As we migrate to this digital retail society, we need to be very careful about the “Rights Management” that we allow or take part of. I’m all for authors and artists protecting their content. I just get worried when I see a system that is so controlling that it could be used for other purposes. Recently Amazon.com did a recall of a digital download book because there were some permission conflicts. In the past if a publisher made a mistake in a publication, then they simply stopped the presses and worked it out in court. The lucky few who purchased a miss print were now proud owners of rare books. But now, with digital rights management, the book is yanked from your digital hands without permission or warning. Of course Amazon.com credited the people back the $9.99 for the original purchase and I don’t want to pick on Amazon. I want to draw attention to the fact that we are reaching a point where removing a book from the shelves is easier then ever. As the ease of sharing information increases, we need to be weary of the ease of controlling information.
We are heading to a time where the majority of all our information sharing will be done digitally to the extent that many sources of information are now only available digitally. What Amazon.com did was understandable. But imagine if it had been a book that was removed because of it’s content being claimed a libel. Sounds good too right, but what if it was a goverment offical claming that the content was libel and the publisher, not wanting to anger a governement offical recalled the book and removed it from the history records… It’s starting to sound a little to close to a fictional story we would all hope never to become true.
Sure, right now, it’s not a concern. Because book publishers love to print works that smear polititions. But just because that is the case now, does not mean we should surrender our expectation of information control over to publishers. Don’t buy technology that takes away your control over the information you obtain. Require publishers and technology companies to come up with a better solution to rights managment that doesn’t force us to surrender to their whim.