Being a Kindle owner, I’ve been following, and involved in, many discussions related to the recent DMCA take down notice that Amazon served on the eBook friendly site MobileRead. I’m too tuckered from arguing in other forums to say much now. At this time, all I’m going to do is list out pertinent articles and forum threads, and write my first impressions of the events.
The take down notice was first detailed in MobileThread
As some of you may already know, this week we received a DMCA take-down notice from Amazon requesting the removal of the tool kindlepid.py and instructions associated with it. Although we never hosted this tool (contrary to their claim), nor believe that this tool is used to remove technological measures (contrary to their claim), we decided, due to the vagueness of the DMCA law and our intention to remain in good relation with Amazon, to voluntarily follow their request and remove links and detailed instructions related to it.
A quick backgrounder: kindlepid.py is a small Python script allowing you to derive a Mobipocket-compatible personal identifier (PID) for your Kindle reader. This PID in itself has nothing at all to do with reading any copyrighted content. It is only used to make legitimate e-book purchases at stores other than Amazon’s.
We believe in the freedom of speech and we encourage you to continue expressing your views and thoughts on tools like kindlepid.py. We only ask you not to provide any how-to instructions, source codes and/or links for obtaining kindlepid.py.
Several people and organizations have weighed in on the issue, including Slashdot, BoingBoing, CNet and so on. You can find links to the articles in TechMeme, but I also linked stories as I found them in a thread I started in the Kindle owner’s forum at Amazon. Current entries to that thread: 127 and counting. Some interesting, and differing, opinions are shared.
What puzzled a lot of people is, why now? The application that Amazon is unhappy about, kindlepid.py, has been out and in use, and discussion item in Amazon forums since December of 2007. So, why now, and why serve a DMCA on MobileRead, rather than Google Apps, or other sites were the software is actually hosted?
A little hunting around found the most likely cause of this current foo-flah: another thread at MobileRead. The timing of the thread and the DMCA seem too close not to be related.
I’m not rigidly against DRM, though I would be happy to have my own books DRM free. (Painting the Web is available without DRM at O’Reilly.) As we all know, DRM typically harms legitimate owners, and does little to prevent piracy. Regardless, I can understand the use of DRM…but it should be based on a consistent standard the industry shares, so that if I buy a book at one eBook store, it will work with my Kindle; and an Amazon eBook will work on devices other than Kindle. Anything else is death to the industry. The industry is just too new, and too small, to be fragmented by such walls.
The Kindle is based on the MobiPocket Mobi digital format. Because of this shared format, Mobi books will work on a Kindle. However, Mobi books also have a PID-based DRM system that requires you provide your device’s PID if you want to buy a book. What kindlepid.py does is provide Kindle owners that PID. It does not bypass the DRM; it doesn’t circumvent copyright—it just gives us the ability to buy books in other stores.
More importantly, libraries are now incorporating digital book loans, but they’re based on DRM-enabled PDF files, or DRM-based Mobi books. If we want to “check” a book out at our libraries for use on our Kindle, we have to use both kindlepid, to get the PID, and kindlefix, to set a flag so we can read the book on our Kindles.
The book loan still expires at the end of the loan program. We can still only read the book on the given device. We’ve not broken either law or copyright or DRM. And since Amazon refuses to work with libraries, about the only way Kindle owners will have access to library loans is the use of this software.
The DMCA move by Amazon was especially disappointing to me, personally, because one reason I felt comfortable with buying a Kindle is that I trusted Amazon, I trusted Jeff Bezos, not to keep the Kindle jailed forever. I assumed that over time, the company would open both the Kindle, and the book store. I believed that what Amazon did for MP3s, it would eventually do with eBooks. Well, I can see with the DMCA, my trust was misplaced. I guess one can never get too old to still be naive.
I still like my Kindle, but I’m no longer comfortable buying books for it from Amazon. Luckily there are free ones that Amazon “allows” me to load on to the Kindle. As for new books, I’ve returned to paper books, via library loans. Too bad, too, because my library just doesn’t carry all the books I want.
I’ve also taken copious notes from the books I do have on the Kindle, for that day when the device breaks. I strongly doubt I’ll ever buy another eBook reader, much less another Kindle. Not until the industry gets its act together.
Like I said, more some other time.