Is this what will eventually happen to Nook and Kindle libraries?

Despite the language on the web that says we “buy” ebooks, there’s a real lack of established law as to what the rights of the purchaser include. In the case of Microsoft, it appears that all you’ve bought is a free, long-term lease with a right to an eventual refund. Interesting approach.

Microsoft Closes The Book On Its E-Library, Erasing All User Content


A man reads a book on his e-book reader device. In July, Microsoft will be deleting its e-book library and ceasing all e-book sales.

Joerg Sarbach/AP

Coffee poured. Pillow fluffed. E-book loaded. You’re ready to begin a delightful afternoon on your e-reader when, poof, the book disappears.

Starting in July, Microsoft will be closing its e-book library and erasing all content purchased through the Microsoft e-bookstore from devices. Consumers will receive a refund for every e-book bought.

The company is able to shutter its store – which it launched in 2017 to compete with industry leaders Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble – due to a tool called Digital Rights Management or DRM.

DRM allows companies to control content to protect copyright holders and prevent piracy.

“One of the things that I think people don’t realize that’s crucially important is that DRM and related software tools are embedded in all sorts of devices that we buy,” Aaron Perzanowski, the author of The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

“Your car, your smart home appliances, your home security system – all of these systems have software that allows for this kind of control over how the devices are used, and I think we’re going to see these same sorts of situations crop up in the context of physical devices that are being used in people’s homes.”


Aaron Perzanowski @APerzanowski

It’s time for @FTC to consider whether a refund is really sufficient when a seller confiscates your media or bricks your device. 

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The way DRM is widely employed has been criticized by consumers and earned calls for regulation of Big Tech companies.

“The initial vision for DRM was that it was going to allow for the sale of digital goods online in a way that reduced the risk of copyright infringement,” Perzanowski says.

“As this technology has been deployed what we’ve seen is that the big beneficiaries of DRM have not been copyright holders. They have been technology companies like Amazon, like Microsoft, who are able to control these ecosystems to make it harder for consumers to switch over to new platforms.”

In a University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Perzanowski found that users are often misled when they click the “Buy Now” button, thinking that they’ve gained permanent ownership of digital content.

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