This is a screencast of the DRM presentations I gave last week at O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference.
When media historians write the history of DRM they may well devote a whole chapter to the day that Amazon customers awoke to find that their Kindle editions of “1984” had vanished into a memory hole and that Big Brother Bezos had apparently turned George Orwell into an unperson.
You would be hard pressed to invent a more apt or ironic example of the dangers of DRM. Surely this will be the incident that finally raises consumer awareness of the risks involved in buying DRM protected media.
And yet, after digging deeper into this story, I’m not convinced that this was a DRM issue at all. At least, not in the truest sense.
Further, this incident raises a host of interesting rights related issues that have largely gone unexplored in the days since.
Consider the following: [Read more…] about Digging Deeper Into Amazon’s Orwellian Moment
The Kindle is popular for a reason.
Amazon has created the most painless ebook experience any consumer could possibly ask for. No other system makes the discovery, purchase, and transfer of ebooks so frictionless. As a result, Kindle has become the standard everyone else in the ebook business will have to match just to compete. So far no one comes close.
But Kindle has a dark side that is starting to emerge with startling regularity.
This past weekend Dan Cohen was surprised to find that he could not re-download some of his Kindle books. After several lengthy exchanges with Amazon customer support Cohen was informed that some (but not all) Kindle books have download limits. Or maybe it’s a limit on the number of devices they can be transferred to. Or it might be both…
To be honest, Amazon’s customer service department isn’t entirely sure of what limits are imposed on DRM protected Kindle books. [Read more…] about Why Kindle’s DRM Free-for-All Is Bad for Consumers and for Amazon
Any way you look at it, the Kindle is a remarkable reading system. Amazon has managed to capture massive mainstream attention for an electronic reading device that combines seamless wireless content distribution with a purchasing process that is so transparent you’d be forgiven for not realizing you’ve actually paid money for a book.
Equally remarkable is the fact that Amazon sells DRM-restricted ebooks side-by-side with DRM-free ebooks while making no distinction between the two formats. From the consumer’s perspective there’s no way to tell which Kindle books are locked down by DRM before purchase.
Over the past week, Teleread has been orchestrating a consumer driven tagging effort to tag DRM-free books in the Kindle store. While I think the project is a brilliant use of crowdsourcing, it also reveals just how bad the problem really is. In order to accurately tag a Kindle ebook as DRM-free, Amazon customers must first buy the book, then go through a somewhat involved process to test whether or not the book is locked down. [Read more…] about Amazon’s Kindle Disclosure Policies Could Attract FTC Attention
The moment digital media consumers have long waited for finally came this week as the FTC held a Town Hall meeting to discuss issues surrounding the use of DRM technologies.
From the beginning it was clear the FTC has heard consumer complaints about DRM related issues and takes the matter seriously. What wasn’t clear is what, exactly, the FTC is prepared to do to ensure that consumers get what they pay for when they purchase digital media products.
Mary K. Engle, Acting Deputy Directory for the Bureau of Consumer Protections, opened the workshop with some tough words for companies selling DRM protected media products, warning, “If your advertising giveth and your EULA taketh away, don’t be surprised if the FTC comes calling.” Further, Engle noted that consumer distrust over DRM makes for an unhealthy marketplace. [Read more…] about The FTC on DRM: Fighting for Consumers or Making Toothless Threats?
By now it should be clear that ebooks are more than just a passing fad. That digital reading revolution we’ve been hearing about for over a decade is finally starting to take shape. Amazon has sold over a half million Kindles, Sony has moved several hundred thousand digital Readers, and Stanza, the free reading app for the iPhone, has been downloaded over 1.3 million times.
As consumer adoption of digital reading devices accelerates, publishers are grappling with the impact that digital distribution will have on existing business models. It’s hard not to feel a certain sense of déjà vu as we witness yet another form of mass media completely remade in the digital era. And it’s hard not to feel just a little bit sad that publishers are making many of the same mistakes we’ve seen made in other industries — most notably by the recording industry.
At long last the Federal Trade Commission is taking a serious look at DRM and the impact the technology is having on consumers. The Commission has scheduled a Town Hall meeting in Seattle on March 25th.
The FTC is soliciting public comments until the end of the month. I’ve already submitted my comments, and I encourage all Medialoper readers to do the same. You can submit your comments online until January 30, 2009.
While no one can doubt the importance of protecting the intellectual property rights of copyright holders, it is equally important to protect the rights of consumers. Unfortunately, where DRM is concerned, consumers have no rights.
Well, all I can say is that it’s about godsdammed time. Today’s big news out of Macworld — that the iTunes Music Store is going DRM-free AND adding a tiered pricing structure — is good news for everyone involved.
It’s good news for consumers because — from the consumer standpoint — DRM sucks fully, totally and utterly. No matter how it was spun as one of those “for your protection” things, or as “protection for the artist,” it’s been proven time and time again to be a big pain in the ass for consumers. Anytime you purchase an artifact — including a digital file — with eithervsome kind of purely arbitrary use restriction and/or dependency on the large corporation that sold you the artifact to keep it working, that’s potential trouble. Period.
So in the spirit of George W. Bush’s ninja-like ability to duck a shoe thrown at him from point blank range, the following people and things spent 2008 getting away with shit that they really should have been busted on.