DRM Hates Linux

As tempting as the Kindle (and now the competing B&N reader) are as alternatives to paper books, it’s really frustrating how much they’re hindered by DRM issues.

They’ve both recently released reader applications for the PC (meaning – for them – Windows only, and soon for Mac), but no equivalent versions have been announced for Linux. I can only assume that this is because they are afraid that the Linux OS will allow for easier hacking / working around the DRM features of the app. While this is probably true, it’s a frustrating reminder that these guys haven’t learned the lessons that the music industry already spent a lot of time and effort trying (unsuccessfully) to ignore / avoid.

This case in particular is doubly frustrating, because the original devices themselves (Kindle and the B&N Nook) are both actually based on Linux themselves, so their software certainly would work in Linux, if they chose to allow it.

This leads one to believe that the hardware almost certainly employs a tactic that has become known as “Tivoization“, a practice that exploits a loophole in earlier versions of licenses like the GPL, which has been addressed in v3 of that license. The term was coined because of the Tivo hardware, which used Linux as a base and therefore was required to be released under the GPL, but the hardware itself imposed constraints designed to prevent the running of any modified software, even though the modifications had to be allowed under the license.

The same probably applies to the Roku Netflix player, which supports instant watch streaming and is also built on Linux, while at the same time Netflix does not support a player for general purpose Linux use.

While the Kindle reader app will work on Linux under WINE (just verified it now on my system), I’m really hoping these guys will eventually “see the light” and stop doing this kind of thing. I think the best hope on this front is currently Android. As it continues to gain ground, I hope that the pressure to release a reader app on that platform will allow them to overcome these hesitations.

This entry was posted in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>