Amazon Uses DMCA To Try To Block Other Ebooks From Getting On Your Kindle

from the joining-the-dark-side dept

Slashdot points us to the rather unfortunate news that Amazon has sent a DMCA takedown notice to MobileRead, concerning a link that site had to a small piece of software that would allow ebooks purchased elsewhere (other than Amazon) to work on the Kindle. There are a number of issues here, all of which seem troubling.

First, MobileRead never hosted the software in question, but merely had links to the tool and some instructions. Such a takedown is only supposed to be used for sites that actually have the infringing material. However, thanks to the wonderful chilling effects of the DMCA, MobileRead removed the links.

Second, it’s not at all clear how this script violates the DMCA. It doesn’t remove copy protection at all. It just serves to open up the device for other eBooks to be used on the device. All too often we’ve been seeing the DMCA used in cases like this, where companies are treating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clauses to mean that they can stop just about any script they don’t like from being available. This is clearly not what the DMCA was intended to do.

Third, the script was useful for allowing legally obtained ebooks from other stores to be read on the device. In other words, it was not a tool for copyright infringement, but for reading legally obtained works. This is a massive problem with the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause: it makes circumvention itself illegal, even if the circumvention is used for non-infringing purposes.

Fourth, Amazon’s decision to send a DMCA takedown, in light of all of the above, is bothersome. One would hope that a company like Amazon wouldn’t be quite so aggressive in trying to block out competition, in such ways — especially to the extent of abusing copyright law. There have been a bunch of lawsuits in the past that have pretty much all said using the DMCA solely for anti-competitive purposes is not a legitimate use of the DMCA — hopefully, someone can send Amazon’s lawyers the various cases to make it clear to them that they’re on the wrong side of the law here.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon Uses DMCA To Try To Block Other Ebooks From Getting On Your Kindle”

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Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Im confused

No. The DMCA was created to prevent the reverse engineering of DRM and other copyright protection. It is not to be used to prevent other people from making products for yours. It is definitely not to be used to prevent someone from pointing out the fact that someone else created something to work with your product.

Rose M. Welch says:

My E-mail to Amazon's Customer Service Dept.

I really wanted a Kindle because I travel alot. My hubbie was going to get me a Kindle for Mom’s Day in May.

Now I don’t want one because you guys are behaving in a really shitty way. Not only do I disagree with your actions against MobileRead, but it shows me how you are going to act in the future. If you want me to buy your products, then compete for my business by making yours the best. This is how to make happy customers. Your current actions make pissed-off people who don’t want to be customers.

RD says:


How to profit in business, the Amazon way:

1) Make a neat device that everyone would love to have
2) Price said device astronomically for what it offers
3) Build-in the ability to ONLY use YOUR proprietary products
4) Sue/Use the law to fight ANYONE who tries to improve it
5) Severely limit your potential market due to #2, #3 and #4

Yes, profit. Where is that going to come from again? Instead of selling a device that a lot of people could use, thus improving the market penetration of it, you severely restrict the potential market with these bonehead, Sony-like moves. Where is the Amazon that used to offer great service, TONS of product, and cut-rate prices, all in an effort to gain marketshare in an effort to become #1 at what they do? Whats that? The beancounters and lawyers got involved? OH I see, gotcha. Been nice knowing you Amazon. Maybe someone else will come along now and continue what you started and do it better.

Thwaaack says:

If I buy an ebook reader....

It will be the Sony EReader… least they are embracing the ability to upload content from pretty much anywhere. Being locked into the Amazon store is a deal-breaker for me. I’m a big fan of “Fan-Fiction” and would want a reader that would allow me to load stories from amateur authors for offline reading.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If I buy an ebook reader....

the kindle can still do that. they’re just stopping you from loading ebooks *purchased* elsewhere. if you got a regular pdf or plain text document (there are a few other formats too i believe), it’ll still work. unfortunately right now, amazon seems to have the largest ebook store, so while its not exactly the same market as music, expect them to abuse this attribute the same way Apple did.

Ea (user link) says:

Re: If I buy an ebook reader....

You might want to look into the Astak EZ Raeder as well, if you’re in USA (a rebranded HanLin V3)

I first bought an e-reader for the same reason as you, and have been very happy with the possibility to read somewhere else than off the monitor. You’re welcome to contact me if you have questions.

Michael B (profile) says:

Are You Renting or Buying the Kindle?

Seem to me that Amazon is forgetting that they are SELLING the Kindle… this isn’t like a cell phone company hat subsidizes a device. People are paying $359 to OWN the Kindle, which basically means that, short of removing the DRM from ebooks (which this does not do) an owner can, legally, put whatever he or she wants on their device. I bet Amazon gets sued for misuse of DCMA.

chris (profile) says:

isn't this the anti-circumvention clause?

the anti-circumvention clause in the DMCA pretty much states that you can’t do anything to bypass a lock on a copyrighted work, including providing tools or instructions.

i don’t agree with the clause (or anything else in the DMCA other than safe harbor provisions) in the slightest, but i think that anti-circumvention covers this.

i say that based on this excerpt:
Here’s how anticircumvention works: if you put a lock — an access control — around a copyrighted work, it is illegal to break that lock. It’s illegal to make a tool that breaks that lock. It’s illegal to tell someone how to make that tool. One court even held it illegal to tell someone where she can find out how to make that tool.

from this paper:

this is reason number 29,848,353,455 to do away with the DMCA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: isn't this the anti-circumvention clause?

“So what, exactly, is the copyrighted work in question here? The device is a physical good owned by the user. It is not covered under copyright. Amazon has no claim here.”

I believe tamporing with (altering) the software on the device would be issue here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 isn't this the anti-circumvention clause?

Its all really arguing about sillyness in my opinion. The DMCA creates the idea the manufactures continue to have an interest how you use YOUR property after you have purchased it. This is the fundamental point of and problem with the DMCA . . . it drastically changes property theory in the United States.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: isn't this the anti-circumvention clause?

Unless I’m mistaken the Kindle itself is not a copy written work, just the things on it and even if it is, I think that you could make a pretty good argument for it not breaking the kindle’s protection since you are not changing the protection on one of the kindle’s e books. Its sort of like me creating a program that makes an ACC encrypted music file to play on my ipod…not exactly illegal, unlike stripping said encryption off a file bought from itunes. Course I could be waaaaaaayyyy off base

Lame Duck says:

You are WRONG!

I’m sorry to say that you are completely WRONG Mike. The DMCA WAS MEANT to be used this way. The whole purpose of the bill is to stifle innovation, competition and stomp on the rights of users to appease the fat cat executives who line the pockets of senators.

As we say in the computer software business: Working as intended.

To believe otherwise is to buy into the propoganda used by congress and the IP gluttons to prevent armed citizens from storming the capital and burning it to the ground to start a new government that actually cares about its citizens.

Shawn says:

Re: You are WRONG!

“I’m sorry to say that you are completely WRONG Mike. The DMCA WAS MEANT to be used this way. The whole purpose of the bill is to stifle innovation, competition and stomp on the rights of users to appease the fat cat executives who line the pockets of senators.”

I tend to agree, the bill always seemed designed almost specifically for this purpose (this was certainly one of the known potential outcomes during debate). I also come from the software development business though, so maybe thats why we share a similar perspective. I think however this “polly anna-ish” tendancy to take legislators and lobbyists at their word (even when, as in this case, the truth is in writing, recorded as a law and readable by anyone) doesnt serve Techdirt, or the rest of America very well.

Ariel says:



“A quick backgrounder: 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.”

This has nothing to do with what formats you can and can’t read on the Kindle. You *can* still read mobi format on the Kindle, Amazon designed it to read that format natively. If you have books in that format, you can drop them directly on the Kindle.

It sounds like what this script did is “hacked” the Kindle to read the *DRM FROM OTHER STORES*. That’s a big difference. I suspect Amazon doesn’t care if you convert the document to their format (through various means, they even provide a way to do it themselves).

It sounds like Amazon doesn’t want their reader itself to be violating DRM protection, even if it was the end user that modified it.

Michael B (profile) says:

Re: Sigh...

You contradict yourself… if the Kindle can natively read Mobipocket-format eBooks, simply generating a PID (or retrieving it) is simply displaying the device ID to the owner. There is no circumvention of any DRM system involved. The simple act of displaying or generating a PID is not removing DRM, since the PID itself is already part of the device.

another mike says:

time to buy the dev kit

E-Ink sells a dev kit for their displays, includes the display itself and all controller hardware, tosses in the linux drivers for it too. All you have to do is add a radio, case-mod the thing and load your distro. Instant e-book reader.

If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. That’s becoming the only way to get consumer electronics that really do what you want.

/hack the planet

And I was all... (profile) says:


Hey, remember when the Author’s Guild got all antsy about Amazon’s used books program, and Jeff Bezos was all, “Blah, blah…right of sale…blah, blah…support independent used booksellers…blah, blah…live with it suckas!”? And now Bezos is all, “No sharing, no selling, no lending–We own you kindle-buying bitches!”

Those monopolistic bastards will have to pry my Calibre-loving Sony Reader from my cold dead hands.

A Sells rep says:

Why down on the Kindle.
Just because we want you to buy our books with our software, and retain the right to see what you have on our reader whenever we want, doesn’t give you the right to slam our business model.

Maybe you’d like us to remind you that even when you cross the US Border the border guards have the right (and soon the obligation) to search your Kindle’s for unauthorized content, and then we can come after you to help our economy even more.

Chuck Lawson (user link) says:

Vice Versa

Ariel is on the right track. What these tools do is allow you to take an Amazon purchased Kindle document and strip the DRM so they can be used on other devices (including Kindles not registered to the account that bought the document.)

So yeah, this is pretty much exactly what the DMCA had in mind.

There are no problems putting non-DRM’d documents in Mobipocket (the Kindle’s native format) on a Kindle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Vice Versa

No, they do not (remove DRM from the “Kindle” file). There *are* scripts to do so, but that is not what this does. That is the point – the script isn’t removing any DRM to allow you to read Amazon content on some other device; it’s allowing you to buy content from competitors and put this DRM’d content on your Kindle. It’s not copyright infringement Amazon are trying to suppress here; it’s competition.

anonymous commenter says:

returning my Kindle 2

Folks, read the source post before commenting. This python program that is the source of the controversy does not, by itself, strip DRM from the Kindle nor does it modify any data/software on the Kidle. It is used to get the unique identifier for your Kindle, the PID. When you purchase a book from another e-book store, like Mobipocket, they use the PID from your device to encrypt your purchased book with DRM. The PID is embedded within the DRM so you can use that purchased book on that device. By refusing to provide you your PID and using the DMCA to prevent you from obtaining the PID yourself, Amazon is trying to prevent you from putting books that you have legally purchased on your Kindle. They want your purchases to be from Amazon and Amazon only.

Krylen (user link) says:

This is why I won't buy a Kindle

Ever read Richard Stallman’s essay “A Right to Read”? I did some time ago and thought it was an excellent thought experiment to show just how bad things could be. Then what happens? laws like the DMCA, devices like the Kindle, the scary fiction became the terrifying reality. Really, the Kindle seems like a great device that I would absolutely love, but as long as it remains chained to DRM and the ability for others to control what I am and am not allowed to read I will never ever buy one. Please do not support devices that are hampered with DRM, it may not seem like a big deal now, but you will regret it down the road when others control your content without your permission.

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