In the wake of the controversy surrounding Amazon’s deletion of George Orwell books the Free Software Foundation is readying a petition against remote deletion and DRM. This news is somewhat significant, as the Free Software Foundation is an organization that has some weight in the world of software activism. Most famous for the GNU Project(and the related GPL license), the foundation can be thought of as the de facto head of the open source and free software movements.
The Free Software Foundation has acknowledged Bezos’ apology, but feel that it isn’t enough. The petition will ask that Amazon completely relinquish the ability to make changes to users’ Kindle libraries. One interesting point up is how the technology could provide a tool for censorship, especially as the Kindle enters new markets. This argument is likely inspired by other companies. For example, Google has taken criticism in the past for how it has assisted China’s government in censoring the internet.
For good measure, the petition will also ask Amazon to reevaluate the use of DRM. I have to say that this seems unlikely. Amazon’s view towards DRM is completely irrelevant: if the Kindle didn’t have DRM, the major publishers would stop supporting it. While DRM has its downsides, Amazon doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.
Still, the petition has gotten some notice. Once signatures have been assembled and the Free Software Foundation presents the petition, it will be interesting to see how Amazon responds. So far, Amazon has been pretty good about responding to their customers, so it is possible that they will try to listen to the petition (except of course the DRM). Then again, Microsoft has ignored the Free Software Foundation for decades and it hasn’t really been that difficult for them.