Ito_JoichiThe Internet was and is a powerful tool for transforming how people interact with one another, and how we obtain access to information—including e-books. But as with any powerful tool, powerful interests such as the media industry see the need to lock down how it can be used. One of those tools is DRM.

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and former CEO of Creative Commons, has posted a thoughtful essay about all the different harnesses these interests and government have imposed on the Internet. Those include the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision, which makes it a crime to unlock content you already own; the implementation of DRM into the World Wide Web’s standards, which risks both security and the loss of information as time goes by and standards change; laws making it a crime not to report transactions of greater than $10,000, which needlessly collect financial information into databases that can be hacked; and the government’s attempt to force Apple and other Silicon Valley firms to put backdoors into their systems, which can and have been exploited by hackers.

The part most relevant to e-books is, of course, the DMCA section. The anti-circumvention provision represents one of the more obnoxious restrictions on e-books and other consumer digital media, even as it’s also one of the most commonly-ignored. But the whole essay and the discussion around it are interesting enough to read in full.

It seems as though our freedom to use the media we purchase and the Internet as a whole are continually under assault in the name of “security.” Sooner or later, I hope enough people will get fed up enough with it to push back.

(Found via BoingBoing.)

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TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.


  1. Of more concern than what’s happening the U.S. is the fact that some of the companies that appear eager to fight flawed firewalls, backdoors, and politicized apps here, seem eager to appease repressive foreign regimes when they represent enough profits.

    For an illustration, check the city list in Apple’s iOS Clock app. Look particularly at the country listing (or lack thereof) for the following pairs of cities:


    Lhasa (Tibet)
    Taipei (Taiwan)

    You’ll catch the strong scent of profits. China and the Arab world with their repressive governments have a lot of money and Apple listens to how China feels about Tibetan and Taiwan cities, as well as what the Arab world feels about Gaza and Jerusalem. In contrast, democratic Israel and Taiwan are small and have powerful foes who want them crushed out of existence. Listening to the bully and ignoring the bullied is firmly embedded in Apple policy.

    And I must emphasize that lots of money is necessary to get that politicized app spin. In earlier full-digit versions of Clock, Stanley in the Falkland Islands wasn’t listed although microscopic scientific sites in Antartica and U.S. cities with only a few thousand in population were. Why? Argentina would not be happy. But given the sad state of the Argentinian economy, in the latest version of iOS Stanley and the Falkland Islands did rate mention.

    Actions speak louder than words, although in the case perhaps I should say money speaks the loudest. it reminds me of how Hollywood in the 1930s never got around to making a major or B-grade picture about the evils of Nazi Germany.

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