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July 2009
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Free Software Foundation is Launching a Kindle Petition

fsflogoIn the wake of the controversy surrounding Amazon’s deletion of George Orwell books the Free Software Foundation is readying a petition against remote deletion and DRM.  This news is somewhat significant, as the Free Software Foundation is an organization that has some weight in the world of software activism.  Most famous for the GNU Project(and the related GPL license), the foundation can be thought of as the de facto head of the open source and free software movements.

The Free Software Foundation has acknowledged Bezos’ apology, but feel that it isn’t enough.  The petition will ask that Amazon completely relinquish the ability to make changes to users’ Kindle libraries.  One interesting point up is how the technology could provide a tool for censorship, especially as the Kindle enters new markets.  This argument is likely inspired by other companies.  For example, Google has taken criticism in the past for how it has assisted China’s government in censoring the internet.

For good measure, the petition will also ask Amazon to reevaluate the use of DRM.  I have to say that this seems unlikely.  Amazon’s view towards DRM is completely irrelevant: if the Kindle didn’t have DRM, the major publishers would stop supporting it.  While DRM has its downsides, Amazon doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Still, the petition has gotten some notice.  Once signatures have been assembled and the Free Software Foundation presents the petition, it will be interesting to see how Amazon responds.  So far, Amazon has been pretty good about responding to their customers, so it is possible that they will try to listen to the petition (except of course the DRM).  Then again, Microsoft has ignored the Free Software Foundation for decades and it hasn’t really been that difficult for them.

3 comments to Free Software Foundation is Launching a Kindle Petition

  • CyberBiker

    It seems to me that an equitable settlement to the recent George Orwell issue on the kindle store could have accomplished the appropriate ends without hurting those who paid for the ebooks in question:

    1. The files in question are permanently removed from the Kindle Store
    2. The publisher that did not have the rights to the material should bear all of the cost of reimbursing the proper copyright holder for all of the copies that were sold at the level of the publisher’s reimbursement.
    3. Amazon would pay the proper rights holder all of the money they collected for the sold copies of the files in question.

    This way, the rights holder would be reimbursed for 100% of the money collected from the sale of files in question, No further copies would be available on the kindle store unless an appropriate deal was reached with the proper rights holder, and those inocent purchasers, who made their purchases in good faith, would not lose their investment.

    It would probably also be a good idea to notify the purchasers of the files in question about the problem.

    The real “criminals” in this situation are those who published the files to the kindle store without having the rights to the material. They should bear the brunt of the punishment, not Amazon, who, while not totally guiltless, did not actively do anything incorrectly, except remove the books from those who purchased them.

    While this solution doesn’t exactly follow the letter of the current copyright laws, which don’t really deal appropriately with digital media, it seems to deal with the issues:

    1. Stop distribution of unauthorized copies of intellectual property
    2. Punish those who distributed the unauthorized copies
    3. Compensate the rightful owners of the intellectual property owners
    4 Keeps those who had no way of knowing there was a problem out of the equation.

    Just a thought,
    CB

  • David Lang

    Quote: if the Kindle didn’t have DRM, the major publishers would stop supporting it. While DRM has its downsides, Amazon doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.

    yes and no.

    while there are some (many) publishers that would stay away from amazon, there are also cases where you pay amazon to get a DRM version of a book that the publisher has available without DRM for free

    case in point

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Rivers-of-War-ebook/dp/B000FCK3XC/ref=ed_oe_k
    claimed digital list price $25.95, paperback price $7.99, kindle price $7.19

    vs.

    http://www.webscription.net/p-588-1812-the-rivers-of-war.aspx
    free, in many formats (including the ability to have the server e-mail it to your kindle) with no DRM

  • admin

    Unforutunately when you are collateral to copyright infringement as Amazon was in this care you don’t get to choose the terms, copyright holder does.

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