Amazon's published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a "permanent copy of the applicable digital content."
Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer's home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.
The problem with digital rights is that you and I don't have any. Paying customers are entirely at the mercy of the content providers and/or their delivery mechanisms. If Amazon decides the book you just paid for isn't "applicable digital content," or Apple decides it doesn't want you to run iTunes on the Palm Pre, you're screwed. Your choice? Take it or leave it; pirate it or hack it.
A closely related problem has to do with creeping nature of copyrights, which are similar to DRM except they're enforced by attorneys, not software.
Orwell published those books in 1945 and 1949. He died in 1950. But thanks to a friendly U.S. Congress that keeps extending the limits of copyright protection, American rights to those works don't expire until 2044. That's when it enters the public domain, joining Shakespeare, Dickens, and all the rest that can republished at will (and are generally available in electronic form from Project Gutenberg).
That's not the case in Russia, where Orwell's works are already in the public domain. So in this case, the folks who live in the country that inspired the totalitarian pigs in "Animal Farm" and Big Brother in "1984" have more rights than we do. Yet more irony to toss onto the fire.
Yes, content publishers need a way to protect themselves against rampant piracy. But we need a way to protect ourselves from content publishers. I think Congress needs to enact a customer bill of rights. Right No. 1: We own what we've paid for, regardless of the fine print inside some license agreement drawn up by a team of $500-an-hour attorneys.
In other words, less digital rights management, more customer rights management. What do you think?
What digital rights do you want? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: email@example.com.