Recently there has been a blog post by Martin Bekkelund, the Norwegian media commentator, saying that his friend Linn Nygaard’s Amazon account was closed, and everything in her Kindle was wiped remotely without any notice (Honan, 2012). Linn has emailed the Amazon regarding this issue but at the end she got an answer that confused her even more. First of all, the Amazon explained that her account was related to another one, which has been previously closed due to the violation of their policy. Nevertheless, Linn claimed that she has never had any other Amazon account, and that was the only one that she has been using for purchasing eBooks for her Kindle regularly. Moreover, the account which had been indicated as the one that violated Amazon’s policy was created on Amazon.co.uk, while Linn has just been using Amazon.com. When she has been trying to get more detailed information about this issue from the Amazon, they refused to explain what exactly was wrong. The very last email which she received from the Amazon, the representative has implied Linn to find a new retailer since they would not provide any additional insights or action on this issue (Bekkelund, 2012).
In his blog, a long-term writer of technology Martin addresses that this Amazon case has actually showed how bad the Digital Rights Management (DRM) is. The DRM restricts and controls the use of digital files in order to protect the interests of the copyright holders. Those controls are imbedded in the files and accompany them when they are distributed to the consumers (ALA, 2012). Even though a person who agrees to the terms of service while opening an account for purchasing digital content may click on a button which says “Buy”, nonetheless the DRM is designed to allow just licensing of content only, not purchase.
Obviously, the use of the DRM is very controversial. However, as I am both consumer and creator, I am supportive of DRM. I think it is a must-have regulation for such generation in which almost everyone uses, creates or keeps digital files on their desktop, laptop, tablet or any other device every single day. From my point of view the DRM should not be blamed for Linn’s case because its purpose is just to protect the intellectual property, what it has been doing greatly. Assuming that what the Amazon representative mentioned has really happened, it might have caused some copyright holders loss. For instance, there might already be unauthorized duplication of their digital products or files. According to Digital-rights.org (2012), “The advent of personal computer, the ease of ripping media files from a CD or from radio broadcast, combined with the Internet and popular file sharing tools, have made unauthorized sharing of digital files (often referred to as digital privacy) still easier and has increased still more the worries of the copyrighted content providers.” Some may think that causing those copyright holders’ loss does not really matter much unless it keeps repeating itself. However, without any protection by the DRM this kind of incidents would probably happen again and again, causing the loss for the copyright holders. This will not just disappoint them but also discourage them to produce more creative, artistic or brilliant works which are likely to improve our lives.
Nevertheless, most copyright holders and general public individuals as well think that there are more cons than pros for the DRM. For example, the copyright holders such as authors of ebooks and musicians think that the DRM limits the ability of a legal custommer to fully enjoy thei purchase which they would prefer to since they have spent much time and effort producing them (Beman, 2011). For instance, a person who has paid for an eBook may only be allowed to read it on her Kindle since the file may be hard or even impossible to be transferred from one device to another. Thus, the sales might go down because most people do not like the fact that they have no full control over something that they have already paid for. In fact, as copyright holders, by the time when they upload their digital files to a retaile like Amazon for sale they can choose not to have DRM-protection on it (Beman, 2011). In addition, there are particular websites that sell only DRM-free eBooks or other digital works, such as Smashwords which welcomes large and independent presses alike to list DRM-free eBooks of all their titles with them (Coker, 2012). Therefore, the DRM is actually not a retricted requirement for every digital work. In other words, the creators and copyright holders still have the right to decide the way their products are to be sold and used, as well as a choice to protect them or not.
Other than those mentioned above there are also many reasons that people have not to like the DRM. One of the reasons is that many people worry that one day Linn’s case might happen to them, too. However, if we examine the case carefully, we will then be able to see theAmazon is the one to blamed instead of the DRM. First, Amazon should have chosen different wording instead of “Buy” for the button which consumers would click to confirm the receiving of the license for a certain digital work. Although there are terms and an agreement explaining it, the fact is that most people do not bother to go through such a long paragraph. However, they pay attention to the “Buy” button, which gives limited rights for using the chosen files what is rather misleading in this case. According to Dictionary.com, the word “buy” means “to acquire the possession of, or the right to, by paying or promising to pay an equivalent, especially in money; purchase”. When one buys a real book from the book store, one should pay the right amount for it, and will then have the legal right to use it in any way the person wishes to. The individual will not just be allowed to read the book but also the right to re-sell the book with a different price; lend it to his friends, etc. Therefore, it is not ethical for Amazon to use the word “buy” when giving out the licensing of digital works for consumers. Instead, they might want to try to use different words like “click here to pay for the licensing of this work” to discribe the process more clearly.
To conclude, I think that Digital Rights Management should indeed exist since this would ensure the on-going production in this field. With no doubt it has brought protection and benefits to the copyright holders as it is designed to. However, I think the reason why many people are not supportive of the DRM is that the terms lead to many misunderstandings and misuse of the given rights which Linn’s case is one of the examples. If the Amazon would have explained it more clearly to the consumers, such cases probably would not happen. On the other hand, if Linn read the terms and agreements patiently, she would not have even decided to pay for the licensing. From my point of view, the DRM has its value for existing. Nevertheless, the consumers, the retailers, the copyright holdes, and all the other users might have to deal with it more wisely.