I read Richard Stallman’s The Right to Read in 1997, when I was an undergrad at MIT. If you haven’t read it, go read it, now. It’s classic Stallman: clear, crisp, and chilling. At the time, I thought “okay, I’m a free software developer, and Richard is brilliant, but this seems a bit over the top, a bit paranoid.”
Oh how things change in 10 years.
Amazon just released Kindle, its e-book technology. Mark Pilgrim sums up his thoughts in a way that many, including me, strongly connect with. Here’s an excerpt from the Kindle terms of service:
You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content.
Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate without notice from Amazon if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees.
And the crazy thing is that, after DVDs, DRMed music, and Windows Genuine Advantage, this clause is not that surprising…. except maybe if you think back to before the Internet, before online music, before Youtube, and you remember the idea of holding a physical book, and the freedom that entailed. Why would the digital version be more constrained?