My latest Guardian column, "Downloads give Amazon jungle fever," asks the question: how can a company that gets online selling so right get downloads so wrong
As a consumer advocate and activist, I'm delighted by almost every public policy initiative from Amazon. When the Author's Guild tried to get Amazon to curtail its used-book market, the company refused to back down. Founder Jeff Bezos (who is a friend of mine) even wrote, "when someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this."
More recently, Amazon stood up to the US government, who'd gone on an illegal fishing expedition for terrorists (TERRORISTS! TERRORISTS! TERRORISTS!) and asked Amazon to turn over the purchasing history of 24,000 Amazon customers. The company spent a fortune fighting for our rights, and won.
It also has a well-deserved reputation for taking care over copyright "takedown" notices for the material that its customers post on its site, discarding ridiculous claims rather than blindly acting on every single notice, no matter how frivolous.
But for all that, it has to be said: Whenever Amazon tries to sell a digital download, it turns into one of the dumbest companies on the web.
Melt chocolate into slabs, coat with blue candy-melts, and stud with broken oreos and edible googly eyes and voila: it’s as though you blenderized a thousand Cookie Monsters, rolled them flat, and baked them.
For decades, Warner/Chappell Music claimed to own the rights to the Happy Birthday song, despite the reams of copyright scholarship and historical research showing they had no legitimate claim.
Last year’s AI Video Competition featured Mario Lives! An Adaptive Learning AI Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent, in which researchers from Germany’s University of Tübingen explained how they’d modified Super Marion Brothers to turn the characters into adaptive, machine-learning chatterbots that discovered how to play the game together.
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