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?

Hidden traps in the Windows 7 beta EULA

As reported in Ed Bott’s recent blog article, Microsoft is up to their usual nasty tricks with the license for the beta version of Windows 7.

Even though it is far from new, I find the prohibition on benchmarking particularly obnoxious. A company that truly believes they are releasing a superior version of an existing product should be able to accept a benchmark with a previous (and intended-to-soon-be-inferior) version as yet more feedback. But this isn’t just any company, this is Microsoft, and publishing a benchmark subjects you to immediately losing your privilege of running the Windows 7 beta.

Continuing in this same theme, Microsoft has specifically forbidden the use of the Windows 7 beta in a production environment. That, combined with the prohibition on benchmarking, suggests very strongly to me that this is just a pacifier for the people who really hate Windows Vista and Microsoft just wants people to casually kick the tires and rev the engine a little bit, not really test what new PCs will ship with this summer.

And of course, there’s the expiration date. On 2009 August 1, your Windows 7 beta chariot turns into a pumpkin. I suspect this can and will be defeated by some enterprising souls, but given the de facto corporate police state of Windows starting with XP with regard to validation and activation, it probably won’t be easy.

I’ve looked back enough, so I’ll wrap this up before I turn into a pillar of sand, or something.