And You Thought Orwell Was An Alarmist


I said I was taking a break, but there's no missing news like that. Just three days ago (sorry, busy weekend here) Amazon reached out inside their customers' e-book readers and deleted legitimately purchased books. That people are up in arms over this is an understatement; Techcruch went as far as asking: Amazon, Why Don’t You Come In Our Houses And Burn Our Books Too? Indeed, though the books in question were Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, what Amazon just did is rather reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451.

Now, as Ars Technica has discovered, Amazon lacked the rights to distribute those books. Question is, why did their customers have to pay for this? And I don't mean money -- the books were refunded -- but the horror of learning that their legitimately purchased books were not really theirs. In a single move, we've been shown the worst of both copyright and DRM. Oh, and a kind of Big Brother-ism that was in the realm of dystopian science fiction less than a week ago.

Maybe it's no coincidence that the RIAA just went on record declaring DRM to be dead. Nobody in his right mind would like to be associated with the digital equivalent of burning books. Except perhaps Apple. See, the iPhone has a built-in "feature" which allows them to remotely erase legitimately purchased applications. Granted, they've never been foolish enough to exercise it. Then again, neither was Amazon... until now. Think about that the next time you plan to buy an overpriced shiny toy whose manufacturer claims to know what's best for you.

And before someone brings up the issue of alternatives, a few links for your enjoyment.

Think about it.

2009-07-24 update: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos apologizes for the incident, promises it won't happen again. Should we believe him? After all, the backdoor is still there...