Is Amazon's New Silk 'Cloud' Browser A Huge Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Waiting To Happen?
from the caching dept
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.