Amazon Needs a Little Paddling

Like many people, I’ve become pretty successful at ignoring the concerns over media products sold with DRM. But after John Gruber linked to a blog post detailing DRM mistakes (or abuse) by Martin Bekkelund I shot off a few tweets and reblogs. Meaning that I went back to successfully ignoring DRM concerns really quickly.

And then I just caught this post over on App.net by Dan Wineman:

Five days ago I used Amazon’s support form to tell them I was concerned about http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/ and asked for assurance that they wouldn’t steal my purchases from me without warning or explanation.

No reply.

Contacting Amazon is a great idea. Boycotting digital goods is probably a non-starter for many people already. And certainly, market forces haven’t provided consumers with rights when they buy ebooks like they have in the market for music. It could be years before Congress, the courts, or the FTC clarifies or grants consumers some meaningful digital property rights.

However, as consumers we can at least voice our unease with the status quo by reaching out to Amazon. We should tell Amazon and other companies that violate the property rights of their customers or reveal the potential to do so that we don’t think that’s okay. That our uncertainty about the future accessibility of these products might not be altogether preventing us from making purchases, but it might be discouraging the number we make.

I know that tens – and probably even tens of thousands – of support requests made to Amazon will not launch a consumer movement to bestow us with new digital rights. But maybe by expressing ourselves we’ll encourage Amazon to be more clear about their policies. Perhaps we can encourage the companies who seek to disrupt Amazon and other ebook sellers to exclude DRM from their nascent business models.

Inspired by Dan Wineman, here is the suport request I sent Amazon:

Hello to Jeff Bezos and Amazon,

I am a happy Amazon customer and I particularly enjoy buying digital goods including Kindle ebooks. When I buy music from Amazon it is in the form of an MP3, but when I buy Kindle ebooks, there is DRM software which allows Amazon to lock me out of my purchases for arbitrary or perhaps mistaken reasons (besides the fact there probably are no good reasons to punish someone by locking them out of past sales). This issue came into focus due to events detailed in a recent blog post by Martin Bekkelund, linked here: http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/

This Amazon-DRM story makes me reconsider making future Kindle purchases. What assurances can Amazon give me and other customers that at some future time period they won’t steal our purchases without warning, due process, an opportunity for appeal, or even any coherent explanation? What assurances can Amazon give me that the company won’t suffer future financial or technical difficulties that lock me and other customers out of our ebooks as well as the marginalia we may have added to them?

I hope that Amazon will consider addressing these and related concerns involving DRM.

Please consider sending your own suport request to Amazon and the other companies from whom you purchase media with DRM.

UPDATED 10/28/2012 I woke up to find that Amazon has responded to my help request:

Account status should not affect any customer’s ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help.

Thank you for your interest in Kindle.

I sure would like to believe that email, and checking it with Martin Bekkelund, it seems his friend has access to her Amazon account once more. However, Bekkelund seems to think that it was the pressure from his blog post that encouraged Amazon to do the right thing and not their regular business practices. Of course, the problem with DRM is that there’s very little a consumer can do to verify Amazon’s (or any other vendor’s) actual policies and their is virtually no way that Amazon can credibly commit to good behavior in the future. Going forward, we are either going to have to become comfortable with the idea that DRM-protected goods are ultimately rentals of an unspecified length or we must work toward a mechanism of third-party dispute resolution for consumers facing abusive practices.

 
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