A Norwegian woman recently learned the hard way that all the electronic books, or ebooks, she has ever purchased for her Kindle portable reading device were not actually hers to keep. In a telling display of rogue corporate control over personal property, the U.K.-based arm of Amazon.com erased all the woman’s digital rights management (DRM) protected ebooks and shut her account down without notice, for no specified reason other than its alleged association with another account previously shut down for supposed policy violations.
The woman, known as Linn, had a full library of legally-purchased ebooks on her Kindle device prior to the shutdown, which occurred unexpectedly and without warning or explanation. According to reports, Linn not only lost all her purchases, but Amazon.com refused to provide her with any information as to what policy violations her account was allegedly linked to, and how she might avoid such violations in the future.
In her initial letter to the company, Linn expressed confusion as to why her account was even shut down in the first place, having framed her inquiry around the notion that the account’s closure must have been a mistake. But she ended up receiving numerous, completely non-helpful responses from an Amazon account executive known as “Michael Murray” that provided absolutely no insight into why the company wiped Linn’s account, and no specifics as to the other mystery account that supposedly got Linn’s account flagged.
Linn prohibited from ever opening up another Amazon account
Not only did Linn lose all her ebooks, but she was also told that she could never again open up another account with Amazon, lest it also be shut down without warning or notice. So Linn is now stuck without access to any of the ebooks she purchased, with no option to ever get them back, even though she claims she never had any other open accounts with Amazon as Murray has claimed.
“This shows the very worst of DRM,” wrote Martin Bekkelund, a friend of Linn, on his blog about the issue. “If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought. And if you disagree, you’re totally outlawed. With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.”
DRM is the same technology that Apple used to attach to the songs and albums sold in its iTunes music store, until the company eventually decided to scrap the restrictive technology in response to user outcry. DRM-protected content, as illustrated in the Amazon case, is never fully owned by users that purchase it, and can be revoked at any time by third-party sources for any reason, which is why seeking out DRM-free digital content is important for the preservation of digital personal property.
You can read the full account of Linn’s experience with Amazon at:
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