Friday, July 24, 2009


When you purchase a paperback copy of, say, George Orwell’s 1984 from Amazon, you might assume it’s yours to keep. But what if you purchase a digital copy? Still yours to keep? For thousands of people last week the answer was no. All Things Digital senior editor Peter Kafka explains.

Comments [4]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

This whole story and the hysterics Mr. Pesca added to it with his low key theatrics was, if you'll excuse the phrase, Kafkaesque. Orwell's O'Brien is in charge and Winston Smith is still hard at work.

It reminds me of being assigned to read Franz' "The Penal Colony" in German, aloud in class. My ability to read the words phonetically was quite good but as the translated meaning of the words began to penetrate my mind, I was seized by nausea and ran to the bathroom without permission.

The ludicrousness of the premise of the coverage here left me similarly moved.

Jul. 31 2009 09:10 AM
David from Rhode Island

There are a few problems with this story. First, the snarky reference to WalMart having any inclination to march into you home and take something back like "jackbooted thugs" is beyond ridiculous. What a preposterous assumption and gross prejudice against a corporation in keeping with the general prejudice at NPR and especially OTM against corporations.

Alex had it exactly right, the customer was never told they owned it, contrary to the assumption that was apparently made by the guest host, Mike Peska (sp?). It was always clear that these files we provided with certain rights and restrictions associated with the purchase, and that there was risk that the company providing the service could go out of business and so you were just out of luck for whatever you had paid to listen to from that service. That was one of the tradeoffs in getting a much lower price.

Finally, the fact that the guest, Peter Kafka, finds Amazon's refusal to rule out taking material back like they did with 1984 UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES "worrisome" is what is worrisome. He would expect them to, for example, ignore a court order to do so if so instructed? Or, more debatable, if they found out after the fact that someone had hacked into a book file and put in dangerous/slanderous/who-knows-what-else material? No company should make such a blanket statement that encompasses circumstances they may not have even dreamed about yet.

Jul. 28 2009 09:07 PM
alex from Brooklyn

Another critical mistake from Mr. Pesca(?):

No one tells him that he "owns" these digital files. This, in fact, *IS* the critical difference between tapes and downloads. This is the legal difference. And in this story, it a gross violation of NPR's standards for accuracy to get this fundamental an element of the story wrong.

What he owns is right, not the file itself. As such, if the right was "granted" by someone who did not have the the right to do so, he never actually acquired the right.

We can argue about whether is *should* be this way or not, but for now that is the way it *is*.

Of course, despite his implication to the contrary, he owns CDs just like he owns tape. CD, despite their digital format, are not just electronic licenses.

Jul. 27 2009 09:39 PM
Jodi Smith from Oregon

Another reason to avoid the Kindle. Not only do I avoid paying the cost of the device (and then having to continue to buy updates of the device forever), but I can put my real book on my shelf and read it anytime without a battery.
I see good reasons for electronic books, but this idea that you buy something, but it's not yours is foolishness. I don't like it that not only Amazon, but maybe the Chinese government or ours, can just go in and delete, edit, etc. material on the Kindle. It is the future we've been warned about by Science Fiction writers for years.

Jul. 26 2009 04:53 PM

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