A box from Amazon.com is pictured on July 23, 2008. (Reuters)Companies take digital rights management (DRM) very, very seriously in the wake of worldwide digital piracy, and it looks like Amazon is sticking to its guns when it comes to enforcing a no-tolerance policy.
Norwegian media commentator Martin Bekkelund recently shared a story on his blog about his friend Linn, who had her Amazon account closed and her Kindle wiped remotely without warning. According to Bekkelund's blog post, Linn (no last name given) contacted Amazon after she discovered her account had been removed and her Kindle was empty, thinking it was a mistake. However when Amazon replied, they offered this as an explanation:
Dear Linn [last name],
My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.
We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.
Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.
Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.
You may direct any questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your attention to this email.
Michael Murphy Executive Customer Relations Amazon.co.uk
Understandably taken aback by the response, Linn replied to the email, asking which account hers was related to and how, exactly, she had become related to it, when she'd only ever had one account open with Amazon.
But further correspondence with Murphy only clarified two things: Amazon was refusing to explain exactly why her account was closed, and Linn had very little hope of reclaiming account, or the content that she paid for.
The incident is similar to one that took place three years ago, when Amazon erased all copies of 1984and Animal Farm by George Orwell after they had been uploaded and sold on the site by an unauthorized dealer.
While the removal of the books by Amazon — both Linn's collection and the Orwellian sweep — has greatly angered users, Amazon's actions are, in fact, within their terms of service.
As Digital Trends points out, Amazon very explicitly states that when customers pay for ebooks and other content on their Kindle or other e-reader, they are paying to license the content, not to purchase it. Bekkelund explains in his post that DRM is what controls this 'rental' of content, and under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Amazon can take away that content and all your future access to it if they suspect you of not playing by the rules.
While it would be more to Linn's liking to a) get her content back or at least b) know exactly why her account was terminated in the first place, it looks like the content Linn paid for is gone, at least for now; there have been past incidents where Amazon has reversed a decision to delete an account if they recognize an error has been made, but as stated in the email Linn had received, that's not very common practice.