July 27, 2009

Amazon and Technological Mediation [11:53 am]

Amazon Faces a Fight Over Its E-Books (pdf)

A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books, lest it be forced to one day change or recall books, perhaps by a judge ruling in a defamation case — or by a government deciding a particular work is politically damaging or embarrassing.

“As long as Amazon maintains control of the device it will have this ability to remove books and that means they will be tempted to use it or they will be forced to it,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation.

The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. [...]

In particular, there’s this striking example of missing the entire point:

Randal C. Picker, a law professor at the University of Chicago, says he thinks Amazon was right to delete the improperly sold versions of “1984” and argues such systems can also allow companies to better enforce copyright laws. He notes that the harm to the Orwell book buyers was minimal, since their money was refunded after copies were deleted from their Kindles.

“Because copyright infringement was poor and lax in the offline world, it should also be that way in the online world? I don’t understand that logic,” Mr. Picker said. “The whole point of moving online is that it creates new opportunities.”

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