Tell Amazon: Books and Libraries Shouldn't Have a Kill Switch

Imagine if you came home and discovered all of your bookshelves ransacked, their contents nowhere to be found. That's what happened to Amazon customer Linn, but the bookshelves were digital. Three years ago, Amazon showed the world that they have the power to delete copies of books from readers' Kindles en masse, and now they are finally taking heat for exerting this power over readers' entire libraries.

An Amazon customer, Linn, had her account closed without warning or explanation and was no longer able to read or access her library. She was told by Amazon that the account had ties to another account that had been closed for abusing their policies, but Amazon refused to back up that claim. Their terms of service state that they can close users' accounts without warning, consent, disclosure of which terms were allegedly violated, or even how they determined that any violation took place. Even if Linn had violated the terms of service, it wouldn't justify having the power to destroy a person's collection of knowledge and stories.

Nor is this an isolated incident. Other Amazon customers have received the same emails sent to Linn, and users have been complaining about Amazon closing their accounts in a similar fashion for years. While Linn's account has been reinstated, this is not enough. So long as companies like Amazon use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to keep the files and devices they sell under their control, users will be at their mercy for access to media. How many customers over the years have had experiences like Linn's or worse before the this story was picked up? What would have happened had the Internet not rallied to help Linn?

Books, media, and the devices we use to view them should not come with a remote kill switch. Readers should, for example, be able to keep offline copies of their ebooks in a format that they can load onto a different device if they want or need to. Amazon is the largest distributor of ebooks in the world and therefore the biggest threat to readers' ability to have control over their own books. While Amazon is an important target in our campaign to end technological restrictions over the free flow and exchange of information, it is important to remember that these issues are not specific to the Kindle, or even Amazon, but any media and devices that are encumbered by DRM.

We need to flood Amazon with an outpouring of condemnation against this kind of control over the media in our lives. Join us in telling Amazon that maintaining the power to remotely destroy or block access to books is unacceptable. You can subscribe to our action alert email list to find out about future actions against DRM.

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    PO Box 81226
    Seattle, WA 98108-1226