296737625_82bf10cd92In case you were recently persuaded to abandon conspiracy theories involving Obama’s birthplace or the moon landing only to find that your new wisdom has left a paranoia-shaped void in your life, here’s a new reason to think Big Brother is out to get you. Amazon.com recently remotely deleted electronic copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers who had legitimately purchased them. While it wouldn’t have been met with enthusiastic approval had it involved Pride and Prejudice or Goodnight Moon instead, the fact that 1984 was the deleted work seems to have intensified fears that digital rights management software will usher in a new era of censorship. And, perhaps, with good cause. In this instance, the books were deleted because the bookseller who sold them did not have the rights to the two books. But if Amazon can delete these books from the Kindles of legitimate purchasers, with no notice or consent, what if Amazon would benefit financially in the future by deleting a certain book? What if there are two similar series and Amazon acquires an interest in Series A? Wouldn’t it be tempting to delete Series B, if it can be done with impunity?

But panic is probably unwarranted for now. There are benefits to digital rights management software, the most obvious being the protection of intellectual property rights. It is hard to blame Amazon for possessing this capability for the purpose of preventing the distribution of pirated material. It also gives providers the ability to track a consumer’s preferences and give recommendations based on their purchases, or to replace something that the consumer accidentally deleted. The public outcry caused by Amazon’s actions, and the apology that resulted, might indicate that consumers ultimately have the power to keep companies like Amazon in check, without having to resort to legislation controlling or banning digital rights management software.

– Liz Kelly

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2 Responses to Amazon.com Kindles Big Brother Fears

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