I read with some interest about the debacle of Amazon’s “total recall” of 1984 (and other books) yesterday. Kindle owners found some e-books they had downloaded and paid for had mysteriously disappeared from their readers (and that they had been reimbursed). Amazon apparently tried to explain away this digital goods heist by insisting that the material had been sold under false pretenses and that when the real rights-holder had complained they chose to pull the content. Now – I am not a Kindle user but I am an AppleTV user and I have to say I found something quite familiar about the whole Kindle thing. Movies and television shows regularly disappear from Apple’s iTunes catalog (and thus from the content available through AppleTV) due to rights negotiations issues. If a movie is due to be shown on television, for example, the rights holder can have that title yanked from the online catalog. This is a power that rights holders have never before wielded. Movie studios certainly couldn’t go around to every video rental store and pull the title. The prospect of publishers storming into your house and removing books from your shelves sounds like a scene out of Fahrenheit 451. But in the era of closed DRM-enabled systems they suddenly have this power, and it is a power rights holders are increasingly choosing to exert. Now, I haven’t had content yanked off my AppleTV yet, but I could imagine it happening, especially now that Amazon has shown the way. Remember, we are talking about marketing executives …

When DRM Goes Bad Read more »

Well … we are living in interesting times. Apple’s Steve Jobs has released an Open Letter (published on apple.com) effectively championing the idea of a DRM-free world. Why? Because DRM systems “haven’t worked.” I completely agree. In fact, DRM is a dangerous delusion. Jobs may see the writing on the wall with the release of Microsoft Zune. Who knows why he has chosen this moment in time to express these thoughts. Meanwhile, here in the UK, the BBC are doing their own soul searching around DRM. The BBC Trust, which is a kind of watch-dog organization that sits on top of BBC, has launched an online “consultation” regarding its use of DRM in the on-demand services it plans to launch shortly over the Internet (branded iPlayer). They want to know how long users of this server should be able to save content on their PCs for later playback. They also want to know how important it is to be able to support multiple OSs. The current plan is for the player to support only … you guessed it … Windows DRM format (currently not available on Macs let alone Linux). As a Mac user (despite what the Guardian says, they just work better) I was appalled when I heard this, but even if you’re a PC user, think about this: I can go buy a Tivo or get a Sky+ box and download shows and save them for as long as I want. Furthermore, I can download most television shows without DRM protection over the Internet …

Jobs Denounces DRM while BBC Embraces it? Read more »