Given the hue and cry over this month’s blunder by Amazon, remotely removing two George Orwell novels from the Kindle reader of every customer who had purchased them, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, evidently felt it was time for a mea culpa. Below is his apology as posted on the Kindle Community 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.
With deep apology to our customers,
Founder & CEO
Sounds sincere enough, but the reading public isn’t ready to forgive, as evidenced by an article yesterday in The New York Times. Consumers are growing increasingly hostile toward the company’s proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management) software.
DRM is an option attached to Kindle books by each individual publisher which restricts the ownership and usage of the books purchased. Some claim that DRM means you don’t own the books you’ve purchased, which is perhaps why Amazon believed it had the right to remotely reach in and remove the previously purchased Orwell novels.
Writes Brad Stone in The Times article, “Amazon Faces a Fight Over Its E-Books:”
A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books….
The article mentions an organization, The Free Software Foundation, formed to take on DRM.
The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. This week it plans to present a petition to Amazon asking it to give up control over the books people load on their Kindles, and to reconsider its use of the software called digital rights management, or D.R.M. The software allows the company to maintain strict control over the copies of electronic books on its reader and also prevents other companies from selling material for the device.
As an author, I completely empathize with the need for writers to protect their copyrights. The last thing I want to see is people sharing my hard work for free (would doctors, plumbers, teachers, and others do their jobs without the expectation of being paid?). However, detractors of DRM claim that the software has little to do with copyright protection, which they argue, can be easily circumnavigated by hacks anyway.
All of this sounds very reminiscent of the early days of music downloads, so if history is any guide, we may have an idea as to how the situation could eventually wash out.