A Leaked Contract Reveals that Amazon Insists on DRM
Update: This post is now 10 hours old and in that time I have been told by at least 20 different people on 5 different websites that I am wrong in how I interpreted this contract. You might want to take this with a grain of salt.
Jeff Bezos likes to say that Amazon is agnostic on the topic of DRM, but if the boilerplate contract I have sitting in front of me is any indication then I think he might not be telling the whole truth.
I have a copy of an Amazon contract which says that Amazon will use DRM on Kindle ebooks unless they agree otherwise. This contract, which I am told originally came from an ebook distributor, was passed along to me by the editors of Actualitte, a French media blog. They had posted a detailed analysis of this contract earlier this week but were unable to share the contract publicly because of pressure brought by Amazon.
I have posted a copy of the contract as a PDF, and I want you to look at it and read the section on DRM:
Unless we mutually agree otherwise, we will use DRM in connection with the download of the eBooks, and we may use any available digital book DRM technology.
Please note that this is an Amazon contract and that Amazon is the one who is insisting on the DRM. That makes this an interesting contrast, IMO, with Bezos' statements that "If the rights owner wants DRM, we do DRM. If the rights owner doesn’t want DRM, we don’t do DRM."
The contract clause mentioned above is by no means agnostic on the topic of DRM. It unequivocally tells us that Amazon is the one who gets to decide whether the ebooks have DRM. It also tells us that Amazon _will_ be adding DRM to Kindle ebooks unless the other party can talk them out of it.
Amazon’s position (on DRM) in this contract is far from agnostic, and it is in fact much closer to their stated position for audiobook DRM. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, Amazon requires DRM on audiobooks and does not give content creators a choice in the matter:
Audible audio files cannot be converted to MP3 or any other file format because of security technologies used to protect both the intellectual property rights of our Content Providers as well as the Authors.
Audible justifies their policy with the statement that their proprietary audiobook format was required to provide the best listening experience for customers. This might be true, but it’s also not relevant to the fact that Audible doesn’t give creators the option of not using DRM. And that same policy applies to audiobooks sold on the Amazon website, so it’s not like Amazon can claim that a subsidiary was making different decisions.
I have contacted Amazon for a comment, but they have not responded. If they respond I will update this post.