DRM sucks. And not just Amazon's DRM, but all DRM. Period. And until the issue of DRM and content ownership is clearly outlined, products such as the Kindle that are entirely locked into a DRMed ecosystem aren't ready for for the mass market.

Could have been worse I guess. If it had been Fahrenheit 451 instead of 1984 or Animal Farm, the Kindles would have probably burst into flames.

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Hardware, Security

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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