The DRM Nightmare – Abuse of power in the Kindle system

As someone who would like to be able to eventually make a living off of my art, in my case writing, I have some opinions about DRM that would seem to run contrary to that goal. For those who are unfamiliar with the term DRM, it stands for Digital Rights Management, and it’s been a contentious issue for a number of years. What it allows publishers of digital content to do is manage how you can use the products that you purchase from them. It (theoretically) prevents file sharing by locking down the product you’ve purchased to only be usable by a specific person. This became a huge deal when the music industry felt like they were being ripped off by users of various file sharing (remember Napster? Kazaa?) and torrent sharing (Pirate Bay) networks.

I get the idea that people should pay for what they use. At the very least, the artist who has produced the content deserves to be paid for all of the time and hard work they put into producing it. If that artist chose to use a publisher, then that publisher should probably get a cut as well (though I’d argue aggressively on what amount).

Abuse by publishers and distributors is equally as much of a problem as what happened to this woman. The short of it: for reasons that Amazon would not detail, her purchases were deleted from her Kindle and her account was permanently shut down. The only thing that Amazon would share is that her account was linked to another account that they claimed broke the terms of service. She insists that she has no other accounts past or present with Amazon but they’re not hearing it.

The point of the matter is that if you encounter a problem with the Amazon service, you have virtually no recourse. You can’t appeal their decision because they have no one that they answer to… you’re just out of luck.

The reason Amazon believes they have a right to do this is because they view what you purchase from them as a license, not a product. Amazon isn’t the only one to view things this way either, Bruce Willis recently found out that Apple had similar feelings when he tried to will his iTunes library to his daughters.

So what are you purchasing when you plunk down $4.99, $9.99, $12.99 or more? According to the terms of service, it’s a license. I don’t think many of us agree with that though. In my eyes, it’s a product and as a purchaser of a product, I have the right to do what I want with it. To put it clearly, I do not agree with mass file sharing, I think people that put forth the effort to create things that you enjoy should be paid, no excuses. But if you were to use a program like Calibre to make sure that your purchases from one service were usable no matter how you choose to read them, I think you’re well within your rights as a consumer.

What do you think? What’s your take?