Slightly OT: How DRM screws consumers, Example 4,231

This may not be of interest to you if you A) don’t know what DRM is and/or don’t care, or B) don’t own a Kindle. But given our regular discussion of new media and digital commerce, this story about DRM nightmares with Amazon’s popular new ebook reader sure does feel like a cautionary tale about the kind of roadblocks that may spring up on the information superhighway as we get further and further into the age of digital culture (and technological advances and planned obsolescence begin to create legacy issues with all the digital products we own like music, and books, and downloaded software).

Or maybe the story is just a good example of how much digital commerce is still like the wild-west in many ways. I’m no economic historian, so maybe the development of ecommerce infrastructure is right where you’d expect it to be, orĀ  maybe even ahead of what historical models would predict.

But no matter. I liked the story. Or rather, it intrigues me (in a baffled sort of way) to read about a company like Amazon, a real pioneer of online bidness, struggling so basically to get DRM right with a product as popular and genuinely revolutionary as the Kindle.

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Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Musicscribe Blog » DRM Is Still Bad on 25 Jun 2009 at 12:50 am

    […] Harrison recently commented on the Amazon Kindle’s digital rights management (DRM) issues. To get up to speed on the back […]


  1. Angie M wrote:

    Wow. Just, wow. And then there’s the whole problem that a lot of people are denied access to something from which they would genuinely benefit because of the Authors Guild’s dubious interpretation of copyright law. So some people can download books one time, or six times; others, not at all.

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    The average consumer doesn’t care about DRM until it directly affects them, which may be a few years after the purchase. It will happen sooner or later. No device lasts a lifetime. By then, Amazon is banking on you not caring enough to complain.

    Some will buy the same book again. No one should have to do that if they’re willing to go to the trouble of making their own backups.

    This applies to music, as well. It was one thing back in the day when a cassette wore out. That’s a physical product, and backups degrade the original quality. It’s another thing entirely when the company you bought the book or song from retains the ability to restrict your access to said string of ones and zeros if they decide they don’t like you any more.

    This isn’t all of the story, either. The Kindle used to offer a text-to-speech function, but that feature was later disabled by Amazon…and not just on new Kindles. People who were already using the feature suddenly learned they could no longer do that with their Kindle.

    That would be like buying a car and suddenly losing the ability to turn on the windshield washer. It should be illegal to sell a product and then remove features after the customer has paid for it.

  3. quartet-man wrote:

    I guess I am not average, David. :) I always hated DRM. First of all it makes it harder to use what you paid for, but more importantly as mentioned, it can keep you from using what you paid for. Years ago I finally had to get some things protected or not get them at all, after some mishaps I have lost most all of them. Never again. At least now there are more options. As far as the Kindle, I presume this is the article I read some time ago.

  4. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    #3, it’s doubtful you read this article some time ago, because it was posted on June 21. (I’m assuming, of course, that Doug has linked to the original…that appears to be the case.)

    This is an ongoing, unfolding story with Amazon, because they have been reluctant to reveal just how many strings they’ve tied to the Kindle to render it useless after the fact.

  5. cynical one wrote:

    While Kindle does seem to be a neat thing, I read articles several years ago that this and other downloadable book services would be the soon demise of printed books. Just like we hear the gloom and dispair that downloading music is/will be the demise of cd’s.

    Funny, I just got back from vacation, and I saw lots of people reading by the pool, and on the beach. Several of them were reading, but I didn’t see anyone with a laptop or Kindle. Wonder why?

    Don’t they know printed books are obsolete? Haven’t they seen Borders, Books-a-Million, et al, fold?

  6. quartet-man wrote:

    #4 DRM I mean DBM ;)

    I never even looked at this article, but I do know I saw one at least a month ago and maybe a few months. This was about Kindles and at least one person that Amazon had said returned too many items, thought was scamming them, and cut off their Amazon account. Without the Amazon account, they could not get Kindle content and were basically stuck with a paper weight. I will have to check this particular one out and see how similar it is.

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    I think this what I saw.

  8. SA wrote:

    I use Napster’s paid service to download music. Unfortunately, you can’t load the files into itunes to load onto an iPod because of DRMs. I discovered software called tunebite. It dubs the song into an MP3 without the DRM. That way, you can load it into your iPod or whatever listening device you want. All the research I’ve done says it’s legal, as long as your using it to back up your files and not to redistribute it.

  9. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    How extensively did you conduct research in order to reach your pre-desired conclusion.

    Here’s what you may not have considered, and it’s where they get you:
    Napster has language in their End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) where, by using Napster’s service, you agreed not to do the thing you’re doing.

    Once you agree to certain terms, whether something is otherwise legal or not becomes irrelevant. For example, it’s legal for me to rip a CD and move song files to my Zune. If, however, an artist has me sign an agreement not to do that before they’ll sell me the CD, it’s no longer “legal.”

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