Web

Amazon account ban story reminds us DRM content is rented, not owned

amazon results fall dramatically in last quarterA blog post by media commentator Martin Bekkelund has gained a considerable amount of attention today. It highlights the plight of Linn, one of Bekkelund’s friends, who has had her Amazon account closed, any open orders cancelled and most worryingly of all, her Kindle e-reader wiped. All without any reasonable explanation.

According to the post, Linn discovered these problems for herself, and when she turned to Amazon for assistance — believing it to be a mistake — was told her account was found to be “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse in our policies.”

Several back-and-forth email conversations between Linn and an Amazon Executive Customer Relations representative follow, where her requests for more information are ignored, and she’s told that the account closure is not only permanent, but also that Amazon will be watching and will close down any other related accounts too.

The conversation closes with the Amazon representative saying “we wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.”

Amazon has washed its hands of Linn, while she has an empty Kindle, no Amazon account, nothing to show for the money she has paid and — according to the report — no idea why any of this has happened.

Wiped Kindle

Leaving aside Linn’s problems for a moment, many of you reading this may also own a packed Kindle, and are wondering whether Amazon has the right to delete content you paid for on a device you own. Sadly, the answer is probably yes.

It all comes down the Digital Rights Management, or DRM, a system that as Bekkelund points out means you’re really renting books (and also other digital content such as music and film) “for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.” Amazon in turn uses the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, to take your books and privileges away if it finds you’ve been naughty.

As usual, a quick skip through the terms of service reveals some choice phrases. Here, under Kindle Content in Amazon’s Kindle Store Terms of Use, it clearly states that “Kindle content is licensed, not sold” and that other than reading the content, you can’t do much else with it, including transferring it to another device or removing the “security features” contained within.

Should you break these and other rules, Amazon “may immediately revoke your access to the Kindle Store and the Kindle Content without refund of any fees.” This is repeated almost verbatim under the Terms of Use for the Kindle hardware too.

Account closures and deleted books

In Linn’s case, Amazon talks of an associated account breaking the rules, rather than Linn herself. Her situation isn’t unique either, as this post on MobileRead.com’s forums proves. It also provides an insight into what could prompt an account to be flagged as suspicious — in this case a series of faulty Kindles and two accounts — and also, later, that Amazon does reinstate accounts when a mistake has been made. Some further research shows many banned Amazon accounts originate with problems from selling items in the Marketplace, and that the practice has been going on for some time.

We’ve seen Amazon delete previously purchased (rented?) books from the Kindle before too, and this situation shows the company has considerable power over your device even after sale. The most notable situation came when the company deleted copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and, ironically, 1984 from the Kindle Store and Kindle e-readers back in 2009. This happened again in late 2010, when more dubious titles were removed too.

Nobodies friend, DRM

It’s worth pointing out that while Amazon could be more forthcoming about what caused the closure of Linn’s account, it’s DRM that has enabled the company to punish her. While some may not need to be reminded of DRM’s evils, it may come as a revelation to others.

DRM isn’t about to go away, but one can purchase DRM-free material — even from Amazon — to limit its hold over you and your content. Sound advice comes from the top-voted post on the Hacker News thread related to Bekkelund’s post, which recommends everyone “ treat all e-books purchased with DRM as rentals.” One should perhaps replace the word “e-books” with “all digital media” depending on your buying habits, just to be safe.

As Bruce Willis isn’t coming to our rescue anytime soon, what choice do we have?

Computing

The Facebook dating service will be free of charge and free of ads

Facebook is getting into the dating game. While the feature was one of the surprises from this year's F8, new details suggest what the feature may entail, including a few screenshots from a computer programmer.
Home Theater

Dish Network or DirecTV: Which is the better choice for you?

So, you’ve chosen to go with a satellite television provider. Check out our quick rundown of what both Dish Network and DirecTV offer in terms of content, hardware, and pricing, and why you might choose them over streaming services.
Movies & TV

Got questions about Hulu and Hulu with Live TV? We've got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Movies & TV

15 epic sci-fi novels you should read before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Mobile

Find your way around Google Maps with these handy tips and tricks

How good are your navigation skills? We've got a delectable menu of Google Maps tips and tricks for you right here, to take the pain out of your trips. Go from newbie to mapping master and learn how to use Google Maps.
Emerging Tech

Widespread internet access is causing mass sleep deprivation, study suggests

A study claims that high-speed internet may be costing us up to 25 minutes of sleep per night. And, surprisingly, the biggest problem isn't among those young people who are under 30.
Computing

Network routers with roaming enabled are likely susceptible to a new attack

Jens Steube discovered a new method to break into network routers while researching new ways to attack the WPA3 security standard. He stumbled onto an attack technique capable of cracking hashed WPA-PSK passwords.
Computing

Saving your favorite YouTube videos for posterity is quick, easy with these tools

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.
Computing

Hacker plays ‘Doom’ on John McAfee’s ‘unhackable’ BitFi Bitcoin wallet

The BitFi hardware cryptocurrency wallet isn't as unhackable as John McAfee claims. A 15-year-old bedroom hacker has managed to get Doom running on the device, suggesting its days may soon be numbered.
Computing

Having issues with Microsoft Edge? Here's how to fix the most common problems

If you're feeling frustrated with Microsoft Edge, or have run into a serious problem with Windows 10's built-in browser, take a look at these common issues and the solutions that can help you get back on track.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

Amazon Prime brings more perks than just free two-day shipping. Subscribers get access to a huge library of TV shows to stream at no extra cost. Here are our favorite TV shows currently available on Amazon Prime.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Photography

The best place to print photos online: Seven top photo labs

Have you been looking around for the best place to print out your favorite photos online? Don't fret, we've pored through dozens of options and narrowed it down to the seven best.