Amazon accused of closing and wiping Kindle account, reminding us we don't own DRM content

There's a story going around about Amazon closing someone's account and wiping her Kindle of all its content, without offering any specific information or recourse. It's a single-sourced story, and Amazon's side hasn't and may not be heard, but it serves as a powerful cautionary tale for users of any DRM (digital rights management) wrapped online content provider, including Apple's iTunes. Martin Bekkelund writes about alleged the incident, which he says happened to his friend Linn, on []:(

As a long-term writer about technology, DRM, privacy and user rights, this Amazon example shows the very worst of DRM. If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought. And if you disagree, you’re totally outlawed. Not only is your account closed, all your books that you paid for are gone. With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.

And the same, of course, applies to your TV shows, movies, and other content. With iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match, all of our purchased apps, movies, TV shows, books, etc. all live in iCloud, and we need to log in with our Apple ID to re-download them to our iPhones and iPads, or stream them to our Apple TVs. iTunes will even authorize a device to playback local copies of the DRM content. While music, which went DRM-free in 2008, podcasts, and a very few other content types can be easily copied and backed up and played anywhere and with anything compatible, most of what iTunes "sells" cannot be. Same for Amazon. Same for any online provider.

You don't own your content, the company that controls the DRM does, and it's only at their sufferance that you can play it.

And it's not just digital content either. Right now my pricy 7.1 speaker system is sitting dead and my receiver unplugged because it's decided all my fully legitimate signals aren't HDCP (high definition copy protection) compliant so refuses to play them. I was recently given the Avengers BluRay and I couldn't watch it because my offline BluRay player claimed it's encryption keys were outdated.

We're charged full price for content, but we no longer enjoy any actual ownership rights. We're licensees, at the mercy of faulty chips and servers that go down and services that go out of business (PlaysForSure turned out to be anything but), and an entertainment industry that's more concerned with treating us all as potential thieves that need to be guarded against rather than customers that deserve to be delighted.

We don't know the specifics of this case, but that our accounts can be closed and our access to the content we paid for, terminated, should be a cause for huge concern, and something we should never forget.

If the emails contained in the email below are accurate, shame on Amazon. As someone who buys Kindle books (okay, Kindle comic books) it does give me pause about continuing to do business with them. But like I said above, what's the alternative?

Maybe none of the established players. And maybe that leaves the door open for something new and next?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • alternative? How about going old school and buy a real hard copy of whatever it is you choose. I still enjoy reading a copy of a real book don't you?
  • I do not. I prefer ebooks over physical books so much I cannot describe in words.
  • me too. No books or magazines laying around cluttering up the place. No need to have the light on to read in bed. I've gone all digital for all my reading needs.
  • +1
  • I think you need to backup your kindle books anytime.
    You can look at this article to learn how to backup.
  • Lol
  • Alternatives, what about Kobo, they have a decent collection of books, and there motto is read freely.
  • In the event that I buy something digital and then lose it to a glitch or something (like when apple wanted me to pay $250 to remove DRM from my music so it could go on my android phone), I obtain it through other means. Since the early 2000's, I've taken a personal stand against piracy, however I refuse to be taken advantage of.
    I bought a Kindle book that wouldn't work in night-mode, so I downloaded a copy and it worked fine. Stand up against piracy. It is theft. But stand up for yourself too. It is still a new paradigm, and mistakes will happen. Just don't be a victim.
  • I think I see your point here. Piracy is theft, so stand up against it, except sometimes theft is OK when your have a technical problem with your purchase, or if you want to use your purchased content beyond the scope of the license granted to you. Then we don't call it theft, it's standing up for yourself. No cognitive dissonance here.
  • So let's see if I follow the original logic. I buy a CD, but the license says I get one download. Something happens, I lose it, whatever, so I am now free to ignore FIXING THAT PROBLEM and stealing it somewhere else. By that logic, if I go to a convenience store, and buy a chocolate bar, but on the way home, it falls out of the bag, then I should be able to go back to the store and STEAL ANOTHER ONE because, you know, it's not my fault I didn't get to eat the original. If you're going to rationalize your theft, at least be adult enough to own your rationalization. Just because it didn't work the way you wanted it to doesn't give you carte blanche to steal somewhere else. PolyWogg
  • If you already own a copy (legally) of a song or a book, isn't it OK to have another copy of the same thing downloaded by any other means, for your personal use? Isn't that allowed?
  • Not if the terms of the license forbid it. Doesn't matter on the setting, a license is a license. It permits you do do ceratin things with your purchase in a certain way at a certain time.
    The vast majority of the population are no different to you and I, and have copied a song, legally purchased to different media, (not to mention the things people have got friends to copy for them). They probably know they shouldn't but assume it's 'a right' to do so and proceed.
    NO IT ISN'T, sooner or later we know we are all going to be curtailed. But having said all that there must surely be a solution that suits us all licensers and licensees both? As to dalvik above with his 'torrent' comment. What an idioitic post, that's part of the reason things are like that now.
  • As with lots of these stories, it is as important what IS included as what is NOT included. The user, Linn, neglected to mention in the original source that she had a Kindle and gave it to her mother. Then she got another one, refurbished or at least used, and when she had a problem with the used one, she somehow convinced Amazon to replace it. But they didn't want to ship to Norway so insisted on a UK address for verification. After activating her new one, it blocked her. The exact progression is a bit complicated, and lots of weird and wonderful things in there. But it is NOT a linear story as clean as the original blogger made it. For example, was her mom using the "Kindle" with her daughter's account? It sure reads that way. And, that's a definite no-no -- you can have multiple devices on one account, but they are supposed to be a single user. You don't get to register friends and family under your account so you can all share your downloads. Whatever your views on the rules, those are the parameters set by Amazon when you create your Kindle account. Multiple devices, one user. If you want to loan to another user, you can, but they can't share your account. Secondly, she got a replacement Kindle -- how? why? Cuz Amazon was being nice, apparently. A used Kindle and they replaced it? You bought it second hand and the warranty (expired) is still honoured? Yet the blogosphere is about how Amazon is evil. Seems really fishy to me that she told them it was used but they replaced it anyway. Thirdly, she has no idea what the deal with that old Kindle was...maybe the user was blocked (hence why they were selling it) and when she registered it, they linked it back to the old user and hence blocked her. If she DIDN'T tell them it was used, that would make sense -- she calls them up, tells them "My kindle don't work", they replace it and then find out it was a blocked kindle too, and therefore since she said it was hers, they blocked her too. I don't dispute there are issues raised about DRM, ownership, and that Amazon refused to explain why they thought she was a baddie...but with the extra context, may not be the best test case for the issues. Oh, and by the way? Amazon apparently reinstated her account after the news item showed up in NYTimes tech feed today, which most of the blogs have not yet been updated to reflect. PolyWogg
  • Shouldn't require getting to the NY Times before a company does the right thing.