Essays on Technology and Culture

The Dangers of Renting Media

A lot of us haven’t thought of this because companies haven’t often exercised their right to remove content for licensing or contract violations. But the stories are getting more numerous: In 2009, Amazon remotely deleted copies of two Orwell e-books from customers’ Kindles without notice, based on its licensing terms. In 2012, an IT consultant in Norway had her Kindle e-books wiped and her Amazon account closed for nonspecified violations to Kindle’s terms of service. And, in December, a California court finally heard a class-action lawsuit brought by several Californians against Apple, claiming that Apple deleted their non-iTunes music that owners had downloaded from competing music services from 2007 to 2009. All of these actions were based on the licensing terms of the specific e-media. If these actions continue, the public will be at the mercy of the content industries and those industries’ reliance on consumer ignorance about e-media ownership.

Think You ‘Own’ What You ‘Buy’ on the Internet? – Kyle K. Courtney – POLITICO Magazine

At least in the world of music, the mass de-adoption of DRM means that when you buy something from iTunes or the Amazon MP3 store, you do own that file. For everything else, the tendrils of DRM reach deep into our libraries and we do not own anything. This should worry us—it even worries me despite being neck-deep in the Kindle ebook ecosystem.

Here’s the thing: this has nothing to do with preventing piracy, and it has everything to do with getting people to pay multiple times for the same media. And until people understand this, they’ll continue to roll over for the media companies.

(This is not to excuse piracy which does rob creators of their rightful pay, but DRM sure makes it a reasonable-seeming alternative.)