Amazon shows us why DRM is a bad idea

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

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  • You're very forgiving

    If they can remove the feature, what stops them from putting it back?

    What will stop them from violating the terms and conditions? Companies have done it before and will continue to do it.
    • a "neuter" for Kindle, perhaps?

      In addition to "jailbreaking", iPhones get "neutered" (disable Apple App Killswitch).
      Can we do that to Kindle somehow?

      On another note, hubby and I [b]were[/b] considering purchasing Kindles but, after a stunt like that, forget it! It's not only overpriced (still) but we find the self-distruct feature totally unacceptable.
    • Microsoft is the KING of the realm of illegal usage. Go Apple!

      At lease APPLE does what the USER wants and not what the CORPORATION wants!
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
      • This matters why. . .

        . . . other than some Apple fanboy can't read anything without giving a shoutout to his Master? Apple won't allow Mac clones but it is churning out Jobs clones like crazy.

        Don't bother to reply because you won't have anything original to say. Indoctrination ensures that cult members always use the same simplistic rhetoric, deny their subservient status and can't recognize that their brains have been thoroughly washed.
      • I hate to disagree with you

        but that is not entirely true - at least not in the case of the iPhones... Users wanted MMS from the very beginning and it took until NOW for Apple to enable it on the hardware - and still longer for AT&T to get their ducks in a row on this BTW so I'm not blaming Apple alone on the MMS issue.

        Users also wanted copy/ paste, video recording, voice command, and the ability to change themes on the device... it took Apple this long to do all but the last and they more than likely won't even do the last...

        Don't get me wrong I do love my iPhone - it is a far superior device to many other smartphones out there IMHO but it could be a lot better.
    • DRM should be illegal under "First Sale"

      Digital media companies are removing our established right to sell media that we buy. Under "First Sale" if I buy a book, I have the right to later sell that book. Used software stores have used this same legal precedent to defend their right to sell used software. Adding DRM which ties any media to a specific device and removes my rights according to "First Sale" should be illegal. Attempting to remove this right via EULAs should also be illegal. When is somebody going to pursue this fact in court so that we finally have a DRM-free digital world? Consumers' rights have been trampled long enough. If I buy it, I should have the right to use it on any device I own without interference.
  • No Kindles for us...

    Well, that does it for us. We were talking about purchasing
    a few Kindles for family members. Certainly not now. We
    all agreed we don't need the aggravation our purchased
    books may be removed over some publishers dispute.

    Regardless of the refund, just the thought they can/will
    remove books should give many folks a second or third
    thought about purchasing a Kindle. Family members said
    they'll purchase the hardcopy books; much less expensive
    as well.

    • No Kindles here, either

      I've considered purchasing the Kindle 2 or DX for my family, thinking it could help with schoolwork. Rarely have I seen such a simple action that so completely (and permanently) changed my mind. My money stays in my pocket until the DRM is gone.

      When I described what Amazon had done to their customers, my childrens' reaction was disbelief ("They wouldn't do something that stupid. They'd get sued"). When the TV news repeated the story, everyone rolled their eyes, and I didn't even have to persuade anyone that it might be a bad move. Easiest money I've saved in a long time.
      • Amen! No Kindles (or books) here either!

        This event was a polarizing event for me, too. DRM is just plain wrong and I hereby refuse to buy ANY e-reader which uses it. I am also not buying any e-books from Amazon for my iPhone anymore. In fact, I've decided I'm not buying any books of any kind from Amazon until they remove DRM from their e-books. That was a completely evil and one-sided move on their part which destroyed any notion I had that they were a company devoted to their customers. They should have fought harder for customers' rights and I'm voting with my dollars. Goodbye Amazon.
    • Couldn't agree more

      For me, the purchase of a Kindle has always been rather unlikely, but I have considered it from time to time. Upon discovering that they have the ability to tamper with and/or destroy content on my device pretty much seals the deal though.

      There won't be a Kindle in my future, period. Nor will I buy one for anyone else and subject them to the DRM storm troopers.
    • I Want My Illegal Downloads!

      What the people who are saying they won't buy Kindles now are REALLY saying is that they feel they have the right to illegally download copyrighted materials. How childish.

      The international copyright laws are messed up, big time. But that does not change the fact that, whether they paid for them or not, people had illegal copies of those books on their Kindles. Paying for illegal merchandise does not automatically make it legal. What do you think would happen if you bought a solen car, and the police found out? They would take it away from you, and you would have to go after the seller for compensation.

      I imagine Amazon could have handled this better, but I don't know what they could have done. They pretty much had to pull the illegal copies of the books from the user's devices. They certainly can't be expected to challenge ht copyright laws; someone should, but not a retailer like Amazon.
      • Wrong!!!

        The issue here starts with Amazon's failure to verify it had the right to sell the books, so they were in effect selling goods that they did not legally have the right to. And instead of protecting their customers and paying the owner of the copyrighted material their due's, they took the cowards way out, and removed them from their customers device's

        Customers were purchasing these books in good faith, they had no knowledge Amazon did not have the rights to sell the books.
        • Right, er... Wrong = Right

          I totally agree. Of course it's Amazon's responsibility to verify that the
          products they're selling are legal. Under what draconian regime would it
          be the buyer's?

          Apple gets a lot of flack for the way they're forcing [read: sensibly
          requiring] developers to submit iPhone and iPod Touch apps for
          verification before being released through their own iTunes Store. But
          Amazon are in the same situation - only they failed to apply basic due
          diligence here. It's that simple.

          Imagine if you bought a book from a book store, got it home and began
          reading it, then a few days later the security guard from the store turned
          up and demanded it back! With or without a refund, it's an infringement
          of basic ownership rights. Possession being nine tenths.

          Amazon's position is that they assume that right, and exercise that right
          by application of built-in DRM. User friendly business model? Hell no.

          As for whether they recognised any Orwelian irony, I doubt it. Bezos isn't
          really very bright, and the Kindle is not only a poorly considered
          diversion from the core business model, it's stretching their creative and
          managerial capabilities imo.
          Graham Ellison
          • You are woefully ignorant of the law

            The security guard wouldn't be the person at your door. It would be the FBI.

            I wonder how tough you'll talk to them?

            Wonder how far "9/10ths of the law" will get you?

            In short, you know nothing about IP law.
          • You are correct, but off-base.

            No one is questioning the law, but the wisdom of Amazon's user-hostile move.
          • Actually

            most posters are ignorant of the facts of this case, the law in general, and IP law in particular.

            I'm not here to defend Amazon. I understand the concerns, but the concerns are being overblown.

            Would you prefer the FBI show up and confiscate your DEVICE?

            If you don't believe that's possible, search for news stories about what the FBI (a domestic law enforcement agency) has done in FOREIGN countries on behalf of Microsoft.
          • The Law

            Your name sounds a little like a National Socialist. As an attorney, if the FBI knocked I'd ask for there warrant and be prepared to sue. I supposed you think I should bow and kiss their feet. The issue here ISN'T the RESULT, it is the ACTION. I know the FBI (KGB) taps our phones illegally, but I believe that once I buy a book, electronic or paper, no one has the right to sneak in without notice and steal it from me. If you do, then perhaps you live in the wrong country and would have done better in 1943 Germany.
          • Not to mention the fact that DRM violates First Sale

            Not only is it wrong for them to walk in and steal a book you paid for, but there is established precedent in the form of "first sale" which says that I have the right to sell the book which I purchased. Putting DRM on a book infringes on that right. So, DRM should be illegal for many reasons.

            I personally believe that if I buy a piece of digital media, I should have the right to use that piece of media on any device I own. Putting DRM on that piece of media, or limiting my use of what I paid for through EULAs, should be against the law. This should apply to ANY digital media form, whether it is movies, audio, books, or software. If I paid for it, I should have the right to use it. Period.
          • IP Law

            Doesn't exist. It was made up to give corporations an imaginary sense of owning something that cannot be owned - thoughts, ideas, concepts - are in no way unique to an individual, nor are they unique in a more general sense. While improbable, every could write the same song, book, program, etc at the same time , and that clearly shows this idea of "ownership" is a sham.

            Now try this in the physical world...could everyone have the exact same car at the same time? which each one being indistinguishable from the other? I propose the answer is no, and validates the idea of ownership in the physical sense.
          • "Made up" or not is irrelevant.

            It's codified in nearly every major legal system, world wide, and has a world organization dedicated to it.

            Whether it's made up or not is absolutely irrelevant. It's being prosecuted and enforced, and I don't see it being removed from the "books" anytime in the near future.

            Copyright law has been around for centuries. The argument that should be made, honestly, is that modern IP law has become [i]way too[/i] pro-corporation. There existed a time when someone's copyright would go into the public domain before they died - it had a fixed tenure. Now, however, it's not only a lifetime copyright, but also extends far, far after the death of the original copyright holder.

            That is where the real argument should be held. IP law isn't new by a long shot, but the pro-corporation, anti-public interpretations of it are a phenomenon of the last 60-75 years.