Defective by Design logo

I don’t put Digital Rights Management (DRM) software on the ebooks I sell; it doesn’t work, so why bother?  So I’ve never had an issue with Defective by Design and their campaign against DRM.  To be sure, our opinions differ, DbD essentially objecting to DRM on a philosophical level, and me on a practical level, but I never considered the difference an issue.

Until I discovered something about the ebooks I was posting to the Amazon website: My product pages were getting vandalized, as far as I’m concerned, with “defectivebydesign” and “drm-infested” tags, despite the fact that my ebooks had no DRM applied to them.

At first I thought someone with a personal grudge was singling me out for grief, or some other author was tagging the competition to diminish their sales.  What I recently found out that it was DbD, intentionally tagging all Kindle books.  Their reason: Amazon, in their opinion, was E-VILLE because of their willingness to apply DRM to books, their exercising control over lending of books, and their ability to monitor (and potentially remove) what was on customer’s Kindles.

DbD’s answer to fight the Evil Empire: To tag every ebook vendor’s books with their anti-DRM tags, regardless of whether DRM is there, to protest Amazon’s actions.  Their “Kindle Swindle” campaign is openly devoted to this practice.

This, to me, is the equivalent of protesting a grocery store’s business practices by attacking the delivery trucks of its vendors, and beating up the customers that approach the store.  In short, it is petty thuggery, the strategy of the stupid bully.  And most importantly, it does not bother Amazon in the least, because it does not affect them in any way.  Amazon won’t even be bothered removing the tags from product pages, which indicates how little the issue concerns them.  DbD is wasting their time, and making selling hard on ME and other vendors… not Amazon.

Message to Defective by Design: If you don’t like DRM, that’s fine with me.  But if they have a beef with Amazon… take it up with Amazon.  Stop sabotaging the work of honest creators who share your beliefs and follow your examples… you’re not hurting your intended target at all, and you’re making yourselves look stupid.


  1. Wow. OK, spotted them now. Many are normally not visible due to having been voted down. That is bad. But I still haven’t spotted the DbD web page encouraging people to tag all Kindle ebooks with “defectivebydesign” or “drm infected”. I did find the page encouraging people to tag all Kindle ebooks with “kindle swindle” which seems a little bit silly, but not a campaign to tag non-drm books with drm tags..

  2. On the page, the detail for the tagging campaign, DbD clearly states the method by which to tag Kindle books: “Amazon makes it very easy to tag pages if you have javascript enabled. * Go to a product page. * Press “tt”. * Enter the tags: kindle swindle, defectivebydesign, drm” DbD is apparently trying to retcon their pages to remove the tag references I’ve mentioned (“defectivebydesign” and “drm-infected” were referenced on the Kindle Swindle page yesterday), but they haven’t gotten to the detail page yet, and I’ve got a screen shot of the text above on their page if there are any doubts. DbD makes no distinction between DRM’d and non-DRM’d books, and does not ask its followers to do so: “Our goal is to make “Kindle Swindle” the number one tag on the Kindle and on Kindle ebooks, so please help us and get tagging!” Since there are no “non-Kindle ebooks” in the Kindle store, this is clearly intended to be applied to all ebooks sold by Amazon.

  3. Please do not confuse the organizers of the campaign with the people actually following through with those actions. I don’t know who added the misleading tags, but it could be someone unaffiliated with the Free Software Foundation or Defective by Design.

  4. Hi Steven, We do not intend to tag all Kindle books. The intent was only to tag books that actually have DRM. When the Kindle first started, all available books were in fact DRMed, so some of our older published materials don’t make a distinction. However, since then, we have highlighted and praised authors who do DRM-free, and asked people to tag those books accordingly with drmfree (see We’re clarifying the instructions on the page that you pointed to. I’m sorry your books got tagged incorrectly, and for any role we may have had in that confusion. It was not at all what we intended, so I hope we can keep working together in the future to make the DRM/DRM-free distinctions correctly. And, thank you very much for releasing your works without DRM. John Sullivan Executive Director, Free Software Foundation

  5. John, I’m glad to hear you’re clarifying your pages and being more discriminate in what you tag. As I said, I agree with the idea of avoiding DRM (if only because it doesn’t work), and I applaud your dedication to that end. I just don’t want to see that campaign erroneously targeting the wrong people. And I still believe you need to be taking the issue up with Amazon, not with its vendors.

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