There's been plenty of fanfare over Amazon's new Android-based e-reader, the Kindle Fire, with one interesting feature being the new Silk browser, which is differentiated by the fact that it's built on top of Amazon's cloud web services storage, allowing it to effectively cache and optimize content on its own servers. But this raises a big question. As Stephan Kinsella points out, technically, this may be copyright infringment. First up, here's Amazon's video explanation of the browser:
Based on the info in that video, Kinsella explains the legal concerns:
One smart thing Silk does to speed up web browsing as seen by the user of the Kindle Fire by “pre-loading” content into Amazon’s “cache” in its own “Amazon computer cloud” (i.e. Amazon’s servers)–and to optimize them for the Kindle Fire (e.g., a 3MB image is scaled down maybe to 50k because that would look the same on the Kindle Fire as a 3MB image, but could be transmitted more quickly). But to do this Amazon’s servers have to store copies of files obtained from other websites, including images (as explicitly stated at 3:07 to 3:26) and other files which, of course, are covered by copyright. At 3:54, it’s explained that if Amazon’s computing cloud sees you looking at the New York Times home page, and it predicts, based on other user statistics, that you are somewhat likely to next click on some NY Times subpage link, then the Amazon servers will go ahead and download that next link, and cache it, in case you do click on it next, so that it can serve it up more quickly. Now this makes sense technically, but what it really means is Amazon’s servers are making copies of other people’s copyright-protected content: images, files, NYTimes web pages, and serving them up to Kindle Fire users as if the Amazon computer cloud servers are the host of those images. It is a bit like if Amazon ran a site called NYTimes2.com, and had its servers constantly copying content from NYtimes.com and duplicating it on NYTimes2.com, and serving up the content on NYTimes2.com (which was copied from NYTimes.com) to browsers.
Of course, as he notes (and as the people in the video note), this makes tremendous technological sense. It makes for a much better experience. But copyright can and often is used to stop innovations that make tremendous technological sense, because they can upset legacy business models. Of course, one could argue that what Amazon is doing here is no different than what Google does with it's cache -- but that might not stop a potential legal fight, unfortunately.
We were just discussing the DRM tax on a Kindle, which is the "price" of having to rebuy any ebooks you want to keep later on if you decide to switch to another platform. Some of the commenters on that post scoffed at the idea, and insisted that "in the future" this wouldn't be an issue, because most likely there would be ways to take your ebooks with you to other readers. Of course, that's little comfort to people today. Reader Mark sends in this story of how Sony initially refused to fix a Sony eBook Reader that only broke because of an update that Sony pushed the woman to install (oddly, they required her to send them the reader). So, effectively, Sony contacts her, tells her to send in her working eBook Reader, then they send it back and it's broken. And they refuse to fix it because it's out of warranty. Nice.
But here's the kicker. After all of this, she went out and bought another Sony ebook reader. She noted that she would have gladly purchased a competing product "but would have lost access to the library she's spent hundreds of dollars building up." And there it is. The DRM tax at work creating serious lock-in and consumer problems. At least in this case, due to the publicity from Consumerist, Sony agreed to reimburse the woman, but you shouldn't have to get a major publication to tell your story first to get that kind of resolution.
Christopher Best: He was a disturbed individual, and a disgruntled software developer. There's explicit tax law that treats software developers very unfairly if they try to work as independent contractors... yaga: that's very true CB Alana: AJ Seriously just compared arguments against copyright infringment to rape. ... Yeah, nobody should take him seriously at this point. err, against copyright* silverscarcat: seriously? Jay: Glenn Beck asking for a 9/12 movement isn't the least bit suspicious? Along with all of the other issues with the IRS right now? Ninja: I am honestly amused that the community is marking the comments of that "horse" guy as funny silverscarcat: Who takes Glenn Beck seriously? Jeff: did the 'new' comment color bars go away? dennis deems: ya I hadn't noticed until you said that. I don't recall seeing them the last couple days. Mike Masnick: new color bars ran into some big technical problems. :) we took them down while we fix them. fix is currently going through testing and should be back (and better than before) soon. dennis deems: yay! the color bars rule! Jeff: whew! Thought I was going... wait for it... "Color Blind" thanks! I'll be here all day... :-) Jay: @ssc I'm talking more in 2011 at the peak of TP hysteria TheResidentSkeptic: @mike - mod for your business model - CwF+RtB+DoP..too many miss the "Deliver On Promises" silverscarcat: Piracy will destroy software! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlniehU08ks Back in 1985