How Publishers & Copyright Gave Amazon The Very Power That Publishers Now Hate
from the which-was-totally-predictable dept
We’ve been meaning to weigh in some more on the whole Amazon/Hachette battle, because lot of misinformation has been spewed around (including by Paul Krugman). Unfortunately there have just been too many other things to cover and we haven’t had the time to do a more thorough piece. However, Tim Lee, over at Vox, has a good short piece detailing how many of the publishers’ problems are really because of copyright law and the stupid DRM that the publishers themselves demanded — and which now gives Amazon its power over them in the market. The issue? The DMCA and the fact that Section 1201 makes it illegal to circumvent any DRM (even if for non-infringing purposes). End result, all those books on Amazon are stuck on Amazon.
Amazon has taken advantage of the DMCA too. Kindle books come copy-protected so that only Amazon-approved software can read it without breaking the law. Of course, software to convert it to other formats exists, but it’s illegal and accordingly isn’t very convenient or user-friendly.
And that creates a huge barrier to entry. People who want to create new e-reader apps or devices can’t do what MP3 startups did in the 1990s and offer to automatically import your existing e-books from Kindle, iTunes, or other major platforms. Instead, they have to start from scratch, creating their own e-book store and convincing all the major publishers to sign up for it.
Even more daunting, they have to convince customers to toss their existing e-book libraries and buy new copies of their e-books on the new platform ? or split their time between multiple platforms.
The thing is, none of this is even remotely surprising. Almost six years ago, we warned book publishers of this exact scenario. This wasn’t hard to predict, because the same damn thing had happened in music, before Apple finally dumped its music DRM. But no one listens to us.
And yet, you can bet that if changing the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA is up for discussion during the next effort at copyright reform, the book publishers and their lobbyists will actually be among the most vocal about keeping it the way it is. They still don’t seem to recognize how their own demands for DRM created the situation they’re so worried about today with Amazon having more power than the publishers like.