The problem with digital rights management and digital services

Something that was brought to my attention from a friend who lives in another country was a problem that her friend had with Amazon and their licensed material for the Kindle. The argument for buying one is that you can purchase content cheaper and have it always available for reading virtually, and there is plenty of room to hold some of the books if you are in a place you don’t have a wi-fi connection. While this sounds all good, there is a little problem with this: who sets the rules of who can do what?

The agreement you must agree to be bound states that Amazon can do what ever it wants for any reason it wants – you are only licensing (renting) the content, not buying it. Amazon doesn’t owe you an explanation or reason for why they do anything or change this agreement. They can change this license at their discretion. They can terminate this agreement at any time without any penalty or cost to Amazon. This is key in understanding the problem. They basically have become the be all end all party without any responsibility. They aren’t the only ones as Apple and other digital rights based venders have similar agreements, so don’t think this is specifically picking on Amazon. If you read some of the “Cloud Computing” agreements, they also can terminate service with or without cause for any reason they want. This is a problem with digital rights and digital services.

If you haven’t heard, an IT worker in Norway had her Kindle wiped by Amazon for alleged copyright violations or pirating with a “linked account”. All attempts to resolve this with Amazon has only been received with something to the effect of the account was closed and all future attempts to open an account will be met with the same response. Basically, they thought this person was a crook, and took everything away from her. When the person protested and wanted to know what was going on, she was blocked for the rest of her life from any content ever. This is all documented on Martin Bekkelund’s blog if you want to see the fine details. Amazon has not responded to me on requests about this, so I can’t confirm if these are indeed the facts of what has happened or if it really has occurred.

In this specific issue, the problem stems from which publisher has the rights in a specific geographic area for the sale of that content. For instance, a publisher here in the US may have the US English rights, but they do not have the European English rights to sell their content in Europe. If another company has paid for those rights, then the US company is effectively stealing. It is a similar reason that DVDs are locked by geographic location, or that you get a message on YouTube or Pandora that the content isn’t licensed for your geographic area. By living and using her Kindle in Norway where supposedly no agreement exists, Amazon basically wiped her Kindle to keep from running afoul of their agreements with the various publishers. This wasn’t the consumer’s fault per se but rather a squabble that is ongoing in the publishing industry as a whole. I have to say that Amazon’s customer support team handled this very poorly, even if it was within their right to do so. What you need to take away from this incident is that we have no rights when DRM is involved, and we never have.

If true, this is a case of the problem with DRM and where companies using it exert more control than what they are legally entitled without any recourse for their actions. DRM was invented to control distribution of content such as movies, songs, software, and digital books. Does DRM give companies the right to do whatever they want to systems without a way to resolve and educate the end users when they make mistakes? Sould there be a way to get a specific reason and ways to resolve this short of destroying and irrevocably wiping something like a Kindle? What if this was a mistake?

The point here being that “wiping” or “terminating” service with or without cause is something that is very dangerous. I think that Amazon has shown why there needs to be better regulation on digital content and why someone needs a level head to establish these rules. Once the rules are established that allow reasons and resolutions to occur, I think that DRM and digital services will be a better option. In the mean time, you are at the mercy of your service provider and their whims.





I had a bad dream yesterday night. Understand, I don’t have nightmares but I do have bad dreams. This dream was about procrastinating bringing a beautiful cactus in from the outside. I had it in a pot, and it bloomed several times through the summer. I captured one of the images of it one night and gave the image as a gift to my mother-in-law. I knew it was getting colder soon, and I knew this cactus wouldn’t survive a cold freeze. But, being busy and always in a rush to get somewhere, I didn’t take that simple few minutes to get the cactus in from the cold. Then, in October, we had a hard freeze. I brought the cactus in when I saw this happen – but it was too late. In a few days, the cactus rotted from the freeze. And now, I am haunted by that once beautiful cactus. It’s memory living on in my mind, always reminding me of something I should have done and knew I needed to do, but didn’t.

The differences are Important

One of the things I have noticed in the political debates is that we all seem to be in the middle class. Ask the doctor who is making $400 thousand a year, owns several expensive cars, lives in a prestigious neighborhood where they live, and they say they are in the middle class. Ask someone who is getting paid slightly more than middle class, can barely afford the used car they have, lives with their parent where they live and they say they are in the middle class. That is a broad spectrum of people – but are they really in the middle class? Why do they say this with such a broad level? I am not sure, but it is one of the things that bind us as a nation here in the United States. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Another is someone who sings. If someone sings, they all think they are above average. Again, there is a wide breadth of people who can and can’t perform – Just watch American Idol for a while and you will see many of these people. There are people that you have to wonder why they are even there – why do they think they are even good at singing. They are devastated when the judges tell them they aren’t very good and should stay in the shower. They don’t have a clue. And then there are other out there who are so awesome and incredible, and they don’t think they are that good. Just a broad spectrum of people who work at singing with people placing somewhere in this scale.

We can say the same thing about driving a car. Everyone who drives is above average. Ask anyone who you know. They will all say they are above average. But, if you have ever spent any amount of time watching them drive, there are those who “point and gas” and those who are precision drivers (or anywhere in between).

So why do I mention this today? Just something that I see about people in general – that we all think we are “average” when there are many levels of people. Each of us is unique and different. But, we hang out with people who are similar to each of us and we all seem average. It isn’t until you break out of your usual crowds and look around you to see what is the real average. Part of this is to get yourself to open your own eyes to the real world, and not the one that hanging around people like ourselves creates. We should be embracing that difference between us and recognize that it is one of the things that makes us a great country.

How can people…

A lot has happened and I have been VERY busy these past two weeks (or three) since my last blog post. Most recently  I have been working hard to help my adopted daughter with dealing with her older [natural born] brother. He has been in the ICU for over a week. He was dead when the paramedics arrived at his location, he passed away again upon arriving at the hospital, and at 4:30 AM, the MDs didn’t think he would make it through the next day. And, yes, my daughter was called by the medical staff for some reason to identify “John Doe #4” at 4:30 AM that morning. It isn’t the staff that I am going to comment on, but rather the people who were around her older brother.

I look at how my daughter has been there every day from 9:30-10:00 AM until 1 AM each and every day. The morning time, I have been at her house at 7:30 to help take care of cleaning, and getting the small things taken care of that she can’t focus on. Just getting her to the hospital is a chore, and I am sure that she isn’t eating, either. She has so much on her mind and is busy trying to get things remembered and done while she is at home, but her mind is on her brother. Her other younger brother who isn’t working at the moment is there at night when she isn’t there. Someone from her injured family is always there with him who cares about him. I would be there, but I am not considered immediate family so ICU staff won’t let me go in and visit with him. I know that he is alive today because his family is there, and they are spending the time there with him and there for him. Without them there, constantly talking with him and letting him know that he means so much to them, I am sure he would have given up. Even though he isn’t completely away from this because of the sedation he is on, when my daughter told him that he was with her and in the hospital, he cried as best as his body could cry.

Now for why I am writing this: How can someone in this world do what they did to him? He was tortured for three days. He was drugged (not sure if this was by his choice or not), but then they tortured him for three to four days. His arm was broken. He has internal abdominal injuries. He was burned repetitively with cigarette burns. He was also burnt with a cigarette lighter all over. I can’t imagine what he went through for the three to four days prior to being in the hospital. He is still in critical condition and we don’t know if he will make it. I listen to the description of the injuries, and I have to wonder how this can happen in our civilized world? What makes it OK to torture someone like this in our society? Why is it that no one he was around not say this is wrong? I won’t go into the fact that the police have done nothing – not even taken a report. We don’t know who the “they” are that tortured him. Comments from the people who are where the paramedics picked him up say one thing, the paramedics say something else, and a few of the people who normally can be found in that location have gone missing.

I bring this up because this is the future of our society. I can only hope that we as a people realize that crimes like this means our society is falling apart. Our morals and civil liberties have fallen to the side and mean almost nothing to the individuals who did this. I am very sorry to be an American knowing what I do with my daughter’s brother’s injuries. On the other hand, I am proud of my daughter and her constant being there for her brother, and it makes me proud to be her father.

UPDATE: More is coming out on what happened to my daughter’s biological brother and what he went through in his ordeal. The more I hear about this, the more it reminds me of some of the war crimes you read about in the newspapers. I can’t imagine what he went through over the three to four days of torture. We have also found out that one person tried to stop what was going on and ended up injured for several days and there are quite a few people who knew this torture was going on. I have to wonder why no one put a stop to this type of treatment. Instead, all anyone really did (except one person) was watch this go on.