The Chaos of Copyright


A woman has had her Kindle wiped by Amazon, after they claimed a policy violation; she stands accused of is using a friend’s UK address to buy Amazon UK English Kindle books from Norway. Under Amazon’s rules, this type of action is barred, as the publisher seeks to control what content is read in which territory of the world.

But the big shock is that after she was informed that her account had been closed, all open orders were cancelled, all her content was removed and she was unable to find out why. All she got was corporate-speak form-letter nonsense.

The move highlights the power digital rights management (DRM) offers big companies as publishers limit the use of digital content once it has been purchased by consumers. The company can prevent you from reading content you have bought at the Kindle store on a rival device.

Before we all shout ‘1984’ – and let’s remember that Kindle removed that book too, after rights infringement – this is typically a problem of copyright. Look at the mess DVDs and Blu-Rays have got themselves into with region protection. Does anyone honestly know what plays in which country in which format? Streaming is easier, but the content choice is almost entirely Hollywood-centric. A quick check through the films awaiting viewing on my desk reveals that only ONE in thirty five is currently available, and that’s just in the US. Let’s not even get into France’s bizarrely xenophobic attitude toward translation and subtitling.

My reading material is similarly eclectic – there is only one best seller on my current list; the rest are print only, or simply out of print gems I’ve accrued. Copyright won’t change – every country is attempting to dam up their leaky markets, even though this forces them against the grain of growing global migration.

Perhaps the answer will be to give the copyright protectors exactly what they want, and only use downloads for a few ubiquitous, cheap mainstream items. For the rest we can rely on quirky independent shops selling physical books and DVDs, and pay a little extra for the pleasure.

13 comments on “The Chaos of Copyright”

  1. Mike Cane says:

    It’s not clear that Amazon was enforcing geo rights restrictions.

    Her Kindle was bought used. Each Kindle has a unique ID (as do all cellphones). What’s likely is that the Kindle’s prior owner was banned by Amazon, so s/he sold the Kindle and that poor gal in Norway wound up being mistaken for that person due to the Kindle’s ID.

    At any rate, her account has been restored after the outcry. I guess someone at Amazon decided to do something other than send out form emails.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Copyright may be a mess, but it can be good for the writer’s pending grocery list, as well as the publisher’s pool maintenance contract. Having spent much time in rip-off Asia, I know however comples copyright is right, copywrong is not right at all.
    I must say, I prefer the physical object as there can be memories attached to it, multiple memories. Even a lost book can fix the (Sure you do.)
    Peter S. Beagle’s first book “A Fine And Private Place.” I bought it while in college, loved it – the writer was my age and a New Yorker – and I loaned it under threat of near-death to everyone in my family and a few friends. THen I shipped it to Afghanistan and loaned it to a friend or two before loaning it to my future wife, who loved it. I’m sure it helped shape her image of me – in addition to my wildly dashing looks – and then one day before we married, I reclaimed the book, strapped it onto the back of my Japanese – Italian looking – motorbike, and rode back to my house through Kabul’s dusty evening streets. I hit a pothole riding through the twisty gap between the city mountains. When I got home, the book was flown. A real loss for me.
    Years later when my Father had a mild heart attack, he said to me referring to the book in his hospital: “I don’t think it is going to be as Peter Beagle suggested, which it a shame.”
    Sure, I replaced the out-of-print hardback with a paperback, but it’s not the same. Although, it is a bit. Can an ebook carry the patina of friendship, the small wine stain of an evening, all its past usage? No.
    So, I will continue to enjoy the physical. A book well-suited to the hand and mind, a bottle of quality red, a partner or friend, safe walls on windy, or snowy, night and time enough.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I changed my blend of coffee this morning.

  3. Cathy Adamson says:

    I now buy Amazon Kindle novels, including the Bryant and May series, as I have arthritic hands (oh, the joys of ageing!) and can’t hold books easily – especially while reading in bed. I still buy physical books for dipping into ie non fiction genres such as history, travel, biography and second hand green Penguins – now they’re easy to hold!

  4. Alan G says:

    It’s a funny thing. I’m the Secretary of our local computer club (at least, until the 13th Nov when up for re-election. Postal votes welcome) and our little office is stuffed to the rafters with machines, we have a rather large collection of music and movies on stick and dvd, and, admittedly, a clientèle who often have to be reminded about certain legal aspects.

    But – what has caused the most excitement in the last couple of weeks? A good old-fashioned record player – a coal-driven things from the ‘eighties. The enthusiasm is incredible – people roaming around putting up speakers, bringing in job-lots of LP’s from a local collector shop (we keep their machines working – good deal). This is a magic one doesn’t really see with a memory stick.

  5. John Howard says:

    As i’ve said before, I buy from all the current platforms including the oldest one around, but I do worry that if the digital world goes too crazy with draconian restrictions then it may encourage the book version of bootlegging – torrenting. I am fully in agreement with Dan when he says ‘copywrong is not right at all’ but a lot of the younger people I know don’t see anything really wrong in torrenting anything they want.

    I come from a time when this wasn’t an option and I actually want to give the writers, musicians, actors money in exchange for the reading, listening and watching enjoyment I get. Very selfish of me I know but I want them to keep on doing it.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, John, agreed. I know that Amazon is not the most lucrative sales point for authors but at least it’s legit and more easily available for the lazy purchaser (me). After reading the above I am more than ever determined not to buy an e-reader.
    Alan, I love that description of your members putting up speakers, etc. Quite lovely. Although I do have CDs I also have tapes and machinery on which to play them and 78s and 33s as well. We also have a windup gramophone with louvres on the front for volume control. I can remember my cousins having having one and we’d wind it up tight then put a piece of chalk on the turntable and see how far it would be flung. Oh the innocent days of youth!

  7. snowy says:

    I am hearing positive things about the Kobo Glo, BUT I have yet to play with one so will say little more. Save to say there are plenty of ebooks by some cove called Fowler available for the device.

    From one perspective we should be ecstatic, in the 21st century we can stand anywhere on the planet and have any book delivered in minutes. Just think for a moment about how astonishing that is. [OK you would need a Satelite link but it’s possible.]

    Where does it go wrong? We still have a 19th century territorial publishing model. And while content is licensed on a country by country or region by region basis, squables will continue to break out. As each publisher tries to wring the maximum amount of profit of the ‘property’ they ‘own’.

    But if that was dismantled tomorrow, we would be no better off as then the various distributors would battle over exclusive rights to content. Want some badly written S&M smut, only available on Zamano, want the latest join the dots turgid papal themed ‘thriller’ complete with parachuting clerics, then that’s exclusive to a fruit based company.

    It all runs on greed, the original incarnation of G. Gekko would be in paroxysms of delight over the situation. (I cleaned that sentence up, because it was pure filth before I did.)

    Companies dream of selling content, without having to produce a physical artefact. But they lack a fool-proof method of preventing duplication, if they can ever solve that, then all the rest will shake out.

    If anyone thinks the state of book selling is odd. It is a nothing to the byzantine way films are sold and resold and then sold again. I did a quick finger count and a film is sold at least half a dozen times, but our host is much better placed than I to explain that, should he choose to do so.

  8. glasgow1975 says:

    I went for a Kobo as the Kindle doesn’t support the AdobeEPub format my local library uses, I’ve been told there are ways around it but it seemed simpler to buy a device that worked with multiple formats without any complications. I don’t keep anything I’ve read on it tho. If there was something I loved/needed/wanted I’d go buy a physical copy for my shelf but so far read/delete has been the default.

  9. snowy says:

    Glasgow, can I ask what the reading experience is like, is the screen glarey? or dark? I’d rather take the views from people that have properly used kit, rather than someone that had a loan for a weekend.

  10. glasgow1975 says:

    Mine isn’t a Kobo Glo it’s the previous digital ink one. I find it’s not as responsive a touchscreen as an iPad, but no complaints other than that. It was an absolute must for the early dark nights whilst in Australia recently, got through a caseload of books, yet it could fit in my tiny manbag 🙂

  11. Why? says:

    …………did you put up a link to a site pirating your books?

  12. admin says:

    Because I approve of pirating.
    Data shows that pirates buy way more books than non-pirates. Bring ’em on!

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