Who really owns purchased media files with DRM?

While I do realize this is a little old, it’s a topic that’s also not likely to go away any time soon. Earlier this month both Electronista and BoingBoing reported on the remote disabling of text-to-speech for Amazon Kindle e-books. The Authors Guild is claiming that text-to-speech is an unauthorized audiobook performance and is thus subject to this particular facet of copyright restriction.

But, in particular, the Electronista article linked above mentions some interesting questions asked of Amazon. I quote part of the article here:

I’m specifically interested because Amazon has announced a “DRM-free” version of the Kindle format and I’d love to sell my books on the platform if it’s really DRM-free. To that end, I’ve put three questions to Amazon:

1. Is there anything in the Kindle EULA that prohibits moving your purchased DRM-free Kindle files to a competing device?

2. Is there anything in the Kindle file-format (such as a patent or trade-secret) that would make it illegal to produce a Kindle format-reader or converter for a competing device?

3. What flags are in the DRM-free Kindle format, and can a DRM-free Kindle file have its features revoked after you purchase it?

An honest company would answer “no” to the first two and the second part of the third. I really would like to trust Amazon here. However, this is the same Amazon that has arbitrarily locked accounts for “excessive” returns, while intentionally not defining “excessive.” Another Electronista article tells the woes of someone who just wanted products that worked. Not entirely unreasonable for a consumer to want, in my opinion.

I am still awaiting an e-book reader that does not support DRM at all, only unencumbered formats like PDF and DejaVu. This is a product I would not mind buying. The music industry learned DRM doesn’t work, the TV and movie industry is assumably not far behind. Why do book authors insist upon trying to hang onto it?

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