Category Archives: DRM

Bravo Amazon

Jeff Bezos posted this apology to a Kindle forum:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

While I still am not sold on Amazon’s licensing terms for Kindle books, it’s refreshing to see a company truly apologize for a mistake. None of this non-apology nonsense where someone says they feel bad about how something was interpreted. Just a good old-fashioned mea culpa and a promise to do better.

Bravo Amazon.

Different rules

Scott Bradner has some interesting thoughts on the recent Kindle dust-up and relates it to other cases of “different rules”:

The underlying issue here is that Amazon, among many others, see the rules for digital as different than those for other things. It would never have crossed Amazon’s collective mind to grab a physical book from you if the company had shipped you one that it did not have the right to sell. But, maybe because it could, Amazon just did what it has the ability to do without thinking to see if the ability to do something automatically meant that it was the right thing to do.

Amazon is not alone in confusing the ability to do something with the idea that it is the right thing to do. It would be inconceivable that the U.S. Post Office would be required to make and save a record of who sent and received every letter it handled. Yet, just because it can be done, a number of law enforcement officials have called for laws that require ISPs to do just that with e-mail.

Kloudy Kindle Kerfuffle

There are several themes emerging in the wake of the Kindle Kerfuffle (see this and this). These can be summarized as:

  1. Kindle is really a cloud service
  2. The recent file deletion kerfuffle is not about DRM, it’s about copyright protection
  3. Kindle had to delete the Orwell titles because they did not have the rights to sell it in the first place

The second and third arguments are the easiest to dispense of. Without getting into the legalities (I am not a lawyer) the simple fact that they promise not to do it in the future means that they didn’t have to do previously. And of course DRM is the main issue. Without DRM we wouldn’t be talking about it.

Which leaves the question, is Kindle really cloud service? The argument is that it is really a Cloud bookshelf where your books are cached to your local device. I don’t buy it. By that definition web pages are a cloud service because they are stored on a server and cached on your local device. The main thrust of Kindle is reading books on your Kindle reader. The fact that you can get books from the cloud is just a delivery mechanism, just like downloading software to run on your PC. If that makes it a cloud service, then please tell me what doesn’t qualify as a cloud server.

The Cyber Cynic raises this point:

But, it’s worse than that. Now, that we’ve discovered that Amazon can remotely and automatically delete your books without your knowledge or consent, what’s to stop Amazon, some other company, or the government from not merely deleting it, but replacing it with an edited version? Nothing.

It’s not that I’m not a trusting person… oh wait it is.

Will DRM kill the Kindle?

There is a lot of news lately about Amazon remotely deleting Kindle books that they belatedly discovered should not have been sold (the publisher apparently did not own the rights to the works). That the works were Orwell titles adds a nearly irresistible ironic element to the story. The legalities involved seem to cover virgin territory in the copyright law which also makes the case fascinating. The purchasers have all apparently been fully refunded, however some people have complained that they annotated their version which resulted in their notes disappearing back into the same ether that the books themselves vanished into.

Amazons position seems to be “we are absolutely right in what we did, and we promise we will never, ever, ever do it again”.

But the biggest damage to the Kindle brand from the story is the discovery by many people that remotely deleting a book from their Kindle was even possible. Surprise, surprise. What the Kindle giveth the Kindle taketh away.

And that may be the biggest problem for Kindle now. When the average person “buys” a book, even an electronic one, they believe they should own it. But Amazon will either sell them one of two things:

  1. A physical book
  2. A perpetual license to display an electronic copy of a book that has been downloaded to an approved Amazon device but for which Amazon (and by extension the publisher) retains ownership and control

That difference may be too much for many readers.

How to lose 25,000 customers

There is an old joke in software:

If it wasn’t for those pesky customers, this job would be easy!

Now the UK entertainment industry plans to make that joke a reality by planning to sue 25,000 alleged file sharers:

A government-backed deal was struck last month between Britain’s six biggest Internet service providers and the entertainment industry under which file-sharers would be sent warning letters.

Taking direct action against file-sharers will become an “important and effective” weapon to tackle online piracy, Gore added.

The number of people prosecuted by Davenport Lyons for sharing games could reach 25,000, according to a report in the Times on Wednesday. They would be offered the chance to pay 300 pounds each to settle out of court, the report added.

The first 500 who ignored the letters would face immediate legal action brought on behalf of five games developers, including Atari, Techland and Codemasters, it said.

They must be inspired by how well this strategy is working in the US. Which is to say, not very well at all.

Anytime your business strategy depends on suing your customers in mass, your business is not long for this world. I would suggest they invest that 300 pounds/customer wisely. It may have to last for a while.

Printers Behaving Badly

There is this interesting NYT article about the accuracy of the detection algorithms used to generate MPAA takedown notices (from Bruce Schneier). Apparently the MPAA has been tricked into accusing laser printers of downloading copyrighted material:

 The paper finds that there is a serious flaw in how these trade groups finger reported file-sharers. It also suggests that some people might be getting improperly accused of sharing copyrighted content, and could even be purposely framed by other users.

In two separate studies in August 2007 and May of this year, the researchers set out to examine who was participating in BitTorrent file-sharing networks and what they were sharing. The researchers introduced software agents into these networks to monitor their traffic. Even though those software agents did not download any files, the researchers say they received more than 400 take-down requests accusing them of participating in the downloads.

The researchers concluded that enforcement agencies are looking only at I.P. addresses of participants on these peer-to-peer networks, and not what files are actually downloaded or uploaded – a more resource-intensive process that would nevertheless yield more conclusive information.

In their report, the researchers also demonstrate a way to manipulate I.P. addresses so that another user appears responsible for the file-sharing.

An inanimate object could also get the blame. The researchers rigged the software agents to implicate three laserjet printers, which were then accused in takedown letters by the M.P.A.A. of downloading copies of “Iron Man” and the latest Indiana Jones film.

Gaming DRM, the Final Solution

Penny Arcade presents a vision of the final solution for DRM in the gaming industry.

It’s Penny Arcade so it goes without saying that it’s not safe for workplace viewing.