Amazon Misusing DMCA to Block Non-Amazon Book Buying for Kindle?

Dan Gillmor is a BoingBoing guest-blogger.

In the this-sucks-if-true category, we hear from mobileread:

As some of you may already know, this week we received a DMCA take-down notice from Amazon requesting the removal of the tool and instructions associated with it. Although we never hosted this tool (contrary to their claim), nor believe that this tool is used to remove technological measures (contrary to their claim), we decided, due to the vagueness of the DMCA law and our intention to remain in good relation with Amazon, to voluntarily follow their request and remove links and detailed instructions related to it.

I'm a (small) shareholder in Amazon. I own a Kindle. I question my decisions when I hear about stuff like this.

Oh, and by the way: Click here for lots of search links to the file that has Amazon in such a frenzy.

via Slashdot)



  1. This is a huge blunder on Amazon’s part. I understand Mobileread’s position but I wish they had fought this. The script in question does *not* circumvent DRM — it only allows DRM’d files bought elsewhere to be used on a Kindle. The files are still locked to the Kindle, and more to the point, they aren’t Amazon’s files. Amazon has no standing to argue that an ebook file bought from someone else has had its DRM circumvented.

    A bad argument and a bad PR move by alienating a site that’s as pro-eBook as they come.

  2. whenever boing boing posts about drm it makes me want to put drm on EVERYTHING because these are the worst posts, except maybe for the steampunk computer art

  3. Lynninca: Bad PR indeed.

    And since this is about making you buy from Amazon’s store, I have three questions:

    1) How much does it cost to manufacture and distribute a Kindle?

    2) Whats Amazon’s deal with the WhisperNet – it’s free and open to most (all?) of the web, right? So there must be a per-unit cost to Amazon with a wireless provider (Sprint? Right?)

    3) How many Kindle users would actually use this software for new (as in post-Kindle) purchases. Alot of iPod users just use iTunes (it’s right there, it just works, a no-brainer to the luddites or people who don’t care about what’s under the hood – be it DRM or a shitty bitrate.) I assume 99.9% will just use the Kindle store. That’s the point, really.

    I doubt the margins are so slim that they can’t risk a small sliver of their market shopping elsewhere, for what I assume will be books they can’t get via the Kindle store or can get at a substantially better price.

    Back to the iPod – Apple did this to Real, when they managed to get Pods playing nice with their DRM. Apple shut them down. Of course now it’s all moot, only dicks are still selling DRM’d music. This is about solidifying the future of the Kindle ecosystem, i’m sure once we have ePaper ubiquity the DRM will fade out and things will become a bit more interoperable. Assuming Kindle becomes the iPod of reading.

  4. gulo gulo: The worst? Huh? In what sense.

    And i’d happily DRM your comment, just as long as I didn’t have the key to authorise my machine and read it.

  5. Well, that tears it. Was considering it for some technical uses, but I can pass. If I don’t have a choice as to what can go into it, it can go into the trash.

    ePaper needs to have their hind end kicked for their exclusivity. as well. Their displays should be available from DigiKey, JDR or Mouser in a selection of sizes for a reasonable price. ePaper could take over a good chunk of the display world if they would get off their duffs and open up. They are totally missing the boat.

  6. gulo:
    “It has been known to give off a very strong, extremely unpleasant odor, giving rise to the nicknames “skunk bear” and “nasty cat.””

  7. @JFrance:

    1) Dunno, but it’s believed that the eInk screen is fairly expensive as OEM parts go.

    2) Yes, you can get to anywhere on the web in theory — mobile sites work best, Java, flash, etc. don’t work at all. I don’t know how Amazon is paying Sprint — if it’s based on total bandwidth actually used vs. a set cost per device or something else. But I do like that there isn’t any kind of monthly fee.

    3) Well, I might, if, say BooksOnBoard had a $1 sale for a specific title, or if they had a title that wasn’t in the Kindle store. I have to say, not often, but that’s not really the point to me. Amazon should have to compete with its competitors, not use bad legal arguments to prevent discussion that makes competition possible.

    I really do love my Kindle and I’m not returning it, but I am disturbed by Amazon’s poor business ethics here.

  8. IAMAL but Amazon’s legal theory is probably that the copyrighted work one is gaining access to is the reader software running on the Kindle, not the books.

    It kind of sucks, but that’s what you get for buying a ‘point of sale’ device.

  9. worst as in least interesting
    a single “it sucks that more things aren’t drm free” would def suffice but boing boing is just so gung ho about daily updates on the drm big brother state

  10. I don’t get it. You’ve found a website that in large part, is about DRM, has always been about DRM, and will probably always be about DRM — and you’re complaining that you don’t like posts about DRM?

    Do you go to pasta restaurants and complain about how you hate Italian food, too?

  11. “Do you go to pasta restaurants and complain about how you hate Italian food, too?”

    I came here to say the same thing, but this way: “Do you go to Italian restaurants and complain about how you hate pasta, too?”

    I didn’t buy the Kindle mostly because of the DRM and the lack of openness about the system software.

    I was willing to spend (a lot) more money to get a pretty much open-source eReader, so it wouldn’t be bricked if the company went under, or if they decided that they weren’t making enough money and decided to stop their services.

    How many times can various companies royally screw their customers – by discontinuing a DRMed service and shutting off servers without releasing the unlocking codes – before customers keep flocking to these companies’ (essentially) 419-scam tactics? Always, I suppose…

    Releasing the codes should be part of the contract among the end-users/providers/creators, IMHO. I’d be willing to concede that this could be handled by a long chain-of-trust series of organizations, up to and including government (that is, once corporate sponsorship of politicals parties and politicians is made illegal. Jail-time illegal.)

    Nope, my reader’s pretty open source. And in a year, I’ve yet to load anyting that’s DRMed. But I like to put my money where my mouth is.

    I nothing else, it allows me to be all huffy and sanctimonious… ;->

  12. a website that in large part, is about DRM

    I suspect Gulo Gulo misses the days when BoingBoing was in large part about being A Directory of Wonderful Things. I can relate.

    Anyhow, if the Kindle was more reasonable priced, I wouldn’t mind it being enforced as a POS device for Amazon’s content. But with its high prices, I’d one to leverage it as much as possible, wouldn’t you? BTW, shouldn’t all this have been addressed in the Kindle’s licensing agreement?

  13. Which days were this, Nonplus? As the guy who’s done a pretty substantial chunk of the writing on this site for the past nine years, I defy you to find any identifiable period in which DRM, civil liberties, policy issues, bad stuff that you should care about, the editors’ own projects, etc, were not a giant part of the editorial mix.

    “Things used to be different around here,” is pure fantasy. You may have *felt* different about what was posted here before, but we weren’t *writing* different things here.

  14. I completely agree with Lynninca @4, there’s no DRM circumvention going on here… All does is allow you to find your PID number so that you can buy DRMed content from other sources. It’s still DRM, still locked to your device, and as Lynninca said, if you -were- circumventing anybody’s DRM, it would be the other provider that you’re buying from… Not Amazon’s.

    Additionally, it must be a very fringe group of users… It’s a python script, meaning that you have to know your way around whatever CLI you’re using, you have to know what python is, you have to have python installed… Additionally, if you’re going to be using on any regular basis, you’re going to need to add the appropriate hashbang to the script, and chmod +x it. How many Kindle owners out there (not here on BB which I suspect would be a lot, but out there in general) know what any of that means?

    I still love my K2, and I’ve only loaded public domain material onto it so far, though I’m sure I’ll buy stuff from the Kindle Store eventually. But, this really does piss me off.

  15. Personally I found the heavy Apple weighting over on BBG rather tiresome, though it seems to have died down a bit lately. My main issue was what I saw as a conflict between the Apple fluff-pieces and the more important DRM-and-freedom pieces: these are things for which Apple does not stand.

    I’ve never found DRM posts bad. They’re the best bit, for me. Largely because of these posts at BB, I’ve done things like contact my MPs, bought ORG memberships for myself and my fiancee, written to companies to explain why I bought a different product, and so forth.

    Post about wonderful things are OK, but at best they inspire you to go out and buy them(*), while liberty posts inspire you to actually work towards change.

    I’d say they’re the most important posts on here.

    (* I know, I know: at best a WT article will inspire you to go out and MAKE YOUR OWN wonderful thing, but that weakens my argument so I’m not going to mention it.)

  16. Streisand effect, anyone?

    You’d think that most companies should’ve understood by now that trying to get something out of the web just has the opposite effect …

    The “professional” eBook business is still in its infancy – and if they do not learn from the past mistakes of the MI and FI, they’re just bound to hopelessly repeat those mistakes. And in contrast to the early napster-ish issues, P2P technology isn’t limited to geeks and computer-savant people anymore.

  17. “you shouldn’t complain about this because it’s been this way for a long time” / “love it or leave it” doesn’t work though because this is otherwise a really great blog; it’s the only non music blog i read and a lot of the weird focuses (diy tech, ukeleles) are endlessly cool. however as a political issue – even within the realm of tech related political issues – drm is at best a small part of a larger problem and at worst an issue that only affects those above a certain threshold of priveledge

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