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Amazon turned off customer’s Kindle account, blocking her from her books (2012) (nbcnews.com)
319 points by Foe 21 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 245 comments

It's really time for laws which forbid companies to terminate accounts and access to them if they met certain conditions like licencing digital properties. Sure, they can restrict them all they want, as long as a fair stance prevails und people are not ripped of their goods.

This strong difference in powers between companies and customers in the digital realm becomes more and more a serious problem. When people are stop buying digital goods or anything of certain types, just because they have no legal security, then it harms also companies themself. so it should be in their own interesst to support such things.

There was a time in Europe when a strong movement for digital rights existed, but to bad it somehow died down.

What they need is a legally required termination procedure, so when the company shuts down, or if business with a user is terminated, it MUST supply the user with accessible digital goods equivalent to their library, or else the company is liable for goods not delivered.

Or... just throwing this out here... they could start by selling actual digital goods which they advertise by a "BUY" button, and charge a service fee if you want them to keep a copy around in their cloud. That way you have your own copy, and the convenience of not having to keep track of where you stored those bits, and when the company inevitably dies/goes bankrupt/is sold/merges with Disney they stop charging the service fee and stop providing the service and you go back to keeping track of your own copy of the bits.

That's on the right track, but it's not very helpful if the company is shutting down and out of money anyway.

Make the customers of digital goods first-in-line creditors. It's basically goods stolen from people, at the moment of shutting down - they should be first in line. Most companies don't shut down when they run out of their last dollar; Rather, they shut down when they have more liabilities than assets.

The result would be that traditional creditors will demand an escrow for that digital data before giving any money (or providing products before payment), to make sure that they are not bypassed -- which would be the desired result for everyone.

>It's basically goods stolen from people, at the moment of shutting down - they should be first in line

No its not. You've only agreed to RENT a book for an unspecified amount of time. You never owned a thing, and thus nothing was stolen from you.

Ownership doesn't exist in the digital marketplace; if you really wanted to do something so stupid as to OWN a good, you'd pirate it.

Note that for goods like DVDs you're still only purchasing the right to access the data.. you didn't actually take ownership of anything more than the physical disk.

Hence, the OP has lost nothing they had... because they had nothing to begin with !

When I watch movies on Amazon Video, I. An choose “Buy” or “Rent”, not “rent for a day” vs. “rent until amazon decides I don’t deserve it”

Copyright is the specific rule under which I get the copy when I buy a DVD, not some random license written by the company producing the DVD. Fair use and all.

This word play would not be found funny in court (or at least shouldn’t be)


Viewing Period: Indefinite -- you may watch and re-watch your purchased videos as often as you want and as long as you want (subject to the limitations described in the Amazon Prime Video Terms of Use).

It's not copyright, as I understand it -- its terms of service.

"purchased" video. The "terms of use" limitation does not say "until we go bankrupt" or "until we decide to not let you for business reasons", and it does say "purchased videos". That has a well defined meaning, which contract weasel words can't change. Courts in Europe have ordered refunds for e.g. PS3 updates that removed Linux abilities - I'm sure the weasel legalese originally said Sony is allowed to do that.

There is a law of the land, and it is not overriden by an amazon webpage in general, even if it does in some US states.

If Amazon folds, how come my "purchased" video disappears with it?

Words have a meaning that cannot just be redefined at will with legalese. Try to pay someone salary, subject to the limitation that it is in negative dollars, and see how far that gets you in court.

So far, companies like Microsoft who shut down their DRM services have refunded those purchases ; Companies that folded did not. I suspect if Microsoft got to court without a refund, court would have ordered them to refund or give a DRM-free copy. Either way, it's clear that for Microsoft, the public relation + court costs outweighed the refund cost. My suggestion is to make that effectively law, so that not just microsoft (who stand to lose from this action) would actually consider it a-priori.

Agreed, I've long felt the same way about gift cards. And pensions, for that matter. (Which shouldn't be controversial, but is, at least for the Post Office.)

In most of Europe AFAIK, pensions are in even better status than first-in-line creditors: Money must be continuously deposited to a pension fund, not just an IOU.

The US migrated to the system of required pre-funding too, but not with pension priority over creditors. They get dumped on the PBGC.

This is why I like places like Humble Bundle, you literally get a download link with PDFs (as well as other formats). It encourages piracy of course, but then again the moment somebody else could view your content on a device you don't control - it was already copy-able.

If the ebook publishers were motivated to, they would encode unique properties into the text of each download that uniquely identifies the transaction. Then if you find copies online you know who to chase.

The point is, give me my copy of the file, I don't want to be locked into your system.

This actually sounds like a neat idea from a theoretical perspective, but isn't it how cracks work, and how crack-generators evade that?

They meant for identification of leaker. But IMHO it's useless. Anybody could claim they had their laptop stolen.

Also you could just have two different accounts, buy the file, compare the two files and identify any differences, overwrite the differences with blanks/gibberish

Or just use OCR.

Only if they have filed a police report...

Okay, not stolen, but attacked with malware.

What good are rights when corporations can just have users sign them away by agreeing with some policy? They already make users waive a lot of rights, including the right to pursue legal action, the right to reverse engineer...

> corporations can just have users sign them away by agreeing with some policy

These shrink wrap licences can be legislated away. Lots of EU countries have consumer protection legislation that explicitly forbids/invalidates such imbalanced or unexpected terms in the fine print for consumer-facing contracts -- or indeed invalidates shrink-wrap licence terms outright.

As is often the case, a lot of these things are either illegal in the US too, or far less settled than the companies would have you believe. The companies stick them in the license clauses anyhow, because when you can just stick a severability clause [1] in there, why not grab things willy-nilly?

Plus a lot of people simply assume there's no recourse even when there in fact is ("the US is an anarchist wonderland where consumers have no protections at all" is a harmful and false meme, what we have is the widespread assumption that consumers have no protections), and of those who don't, who really wants to spend a ton of time in any sort of legal or arbitration resolution over 40 books, which almost certainly total far less than any possible legal or arbitration battle will cost?

The legal system, US, EU, or otherwise, doesn't have a good answer to when a company bones .01% of several million people to the tune of several hundred dollars, or bones its entire customer base for $1 or something. By the time you bust through their contract clauses against class action and even find everyone affected you've long since eaten up any value you're going to get from the lawsuit even if you win big and win punitive damages. Computers make it so much easier to do this kind of thing on the company's side, but they don't help anyone trying to fight it anywhere near as much. Very asymmetrical advantage for the companies to hit people like this at some scale.

[1]: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/severability.asp

> "the US is an anarchist wonderland where consumers have no protections at all" is a harmful and false meme, what we have is the widespread assumption that consumers have no protections

The biggest problem is that the US legal system is incredibly expensive. You can have justice, but only if you tens or hundreds of thousands of $$ to spend and prevail. In theory, everyone can get their day in court and (likely) enjoy reasonable protection. In practice, that's not happening.

Instead, what's happening is that such things wait for class action lawyers to take the case - which I would guess happens to less than one in a hundred cases in which a company utilizes this asymmetry.

Is the EU actually any better for this sort of case, though? In practice, not just in theory?

I believe the EU has different cost/benefit tradeoffs, but they're still not something to be done casually or easily by a consumer at this scale of damage. For instance, "loser pays" sounds great until you lose. Even if your obligations are statutorily limited it's still not something to take on over, let's say, Amazon restricting access to the 40 books you purchased, to pull an example from nowhere.

The damages in such a case are so low that it's difficult for any legal system to provide a reasonable mechanism for redress. Even if you valuate your time at the local minimum wage, even a small claims court is going to take more time than is worth it for one person. You'll probably be waiting in the courtroom for longer than the value of the books in question.

The real problem here isn't that the US is a consumer rights wasteland when it isn't; the real problem is the huge asymmetrical advantages companies have, in any jurisdiction, in screwing significant numbers of people just a little bit.

> Even if you valuate your time at the local minimum wage, even a small claims court is going to take more time than is worth it for one person.

Small claims court awarded "lost time" (in the loser pays) in the few cases I'm aware of. I know of several people who've taken a local retailer to court (Not quite Amazon, but think of e.g. New York's PC Richards and Sons size), and were made truly whole for a $200 case (that is, got their $200 back, and a few $100 more for effort). If these things happen in the US, I haven't heard of them.

> The real problem is the huge asymmetrical advantages companies have, in any jurisdiction, in screwing significant numbers of people just a little bit.

Yes, but situation in Europe is IMHO a bit better, both from the small-courts, binding-arbitration-instead-of-courts looked down upon, and much stronger regulation on rights, like fit-for-purpose, lemon laws, and even things like GDPR.

The bottom line is, regardless what the rules say, a person in Europe suffers, on average, much less than the power asymmetry - although they do pay for that upfront with higher prices (which also pay for other stuff like education and universal medical care - it's hard to untangle, but it's protection that likely isn't free).

Class action suits discourage widespread or egregious bad behavior by the powerful.

Yes, the lawyers rake in the money and the victims get virtually nothing but it created a market-driven method of enforcing rules; a immune to political whims.

Sadly arbitration clauses have become the norm, but I don’t know if they have merit with EULAs.

But I would like to see class action suits make a come-back.

In the US, we do have precedence for rights that can't be waived. The implied warranty of habitability is the first that comes to mind.

My country does the same thing but it's meaningless since companies are usually located in the USA.

Amazon is in USA but subject to EU jurisdiction when selling to EU residents.

That form of broken legal system is, as far as I know, peculiar to the USA. In most of the world, businesses aren't allowed to arbitrarily negate laws specifically created to protect their customers just by including some weasel words in the fine print. In fact, here in the UK and at least across much of Europe, businesses are required to actively inform their customers of various rights and other details, and failing to do so can have significant consequences.

USA system isn't broken that way. Unconscionable contracts are void. One famous example is CA's anti-non-compete law that created Silicon Valley.

USA also has mandated rights notifications.

There are specific absences of laws in certain particular cases.

The problem is most big technology companies seem to be located in the USA. Foreign laws are meaningless to them.

this would explain why the big technology companies are always upset when they get fined by the EU and then pay the fine.

Regulate as utilities/infrastructure. Nobody likes the Ma Bell type of anti-trust because it feels like infringing on private property rights but regulating as utility or infrastructure is much widely accepted and palatable. However if you have poor management then you end up in the P&G situation with blame passing from one generation of management to another and no real improvements.

P&G or PG&E?

PG&E, typo.

There are limits to contracts, including nontermimable or notransactable rights.

People need to talk with their wallet to get the message across.

There is nothing stopping people from buying a 'dumb' e-reader with internal storage where you load epub/pdf/rtf/txt files that you actually own or borrow from a library.

Where does a person with very little technological knowhow go to get these epub/pdf/rtf/txt files to somehow load onto this "dumb" e-reader they buy? What is a "dumb" e-reader? What software does a "dumb" e-reader need.

There is a reason that Kindle prevail, and it's not because of some conspiracy or a giant company. It's because it's easy, basically like going to Chapters or Barnes and Noble and walking out with a book. There is no similar avenue for "dumb" e-readers. They need to know several levels of skills to get it and it's a lot more difficult then clicking "Buy" and start reading.

Isn't Kindle a dumb e-reader? Or does it require Amazon account even to access simple PDFs?

You can use a Kindle by drag&drop PDF files onto it. If you use it like that, there is no need to connect it to the Wifi at all. I use my Kindle like this.

This is news to me, is that really true for all Kindle models? Can you really load files onto it as a connected storage device?

Can you point to any amazon docs explaining this? I was under the impression that this was the big caveat restriction with amazon.

> This is news to me, is that really true for all Kindle models? Can you really load files onto it as a connected storage device?

Yes, all Kindles.

The remaining annoyance is that besides PDFs and a few other document file formats, the Kindles don't read standard EPUB format ebooks, only .mobi or .azw ebooks.

That was kinda sorta okay when the Kindle first came out (Amazon got .mobi through their acquisition of Mobipocket, and .azw is mostly the same format), as at the time practically every e-reader device had it's own proprietary format, but since then everyone has converged on the EPUB standard with Amazon the lone holdout.

Thankfully, Calibre can automatically convert ebooks of whatever format to .mobi when transferring from your library to a Kindle.


Page 6

Another cool thing is Calibre recognizes the Kindle. :)

Yes, of course that's true for all Kindle models.

I bought the Kindle (model J9G29R) in 2019. When attached to the USB port, it acts like an USB mass storage device with FAT32 on it.


That's needlessly elitist gatekeeping.

The phrasing used was not great, but I do not think it's gate keeping. I honestly find it insulting that we think 'normal' people can't drag some files to a device, most family members know how to use a USB drive, and managing files on a USB drive isn't too dissimilar to dragging and dropping files to a device like an e-reader.

'Normal' people like my parents don't have computers. The burden shouldn't be on them when the hardware they bought was unnecessarily restricted.

Apple has spent more than a decade telling its users that you don’t (and can’t) do that. I wouldn’t assume that’s an easy skill for a lot of people.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect the market to fix this through customer boycotts. Customers just don't have the time or technical knowledge to understand the issues, and I don't think it's reasonable to expect them to.

In cases like this where there's a huge imbalance in power and technical knowledge between suppliers and users, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the government to legislate on the behalf of it's constituents to protect their interests.

I think at this point it's been clearly demonstrated that DRM is simply not necessary to protect functioning markets in digital goods. Apple showed this with iTunes, arguing forcefully for DRM free music downloads. I'm a gamer and there's a very vibrant and successful market in DRM free PDFs in the tabletop gaming industry. I'm no extremist, I don't object to all DRM in every case, but I think arbitrary lockouts like this are clearly wrong, and a right to DRM free copies of material you have bought if a service expires or closes is perfectly fair.

I use a Kindle but just read .mobi files I put on it via Calibre.

Does anyone make these? I know you can get a phone app, but all the e-ink I've seen has been kindle/nook/kobo. I'd happily buy one.

You can just drop PDFs/Epubs on a Kobo, At least the one I have. It is a bit old now however.

I use my Kobo like it's "dumb"...but I generally have to use Calibre to convert epub to kpub for it to format right on the "page".

I still own an old Sony PRS e-reader which they can take from my cold dead hands!

AFAIK Most 'non-kindle' e-readers (even those with an online store), will still operate as a mass storage device if you connect them via USB to another machine.

Like managing your own mp3 library, it's incredibly inconvenient compared to the cloud option. I've done it for years with music, and I'm very happy to just be able to stream whatever I want instead. Same with books.

As someone who doesn't have unlimited data, the number of services that make it very hard _not_ to use the cloud (including Apple, with their "I know you said put this on your computer, but we really didn't, and we'll just grab it from the cloud when you want to play it on your phone" junk) is extremely inconvenient.

> doesn't have unlimited data

Do people still have limited data plans in 2020?

I don't think asking people to figure out how to manage files is a reasonable request. There's a growing number of people whose computer is a phone or tablet.

A little learning won't kill anyone. Not so long ago, managing files was a fundamental step in using a computer. It still is for the overwhelming number of office workers.

It won't kill anyone, but it shouldn't be necessary to buy a computer to manage your books. Like I said, a lot of people don't have a computer anymore.

>There was a time in Europe when a strong movement for digital rights existed, but to bad it somehow died down.

Did it? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Party

Small parties attract protest voters who switch to something else later (or don't vote any more).

It probably mostly died down because the battle really was elsewhere than in Europe. The EU does try to regulate American tech companies though; how successfully, that's up for debate.

Those of us that support digital rights vote with our wallets. I would like to read ebooks. I don't have a source to BUY ebooks that I want. So I don't read them.

Please tag this as 2012. It would be interesting to see a summary of this issue since then -- has Amazon made this into a regular problem for their customers?

I've seen this problem on /r/bestof on reddit - submitting 2011 comments and such, when everyone implicitly assumes comments submitted are present comments.

IMO any sort of news/event post that's not recent (say, in the last month or so, or at least within a year of the posting date) should be required to add a "[2012]" (or whatever year it was posted) to the end of the title.

The Guardian has an interesting article on their approach to this[0] but I'm not sure what the best solution to this globally is. You can't rely on publishers entirely, and yet posters & commenting platforms often have difficulty identifying the dates on posts from certain publications (especially small blogs).

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/help/insideguardian/2019/apr/02/...

This is already the rule on HN, the submitter must have forgotten (it happens!). A mod will likely change the title.

Posting high-emotion old links seems a powerful vector for karma farming. Hope HN is taking (or already has?) steps to close the vulnerability. @dang?

I already was thinking "huh, so maybe the Norwegian case a decade ago was not an outlier", but nope, this is again that same case that was widely reported at the time and seems to continue to resurface at times.

Amazon claims in the article that one should not lose their access to their book library even if their account is blocked.

It's always a bit alienating to me when people suddenly wake up with their stuff taken away and are all like "how could this happen to me? why did noone warn me about this? how could amazon _do this to me_?" and then go off on their ways and "buy" the next movie from them (in addition to the amazon prime membership they already pay for that for some reason only includes the 480p version of the movie). It's not like they haven't been warned that this would happen. At some point, most people experienced some kind of abuse based on subsciption or otherwise questionable licensed service models. yet, they continue to not change a single thing about their behaviour.

I really like ebooks. I like my newfound ability to carry around the novel I'm reading in the form of a pocketbook sized tablet with a matte screen that can be lit with warm orange light if I want it. But I buy all my books directly from the publisher, drm-free. That gives me the right to create as many copies as I want for personal use, makes it legal to integrate it into calibre, make a backup and store it on my ereader all at the same time. Buying from publishers is not hard. It's the second entry on ddg when I search for the book I'm currently reading. They even accept giropay without the need to create an account.

With movies and music I can partially understand the streaming model because the average joe wants much of it, he wants it pre-curated to his taste and he wants it fast, without hassle. This is easy to accomplish with streaming in the drm-hell landscape it has become. But books? He buys a book maybe once every two weeks and the convenience is en par with the garbage dump amazon has set up and much less abusive than that.


fixed spelling

I don't think victim-blaming is a great way to educate people on the existence and dangers of DRM. Convenience might even be worth it to some people, but I think it's more often a problem of ignorance. Any TV ad for a Kindle is going to focus on the broad selection and ease of use. Telling those people about the DRM isn't participating in the same conversation that sold them the device.

On the other hand, I dont think victim-blaming is an excuse for rampant and continuous ignorance either. At some point, after getting abused again and again, users are to blame. All this shouldn't suprise any of them, it's in the ToS after all. Some users read the ToS and made an educated choice, some didn't read them and decided to not participate in any business with a company that obfuscates its goals in a 50-page wall of legal damage control, and some just ignore it and use the service. The ones that ignore the ToS and that get caught by suprise later are absolutely to blame for their own neglectance of the contract conditions.

You cannot avoid the TOS. They are all designed to protect the seller not the buyer. On top of that, you -as a single consumer- has no choice to select parts of the TOS. It's a unilateral-contract by definition.

At one point in time, One-Way non-negotiable contracts where unenforceable and considered coercive. I wonder when / why that changed when we added "on the internet" an called it is "Terms of Service"

Why is easy - because corporations love them. As for the “how”, that’s also pretty simple. Enough money applied to lawyers who argue for the corporation’s side in contract disputes, enough to set precedent.

You, as a comsumer, always have the right to not accept the ToS and take your money elsewhere. Amazon fortunately doesn't have a monopoly on the ebook market.

There is nowhere you can take your money that doesn't force you to accept the same abusive terms of service. They all pay lawyers to write this stuff and they all come up with the same self-serving clauses. Once you've read one of these documents, you've pretty much read them all.

What they say is basically:

> you have no rights

> you promise not to try and exercise any right you think you have

> you will not do anything the company doesn't like

> the company can do anything whether you like it or not

> the company is not responsible for anything ever

> we make no guarantees about anything

What store sells ebooks legally and doesn't have similar ToS?

I usually go to the publishers or, if self published, authors website directly and buy from there. Books are distributed as epub that I can load on my ereader calibre alike.

You keep saying this, but you leave out the fact that not that many publishers sell direct, and most popular books are not available in this manner.

So yes this works _sometimes_, but not most of the time.

For the majority of users who are looking for a very specific book, not just _any_ new book to read, buying it digitally means buying it from a DRM-laden marketplace.

Amazon is also a publisher. Many books I’ve read have been self-published by authors via Amazon’s system.

Any of them that sell DRM-free ebooks would work.

Of course, they have a much smaller selection than Amazon and you likely won't find the book you want. So it's not really a proper alternative. You either accept their TOS or you don't get to read the book you want digitally.

All this shouldn't suprise any of them, it's in the ToS after all.

This is an extremely weak argument, IMHO.

For a start, it's clearly impractical for the average person to even read all of the legal documents they theoretically agree to. It would take an absurd amount of time and have a devastating effect on our quality of life and the productivity of our society.

Even that assumes the reader would be qualified to understand the legal implications of a long, often complicated document, possibly written according to the laws of another country, in the first place. This again seems extremely optimistic, given that professional lawyers spend years studying their own legal systems and are then often very well paid for sharing the expertise they have acquired.

So the idea that burying something unfair or unreasonable in a ToS document that realistically almost no-one is going to read and properly understand is really just a conceit of the legal profession (and possibly not even that, since even lawyers understand the fiction that is happening here).

The essence of any legal contract is an agreement, understood and entered into voluntarily by all parties involved, that exchanges things of value to the parties. Different legal systems might use slightly different words to say that, but they mean much the same thing. Hiding shady stuff in the small print of an agreement written by one side's professional lawyers and probably never even read never mind understood by the other side is far from sufficient to meet that standard for a legal contract.

This is why good businesses and their lawyers go out of their way to present the key details of any agreement clearly and up-front, not to hide them on page 91. It's also why courts hearing consumer rights cases sometimes side with the consumer even if something else was stated in a ToS or similar document.

Lots of people aren't victims, they choose to remain ignorant after being warned. Often they don't take the warnings seriously and even insult the person who was just trying to help. They absolutely deserve to be blamed for the results of their choices.

Lots of people aren't victims, they choose to remain ignorant after being warned.

What makes you think that? It seems highly unlikely to me that the average customer of an ebook reader or a streaming TV/movie service or one of the gaming networks has any idea about how the DRM works or how intrusively the provider of their electronic content can later monitor their use of it and change or revoke their access to it. Who do you think is going around and warning all these people, in such a way that they can reasonably understand the implications of what is being said, about the risks that come with these kinds of technologies?

Now, if you were arguing that governments should be regulating these industries, mandating information for customers about the risks and prohibiting abusive behaviours by content providers, then I'd be the first to agree with you. I think such measures are long overdue. But that's not the same thing as what you wrote before.

> What makes you think that?

I used to tell people and most of them ignored what I said.

> It seems highly unlikely to me that the average customer of an ebook reader or a streaming TV/movie service or one of the gaming networks has any idea about how the DRM works

They don't have to understand technical details. They just have to understand one fact: they don't actually own what they're spending their money on.

I told them, they understood and they didn't care.

> Who do you think is going around and warning all these people, in such a way that they can reasonably understand the implications of what is being said, about the risks that come with these kinds of technologies?

Me. I used to tell everyone I know. It was useless.

> Now, if you were arguing that governments should be regulating these industries, mandating information for customers about the risks and prohibiting abusive behaviours by content providers, then I'd be the first to agree with you.

Don't get me wrong. I generally agree with this. Actually I have a radical opinion: copyright should be abolished and it should be illegal to implement DRM in any form.

This doesn't change the fact that these people cannot be helped. They want their pleasure and if you're pointing out issues you're just getting in their way. They absolutely deserve to be blamed if their accounts get banned and they lose everything.

Have you considered that the people you told don't really believe you are as expert as you claim, or believe that you were overdramatizing the situation?

> They just have to understand one fact: they don't actually own what they're spending their money on.

The consequences of losing access don't necessarily follow from that though. Lots of people for example understand the principle of leasing an apartment or car, and in those cases it's much harder for the true owner to arbitrarily take the property away from you.

> Actually I have a radical opinion: copyright should be abolished and it should be illegal to implement DRM in any form.

Radical opinions further tell people that you are not being pragmatic about what you are saying and therefore it can't be very practical advice. That is another reason why I expect people weren't receptive to your warnings.

> Have you considered that the people you told don't really believe you are as expert as you claim, or believe that you were overdramatizing the situation?

I don't claim to be an expert. I'm just a guy who cares a lot about this stuff. I suppose I can be dramatic but I don't think that makes me wrong.

> The consequences of losing access don't necessarily follow from that though.

Currently, they do. That could change in the future but right now when people spend money on media they're merely buying some company's permission to enjoy some content. That permission can be revoked at any time and for any reason or no reason.

> Lots of people for example understand the principle of leasing an apartment or car, and in those cases it's much harder for the true owner to arbitrarily take the property away from you.

People aren't leasing content though. They're buying it. They buy books, they buy video games...

> it can't be very practical advice

Ignoring copyright is actually the most practical advice there is.

Everybody understands how to do it. I've yet to meet a single person who has never infringed copyright. People do it without even realizing it. It's how people naturally operate, especially on the internet. When people want something, they right click on it and save it. Nobody really thinks about the creator's rights to monopolize imaginary property.

The only problem with this advice is it's technically illegal. We can fix this by abolishing copyright.

> Currently, they do. That could change in the future but right now when people spend money on media they're merely buying some company's permission to enjoy some content. That permission can be revoked at any time and for any reason or no reason.

I think you are misunderstanding my point.

What I am saying is that most people's expectation of leasing/renting arrangements is such that there are protections in place to prevent the thing from being arbitrarily taken away.

However those protections don't exist for software services, only physical things like cars and apartments. Thus it is a violation of peoples' expectations that software services don't have those protections.

So it is not enough to simply tell them, "You don't own it and that's the problem". That does not fully explain the problem. In order to fully explain the problem you would need to explain how not only do you not own it, but ALSO there are no legal protections to prevent it from arbitrarily being taken away like a layperson might expect there to be such a situation.

> People aren't leasing content though. They're buying it. They buy books, they buy video games...

Earlier you just said that users don't own the content... so which is it?

Yeah, but all those things only happen to the other guy. It can’t happen to me. It’s like trying to explain to people why they should care about privacy on the Internet. They can’t see themselves in that position, ever.

If people don't know I guess I agree, though with the question of: should they have known? If people do know but choose not to consider what may happen, they had that education you mention but disregarded it. I can't feel too sorry for them.

> I don't think victim-blaming is a great way to educate people

What would be a better way, specifically?

If you try to point out all this to someone, the usual response is that they don't care, it doesn't happen to them. I have been trying this since Steams first versions and more or less gave up by now. People value convenience above all else.

That, or "people" make their own educated decisions about the trade-offs they are accepting, and those may be different - yet equally valid - from your own decisions.

True. How often that careful measuring occurs would be interesting to know. Except for some people on here on HN I can't think of any personal acquaintances who do it that way.

Oh yes. I've had those conversations myself.

The fool me once discussion is always relevant. What is new is the fact that consumer stupidity takes everyone down as well. Without that we wouldn't suffer through this cloud hell.

> I buy all my books directly from the publisher, drm-free

Most publishers don't do that. Why do you think Amazon has DRM? It's not because they enjoy running DRM schemes, they were among the first to sell straight MP3s even. It's because most publishers love DRM. See also the lawsuit against Internet Archive at the first whiff of creaks in the DRM dam.

As I replied to the sister comment, I might be biased because I love science fiction and most science fiction authors are probably somewhat aware what drm is and pick a publisher that fits them not only from a financial standpoint but also the ethical one. This whole comment might've looked different if I'd be a fan of historical fiction, but I don't really feel like finding out.

> It's not because they enjoy running DRM schemes

They sure do enjoy the lock-in that results from publishers demanding DRM.

Books feel like they are in a special class of digital good and I think most people would support legislation ending the use of permanent, proprietary digital locks on books.

> It's not like they haven't been warned that this would happen.

Not only have they not been warned, services like Audible and Kindle are actively marketed to hide that possibility.

If they really wanted people to understand that these purchases can be revoked at any time, they'd stop using words like "own", "buy", and "my library".

It's fine to hold consumers responsible, but only if companies are transparent. "Buy" is a word with a specific definition in the physical world, and Amazon is abusing that understanding.

Pretty sure the fact that they use words like "own", "buy" and "my library" everywhere except the fine print could be used against them in court to argue that they really did "sell" a book and you indeed "own" it, despite what they put in some fine-print.

Good luck against Amazon's lawyer army.

I stopped buying music on amazon the day their stupid website told me my browser is too dumb to download the MP3 files and I should get chrome instead (using an up to date vivaldi, based on chromium, at most a month or so behind chrome in its feature-set).

It's their right to try ripping me off, but it's disgusting that they don't communicate this. You click "buy now", but somewhere in the small print it says "oh but you're not really buying buying it though". That should be illegal. In fact, pretty sure it is illegal.

Chances are, if someone wanted to spend the thousands if not millions of dollars/euros/pesos/whatever to actually take legal action to demand the content they paid for, it's not unlikely that the decision would fall along the lines of "You can't just effectively sell something and claim you didn't really sell it"

It's like the "It's not monetization I swear, they're just donating and we're giving them something back to show our gratitude" bullshit people pull with Arma 3 servers. Everyone sees through it, but it works as long as nobody has a real interest in actually stopping it.

I noticed that they disabled downloading on mobile as well, when I open a link from amazon to download the music I just bought they told me to download their stupid app and and export from that to my filesystem. After setting it up there was no option to export, so I forced the desktop site with firefox and could download after clicking through two dialouges that tried to convince me that downloading is _really_ not what I want to do. Never bought any media on amazon again after that.

Interesting.. how often can you find the publisher offering a drm free copy? I buy _a lot_ of books (usually one or two per week), and I have a feeling I’d only find 1 in 5 from a publisher but haven’t checked. Also, I always do the “try a sample” first which has saved me a lot of money from buying books that weren’t what I expected. Wish there was an equivalent to that!

I think all book I read in the last three years I bought without drm applied to the files. Most of them have some kind of invisible watermark I couldn't care less about that presumable helps the publisher track down who distributed a book if the user didn't remove it, but it being invisible and probably bit-sized, that's an okay thing in my book (heh).

Now that I think of it, it might have to do with the fact that I read sci-fi almost exclusively, where the authors have some kind of political interest in freedom themselfes and might pick publishers accordingly, but I have no way to back that idea up. The majority of the books I bought are published by Bastei Lübbe (https://www.luebbe.de/), but smaller publishers usually allowed me to do the same.

I don't read book samples because I check the reviews for books I plan on reading on whereever I can find them, but I might start if the reviews start failing me. Might have to figure out where those are possible then :)

> how could amazon _do this to me_?

This is the main complain IMHO.

Most people trust amazon to be around in 10 years, and do not mind to be bound to a specific company. It would be fine if there was a recourse when getting kicked out of the platform.

This is similar to mail data on gmail, people are aware of the limitations, but are still pissed off when Google shuts down their account without any explanation.

Your point about DRM-free is another form of having a way out of the platform in case of dispute, but there could be other solutions as well I guess.

Yes, I also try to get it directly from the publisher. This has the advantage, that often you get the much better quality PDF version than the Amazon version with garbled math in it. I have bought maybe 5 books for Kindle that I couldn't get any other way. It sucks, because I cannot make these 5 books part of my Calibre library.

> It sucks, because I cannot make these 5 books part of my Calibre library.

Depending on a range of factors, this might be useful for solving that:


I use this and it works beautifully. I never even load onto my kindle, which is sitting in a draw somewhere. Remove DRM, convert to epub and read in iBooks.

Yeah, I've tried it once, but I couldn't get it to work quickly. Easier to just not buy books for Kindle.

Blame structures, intentional structures, not people. People are just buying books the way books are sold. They can go elsewhere is not a reasonable response in amazon's case, considering the % of digital book market do they own?

It's reasonable for the average person to expect stuff to be reaspnable.


I'm okay with this business model. I know it's not a popular opinion here - but as there's no reasonable way to prevent people from unrestrictedly distributing copies, the business model of licensing books sounds reasonable to me.

What's not reasonable is the lack of transparency when you're suspected of abuse. I understand that there are many bad actors, but these companies are judge, jury and executioner when it comes to handling what they think are abuse cases - and honest people who get caught in the crossfire have no recourse.

Regulation needs to be put in place saying that if you paid a company any significant sum for services, you have the right to contest any claims of abuse and must be provided with all reasoning they have on that abuse within 24 hours. And you have a right to take them to court without needing to show damages when they're being unreasonable.

I'd also like to see requirements that companies aren't allowed to use terms like "own" or "buy" when referring to their content. They should have to use a term like "license" or even "borrow" to drive home that you're not paying for unfettered ownership.

I get what you're saying about preventing copying being impossible without DRM, but I think you overestimate the prevalence of unauthorized copying, at least when the convenience and cost of purchasing a legal copy is reasonable enough.

DRM has other bad societal effects, like locking up works beyond their copyright expiration, and causing people to lose access to those works if the company goes out of business (for DRM systems that require periodic license refreshes). DRM also generally disallows all legal copying under fair use terms.

I think the only way that I'd be even remotely comfortable with DRM is if companies using it were required to place their DRM keys in escrow; if the company ever decides to stop offering the service, or simply goes out of business, those keys should be released to the public. And companies should be required to remove DRM from works when its copyright expires. Even with all that, though, I'd still find DRM undesirable.

"I think the only way that I'd be even remotely comfortable with DRM is if companies using it were required to place their DRM keys in escrow;"

Even then, who verifies that the correct keys are uploaded? And for that matter, what counts as "going out of business"? Maybe they'll stop providing service and say "a patch is just around the corner" and then simply never release (or work on) the patch?

It's also possible that a company sells their DRM keys during liquidation to someone who is not interesting in actually providing access to the work e.g. a competitor who wants everyone to move to their platform.

It wouldn't surprise me if something absurd happens like Epic buys GOG and then forces you to buy the same games on Epic store again.

I think that would be the point of putting the keys in escrow. Think of escrow as a kind of property limbo where there is no owner, just a responsible party for following a contract regarding the transfer of ownership.

The company doesn't own the keys, so it can't sell them. The user doesn't get the keys until the contract is fulfilled.

I'd expect losing access to the game or not being able to make be installs of the game (in a reasonable time frame) would be in the contract as sufficient conditions to give ownership to affected users.

I'd also be fine with the T&C's saying "For any reason, we can terminate the services we provide to you, and we will refund any money's paid with interest".

That way, the company can decide to keep the evidence to themselves and not need to go to court, but must forgo all revenue from your account.

All money and interest is not enough.

If sign a contract that you will provide me a service and you back out of it midway, I'm usually worse off than if you had declined the engagement in advance. For example, if I contract you to build me a house, it takes six months, and three months in you decide to back out and pay me back with interest, I still have half a house I need to demolish or else I have to find someone who would continue your work (which I likely won't find), and I'm out 3 months' rent.

I would expect additional compensation.

This doesn't transfer well into this example though. You could argue that if you lose a library of 100+ books you also lose information on what those books even where, but a better solution for that would be to just demand some machine-generated list of what you had so you can buy them again somewhere else.

There's other lost value. What if a book is out of print or out of publishing? What if you had comments? What if you had bookmarks?

What if you brought your Kindle on a two-month-long hiking trip to South America and they don't sell them over there?

I'm doubtful that you would get additional compensation in your hypothetical example.

You're not worse off if you didn't spend anything and you are half-way towards your goal of having a house.

"You're not worse off if you didn't spend anything and you are half-way towards your goal of having a house. "

Contractors hate taking over someone elses' half-done work, as they now have to deal with someone else's shortcuts without knowing what they are.

100% I would. It's pretty easy to show damages, and I would take the contractor to court. Also, I believe these contracts have breakout clauses that define exactly how much I would get, too.

(This goes both ways, of course - if I back off the deal and have the contractor stop all work, I usually have to pay in full anyway.)

Seems like it would fall under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel ?

Some variation on this sounds like a good compromise. Both parties need to have some skin in the game but currently that's not true. At the moment terminating an account is a fast and nearly cost-free solution to many thorny account policing issues and therefore a great option for customer service drones.

It's only the occasional "I managed to raise a storm on Twitter so the CEO noticed" that has any cost to the company and thus any chance of getting a resolution.

I’ve bought 100 books on Kindle. You’re saying I could do something that would cause Amazon to decide to break the contract, and I’d get a refund of all 100 books with interest? Seems like a sweet deal to me, since I’m not reading the old books very often.

While true, for other people they'd use the money to repurchase those same books elsewhere. Or perhaps the printed version of them.

Amazon could take you to court instead for breaking the contract. What he suggested was that it would be up to Amazon.

The comment says "do something that would cause Amazon to break the contract", not "break the contract myself".

What about the notes that you add to the books? For students they can mean failing a course.

If you break the rules of the contract what makes you think you get your money back? If you want a refund you should be required to prove that the company was the one that violated the agreement.

"Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit" The company refusing to provide a service and shutting your account down should be the one to prove an eventual violation of an agreement. Too often we are witnessing content and/or service providers refuse to acknowledge the cause of an account being blocked - most of the times I've read about because of false positives in automatic detection systems and the likes. There should be at the very least a middle ground, such as being able to access content already paid for and only that.

"Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit"

Means "The claimant is always bound to prove: the burden of proof lies on him." For anyone who can't read latin (and doesn't want to have to google a latin phrase in an english conversation).

The problem in countries with expensive litigation is that it raises the bar for what a person would be willing to fight for. If I'll end up spending $10000 whether I win or lose I'll think twice before I litigate for a few hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of ebooks. It also incentivizes companies to do it for as long as they know they'll get away with it.

You're pitting a company with billions to spend on this stuff and all the incentive to keep doing it against a regular consumer with none of the resources or determination. This is where regulation comes in and it should always favor the consumer by default. It's why countries have consumer protection agencies but no company protection agencies.

> If I'll end up spending $10000 whether I win or lose I'll think twice before I litigate for a few hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of ebooks.

Wouldn't a possible avenue here [in the US] be small claims court? Or could costs still rise to that level under that situation?

You would forfeit anything in excess of the small claims limit, probably around $5k.

Also costs around $100 to file and you're looking at at a day or two of time away from work.

Prove to whom? The arbitration judge?

The contract such as "we may block your account for uploading any content against our guidelines. We may rule content to be against our guidelines for any reason and at our sole discrecion."

A watermark is just about as effective to deter the casual user from distributing their books nilly-willy. I have DRM free ebooks which contain something like "Thanks X Y for buying this book" and so it's blatanly obvious who it belongs to. Now, you could remove it but you could also remove DRM.

Publishers like O'Reilly explicitly don't put DRM on ebooks you buy from them. They also have a subscription library model in parallel. I use both these methods for books from them and I understood the difference. Somehow O'Reilly remains one of the premium and presumably profitable tech book publishers

Which is a shame, because O'Reilly stopped selling ebooks more than three years ago: https://www.oreilly.com/content/the-mission-of-spreading-the...

> there's no reasonable way to prevent people from unrestrictedly distributing copies

Why is that a hard requirement though? Also, DRM really doesn't prevent that. I got through my last couple years of college on books from libgen.

Isn't it illegal in the EU? If they are renting the ebooks they must not mislead the customer with words like "buy an ebook".

Some regulator should take them on that.

Also, USA Supreme Court has no power in the EU. She bought Kindle it in the UK, I guess while they were still part of the EU.

Here is a similar situation with Valve and Steam:

French court rules that Steam’s ban on reselling used games is contrary to European law: https://www.polygon.com/2019/9/19/20874384/french-court-stea...


Indeed, and this is why I still buy paper books, DVDs and CDs (and vinyl, when the mood strikes). Heck, I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, old software licenses and media will be valuable, perhaps extremely so if open-source tools are effectively blocked on the major platforms.

I borrow everything at the local library. If they don't have it, I ask if they can get it. Mostly I just give them the ISBN number and a few days later I get a mail that they reserved it for me, come and pick it up. Almost faster than ordering it myself on the net :-)

In ebook form (e.g. Libby) or physical?


Same for me. I will only buy a paper copy of a book, which cannot be removed from my account when it is on my bookshelf. Same for CDs and DVDs. Amazon seems to offer an instant download of mp3s after buying a CD, so often I never even open the CD after receiving it. But having it means I will own it forever.

Anything that is not available in a format I can own in perpetuity, I will not buy. Voting with your wallet is the only way to pressure these companies.

I don't see the interest in buying DVDs. Books and Music are two medium one is likely to revisit. Movies/Drama on the other hand? Once it is viewed, are they really that many people that will try to view it again? Do they get the same thrill as for a very good story/music piece?

This is very subjective, I have rewatched far more DVDs than I have reread books; seems to me that rewatching a good story in movie form isn't much different to rereading a good story in book form? (Typically with less time commitment & effort/imagination required)

When I find a movie I really like, I tend to want to either rewatch it with different people who haven't seen it, or lend it to those people.

I agree. Revisiting old content is the rule, not the exception. If there is stuff you really want to watch again you are very likely to pay for it again. There is a game that I played on PS2 that has been ported to NDS and then PC and I bought all versions even though it was the same game every time.

> if open-source tools are effectively blocked on the major platforms.

Come on, how can you have such a grim outlook? Nobody will “effectively block” open source tools. Consoles can afford to. Phones are being challenged. Everyone else won’t.

Windows on ARM only allows you to install Microsoft Store apps. Everyone claims ARM is the future but all I see is a proprietary prison.

The moment a platform becomes for “general purpose computing” they will be forced to open up. Especially Windows won’t be allowed to be a closed platform given its dominance. Even then, there will always be Linux.

My 2013 1Password license ($19.99) proved to be a valuable investment.

Unfortunately I'll have to migrate to their subscription sooner or later, I already don't have access to their Safari extension.

You may want to give a try to Bitwarden (https://bitwarden.com/)

I was a long (15years?) paying user of Lastpass, saw the company grow and discussed with the founders when they were just starting. Then the software grew old (and some M&A were dubious)

Switching to Bitwarden was a great choice (since about a year)

(I have no affiliation with Bitwarden, I just work in Information Security and look closely at this kind of software and their tradeoffs)

Thanks for mentioning it, it looks pretty nice. However, as that's something I would self-host, the pricing options do not make sense to me. I'd be willing to pay a one-time fee of $10, maybe $40 for the family variant (though 6 users feels really arbitrary when you self-host). Not $40 per year for little added value (the thing I'd be interested in is 2FA via OTP/U2F, and maybe that shared item thing).

Anyway, I think I'll look at something else for now, I can't really afford that :)

I do self host Bitwarden. There are two possibilities:

- the official docker solution which is extremely complicated

- https://github.com/dani-garcia/bitwarden_rs which is extremely simple and just works. It includes everything for 0 EUR.

I still sent money to both projects because I think they did a nice work.

I find Bitwarden better than LP in handling Android (seems to be better at recognizing places it can fill in) and it is very complete in terms of what the product itself offers. I considered moving mu OTP (currently on Authy) there, up to the moment where I realized I need OTP for Bitwarden itself :)

Otherwise I have no complaints. The sharing part is excellent (much better than LP) - the only thing to be aware of is that once you "share" with a group, the elements is not "yours" anymore. It becomes truly shared within the group. Specifically you cannot "take it back". While it was a bit disconcerting at first, I find it very logical in the long term. And use it extensively with my family.

Thank you for mentioning that alternative, that looks very interesting indeed. May I ask how you sent money to bitwarden? By subscribing?

Your comment on OTP makes a lot of sense. I personally use Aegis from F-droid from OTP (moved from AndOTP), which I quite like.

bitwarden_rs: https://github.com/sponsors/dani-garcia (you can subscribe and then resign - there is no way to make a single payment AFAIK)

bitwarden: I subscribed and then cancelled as there is no single payment either.

As for the OTP, one more point is that in the case where Bitwarden would be hacked, the fact that OTP is somewhere else is a real layer of security.

Last time I checked they also had their regular license available in the website buried somewhere.

Or just buy EPUB or PDF of the book that just sits on the hard drive.

This is true not just for Kindle books. It's also your games library on Steam and all other similar stores. GOG.com is probably the only online game store where you realy own the stuff you "buy".

Yes, but with Kindle at least you can strip the DRM of your eBooks.

There's a Calibre plugin[1] that does it.

If you really care about ebooks that you purchase, I highly recommend installing this plugin. It automatically strips DRM off books you download and open with Calibre.

And keep a back-up of the (DRM-free) books somewhere that's not Amazon / a cloud. Because a cloud is simply a computer that you do not own.


The last time I tried actually doing this, it was a huge pain in the ass: https://www.sonyaellenmann.com/2018/09/back-up-kindle-files-...

I have a Kindle; it took me about five minutes to follow the instructions once, and it was automatic after that.

Note how this is in most jurisdictions illegal. You are now pirating, except you paid for it.

If by "most jurisdictions" you mean pretty much just US, then sure.

Is it really illegal? At least in the US cracking DRM for personal backup is not infringing AFAIK.


This is what makes ROMs for games for game consoles fully legal assuming you ripped them from physical copies. Not sure how anyone would prove you didnt generate the copy yourself.

Um, citation needed for that claim.

Well, but that's like saying that you can download cracks for video games, so it's all fine. There are ways to make steam games work without steam, yet I wouldn't consider that to be a solution.

I sorta used to do this so I wouldnt need to pop in a CD just to play some games cause the CDs were getting really scratched up as things were.

Or take this actual example: you buy a CD with a game, install it, and it doesn't run :( You go to the forums and there is a crack which also apparently fixes some crashes? You download and apply it, and lo, the game runs :)

In fact, I believe in some jurisdictions it's actually legal: since you bought it, you're allowed file and sandpaper it to make it actually work.

I was going to throw in https://www.humblebundle.com/store, but then I realized that the myriad of various "bundles" that they keep launching nowadays (at least as far as games are concerned) and also their store only sells Steam keys. I think the games in the "Humble Indie Bundles" which come out once or twice a year are still mostly DRM free, but that's about it. You can't even search their store for "DRM free", so I guess that's not a thing there...

HumbleBundle is a classic case of moral decline once institutional priorities overcome the actual mission. It went from "nice idea to support indies and pay-as-you-wish" to just another bargain-price channel for any company, expanding for its own sake.

I still remember when the first set of games made a million dollars, and the devs were like “That’s enough money. Let’s open-source these games :D”

Can you imagine anybody in the industry saying “That’s enough money” today?

I don't think it is fair to pin this on steam. Plenty of games on steam run without steam, and require no installation - just copy them over to a different PC. They often come with binaries for all supported OSes at once, so your windows install will work on linux too.

It is the game publishers that choose to use steam drm. Often the same publishers publish on GOG without the drm (since gog, admirably, does not offer a drm option to them), but it is not steam that is forcing the drm on you. Your issue is with the game publisher.

No, it's in the agreement when you sign up for Steam. You don't own, you license.

Well the only owner is the copyright holder

The only game I play of game I'd notice if it where taken away is counter strike global offensive, which wouldn't really run all that well without valve backing it, so I'm okay with that.

Gog also forces me to use their stupid launcher now, and tries to trick me into "connecting all my accounts".

I don't see any compelling reason for me to prefer them over Steam, anymore.

Genuine question: why do you consider the linked accounts a trick? I find the single launcher integration quite useful and don't see the privacy loss. Am I missing something?

How does it force you?

My single-player games all launch "gog galaxy" when I start them through the start menu.

Honestly, if I'm going to fight against my software, I might as well be pirating.

Dark patterns most likely. They hide the downloads as much as possible. But to play some games multiplayer you need the gog launcher.

What are you talking about? The DRM-free downloads are right there under "Backups" tab?

Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion. - Amazon

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever." - Orwell

Ironically, the first highly publicized instance of Amazon deleting books from Kindle devices was its deletion of Orwell's "1984" in 2009: https://io9.gizmodo.com/amazon-secretly-removes-1984-from-th...

I clicked on that link (in Australia) and got "Sorry! Yikes! That story doesn’t exist on Gizmodo Australia, but we have plenty of other great content you can check out here. If you’re still hellbent on that particular story, you can access the US version of Gizmodo here." – I was automatically redirected to


No, not still hellbent thanks Gizmodo, just wanted to go to the link I clicked on, geez, if that's OK. Although after that weird experience, I don't. I thought the story had been deleted, for a moment!

Message is very clear. If you want to own something, pirate it.

My sentiments exactly, I see no reason to support a model where I pay for something and it turns out that I'm not even an owner because there's a mention of it somewhere deep in the 500 page EULA. Which totally mirrors the experience of going to the bookstore, picking a book paying for it and... that's it, you can do whatever you want with it. I'm sure someone will point out that I agreed to these terms but the last time I checked a "store" doesn't lend things, it sells them, so it's easy to claim I have been misled.

I don't think we should have to sign Eula, if i can buy a book without one, why cant I buy a game in the same manner? You are, equally, not allowed to duplicate and resell either of those.

We don't purchase products anymore, at least not digital things. Instead we're always buying a service.

Buying includes a very short period of trust between you and the seller, where you give them money, and they give you the product in return. Sometimes there's also a long trust involved due to warranty, but more often than not those failed me in the past, so I stopped taking them into account when making a purchase.

But a service is a long term relationship between a customer and a service provider, and those ALWAYS failed me, if they existed for long enough.

Amazon does not sell books to Kindle, but instead provides a service of renting Kindle books. The cause of confusion here is them using a wrong term to describe what they do.

Unfortunately, it will take legislation to forbid them from stating or suggesting that you are actually purchasing digital goods.

We should get a law that forbids any SaaS or media-rental company from ever using "purchase" in their advertising and operation. It could be the Interned Digital Goods Advertisement Fraud Act, or IDGAF act - as in "I don't give a f__k what you say; if I can't keep them forever and copy them around, those ain't 'goods' I'm buying, it's a rental service".

> We don't purchase products anymore, at least not digital things. Instead we're always buying a service.

This is certainly what Amazon etc write in their terms and would like the legal system to enforce, but I think it's clear that most normal humans don't really think of it like this.

The strongest argument that they don't is that the prices for films that you buy on google play and the books that you buy on amazon cost the same as they did before.

Quite clearly, ownership rights are not worth nothing, so if the public are prepared to pay the same rates, the most likely explanation is that they are confused about what they are getting. There's been no real effort to disabuse them either - the amazon ebook site says 'Buy now', google play says 'buy'. What we're seeing is large tech companies trying (and so far succeeding) to redefine what it means to buy and to own things.

People probably don't even think about the fact that if the company went bust or decided to stop offering their service, potentially thousands of dollars worth of things they thought they owned would go up in a puff of electrons.

20 years ago, people would have CD, DVD or book collections that would be insured for significant amounts of money. Is it possible to insure access to a digital media collection?

That's why I never registered my Kindle. It's always in Airplane mode and used as a dumb device connected to my PC through USB anytime I want to download books. Thanks, but no thanks Amazon.

Unfortunately, we live in an era where everything that can connect to the Internet will abuse its intended use at some point.

> Unfortunately, we live in an era where everything that can connect to the Internet will abuse its intended use at some point.

This is not an era-problem, this is a culture-problem. Likely an economic-incentives-problem. The culture in both business and consumers. There always seem to be The Assholes who corrupt it all for everyone. It's easy to point at businesses, but few talk about incidents of malfeasance from the other parties to the transactions. The guy who buys a circular saw from a big box store, uses it for a weekend project, then returns it. The woman who buys a dress, hides the price tag, wears it to a wedding, then returns it.

Building high-trust, high-ethics organizations at scale and identifying individuals for those organizations is hard, and I wish there was more written about it. It's not a new problem, so I'd like to see the evolution of thought about it as well.

Cultures define eras.

Love your writing and musings. Long-time listener, first-time caller.

Were this only an era problem. Then it would just be a passing fad, even if "passing" was longer than a human generation. I could handle that.

However, there are in this (and other eras) non-dominant cultures of high-trust where the incidence of rough equivalent types of malfeasance or even the expectations of them occurring are noticeably lower. Many rural cultures, for example. So I was trying to concisely express the era doesn't define everyone in every culture.

Now if I could understand why such non-dominant cultures do not scale and dominate, I think it could be the beginning of a beautiful civilization, to cop a line from Rick.

Fair points.

My friend Woozle noted a few years ago an epistemic paradox:

> Our present epistemic systems are undergoing kind of the same shock that the online community underwent when transitioning from BBSs and Usenet to the commercial web to social media.

> We were used to a very high content-to-BS ratio because it took a certain amount of intelligence and intense domain-interest for people to be there in the first place -- and we've now transitioned to a situation where many people are there more or less accidentally and (the worst part), because of a high percentage of the population being present, there is now substantial power to be had by influencing the discussions that take place.


Shoshana Zuboff put this more succinctly, in the 1980s, in her Thid Law:

> Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.

And you can find far earlier examples, say, Sun Tzu's "On the Use of Spies" (book 13), and of course "All warfare is based on deception."

So yes, the practive is not merely modern, and not a passing fad.

"Build it and they will come" turns out to be a curse.

Non-dominant cultures may advance by out-surviving adversaries. The Angles were subordinate to the Romans, the Song Dynasty and Poland to the Mongolian Empire, Egypt and Persia to Macedonia. Direct combat is expensive and risky.

But an utter failure at self-preservation (or in securing suitable patronage) tends to end badly. To invoke another mid-century classic, Huxley's Island. "Here and now, boys!"

This is why I try to get drm free ebooks when possible or at least breakable drm. I like paying for it so the author gets paid but i don't want some 3rd party being able to revoke my access.

"I like paying for it so the author gets paid "

I've been thinking about this: If this is the only reason you use an ebook-store (like the Kindle store), this would be fairly easy to create a 100% competitor for - after all, there's no law against creating a site for giving money to your favourite authors!

...and then you could create a plugin/API for embedding a "pay for book" button onto other sites - like pirate book sites, and the ONLY weapon Amazon would have against it would be the legal weapon against the pirate sites!

Also you'd probably want the give-authors-money site to be run by a trustworthy nonprofit.

i have seen authors asking people not to do this, because it increases the chance that their publisher will see the book as a failure and not pick up another one of theirs.

Kindle's DRM is breakable for at least half a decade now using this calibre plugin: https://apprenticealf.wordpress.com/

I find it more convenient to break it than DRM-protected ePub files sold elsewhere (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.).

Except that the new Kindle DRM is very hard to remove and this plugin won't work anymore - it's a constant arms race where us customers are always the losers.

It's possible, if a little annoying. In your account settings, Amazon offers the ability to download an e-book to transfer via USB. This gets you a version that you can import into Calibre and process with DeDRM.

This is why I use Calibre to strip the DRM and create backup copies of everything I buy on Kindle. I don't mind paying for content. I do mind if it can be rescinded and made inaccessible after I've paid for it.

How about this compromise: whenever a company cancels a customer's account, everything they bought has to be sent to them in a DRM-free format.

It's a compromise because big companies still get to close customers' accounts on a whim (it sounds dumb, but companies should be allowed to "fire" their customers), but at least the customers get to keep what they paid for. Everybody wins. It's better than forcing the big companies to keep customers they suspect of abuse.

Does anyone here have some experience using a kindle without account as describe here :


Or here :


I think after some research that the oasis may be the best value for money reader for my use case (pdf CS books) but I'm not sure about the amazon account and if it is worth the hassle to avoid it.

I haven't used my Kindle without an account, but I have put non-Kindle, non-Amazon books on it, including some PDFs.

In my experience, the Kindle is terrible for reading PDFs. The screen is small, and PDFs don't dynamically resize the way e-books do. You'd probably be better off with an iPad or other tablet with better PDF software and better ability to zoom and pan than the Kindle has.

Thanks. I don't expect a great experience but I'd like to see if a eInk reader would be easier on my eyes since I am already 10 hours a day on LCD. The following video gave me the impression that pdf on Kindle Oasis was acceptable...


Generally on electronic platforms you buy a right to consume the content but you do not own the content. This is different from physical media where you can touch the content. Also with physical media you don’t own the content but it cannot be so easily removed.

Movies can for example be taken away from digital purchases if the agreement between the movie studio and the content delivery platform ends.

This is from 2012.

dedrm (and get a pdf) isn't too hard to setup with calibre. https://github.com/apprenticeharper/DeDRM_tools/releases

All books will likely be fingerprinted, which I believe is a far more effective method of controlling piracy.

Content vendors operating like this has cost me a lot of money. Not in terms of lost content, but in hard drives. I steadfastly refuse to relinquish control of anything I've paid for, so nearly every piece of licensed software or entertainment I've ever purchased has a pirated copy tucked safely in my archives.

Stop supporting mediocre, rights-infringing corporatocracy.

Don't buy from Amazon, this is the only thing that can and will make them change. Amazon put Borders books out of business and will soon put out Barnes & Noble and then you'll be left with no ebook choices, or shopping choices in general.

Stallman was a prophet

Is this true? I've loaded Kindle books directly from computer to kindle.

Not that anyone does this, I suspect most folks want amazon to host the book for them forever and provide them access.

But I do think if you actually download the book, you can basically load it onto a kindle baring very weird situations.

The books you buy on Amazon have Amazon DRM.

Unless you strip the DRM, you don't own the books.

She had it downloaded to her kindle but the kindle was broken. She could not access her account on any device or web so had no access to her library.

Thins like that is what keeps me from going all-digital in pretty much anything.

Books, movies, games... The fact that one day you could wake up banned for something and lose everything you bought during years is absolutely awful.

My Kindle's wifi chip is gone and Amazon won't repair it, even if I offer to pay for it. So joke's on them, now I'm immune from such remote account access shenanigans. I just transfer books using USB.

If you want to keep the item EITHER buy DRM free (generally NOT Amazon) OR convert the DRM version into a personal non-DRM copy (e.g Epub/PDF etc)and save that into your own personal archive.

Or pirate the book and gift the paper version to someone (or donate it to some charity).

Remember, folks - if you want the collection you can count on, pirate it.

You'll be a criminal either way.


They're not her books, unfortunately.

This is the big issue with these digital services. You no longer own anything. At least the law is catching up to these practices now, here in the EU.

Dumb question, but has Barnes and Nobles been better about their behavior with the Nook?

I’m slowly weening myself away from Amazon where I can, but I need options.

They print these paper volumes called books, and I've never once read a book on anything other than in paper, or on my computer. I just walked in Barnes and Noble last weekend and spent $44 on real books. Sure I spent double of what I could have spent at Amazon. I voted with my money. Fuck Amazon.

They still have a thing called the Nook.

I’m curious whether they’re better behaved, though.

This is why I steal everything I want using http://libgen.rs/ and so should you.

If I find value in what I have stolen I will try and buy a DRM free copy of the work if it's available.

I have 22k books in my curated calibre library, of those I have read a small fraction of 1% and I have paid for far fewer.

This more or less matches the existing public library pattern.

Authors cannot complain about 'lost income' as I simply would not consume their content anyway if I could not acquire it this way.

Yep. Don't buy expensive textbooks on the Kindle Store. That's a losing proposition.

As soon as someone paid for a collection of bits, that someone deserve to be whipped.

This reminded me I hadn't ripped my Kindle library in awhile. Thanks.

Lol, moral of the story: pirate whatever software you can :D

Needs a (2012)


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