Dahl's Mutant Books Are the Definitive Sign: We've Lost Control of Our Digital Content

In 2009 one of the first signs arrived. Amazon remotely erased copies of the book ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’, both by George Orwell, which some customers had bought for their Kindle. The reason was a conflict with copyright, that is, a problem of the company, not of its customers. Amazon returned the money, but it was symptomatic of how we were losing control of our content.

We were still in the early stages of digital ecosystems and paid content platforms. They had existed for some time, but it was not so common then to dare to checkout online. Perhaps that is why many of us did not know how to interpret it as a subtle sign of what could come with the rise of digital content controlled by a distributor.

This month we have seen The sign that should dispel any remaining doubts, also related to this platform: “Dahl’s eBooks are being updated without asking for permission. Your Kindle books are not yours and cannot be inherited“, counted Genbeta some days ago.

together with us forever

In these years there have been more examples. In 2013, comiXology, which would end up being bought by Amazon, removed 56 comics from its iOS app by the very puritanical rules of the Apple App Store.

Apple itself starred in particularly disturbing news in 2018: an iTunes Store user discovered that three movies he had purchased were missing from his library. The reason, that the distributor had canceled the license and those movies were no longer available. Not even for those who had bought.

That day we understood that the purchases of digital content that we cannot download without DRM to our team are actually rentals for an indefinite period, and that each one act as they see fit.

Disney+, upon its arrival in Spain in 2019, not only chose an incorrect aspect ratio that he loaded many of the jokes (something already corrected), but it came with controversy for delete michael jackson episode twenty-five years after its premiere.

HBO Max pushed hard to get all the episodes of South Park, but decided not to issue five of them. Never. The reason: that they contained cartoon images of Muhammad, something prohibited by Islam and that already led to death threats to its writers in 2010. Someone with the series downloaded on their own in digital or physical format will never be in danger of losing those five episodes but whoever decided to entrust it to a foreign distribution will be left without seeing them. The same as the one who paid nine euros to buy a movie and after a while they took it out of their hands.

Or the same as whoever does all in to the music in streaming: the day the rights of our favorite group change hands, the rules may change and there may be exclusivity for a platform other than the one we use.

Today it sounds crazy, but for some reason we have normalized that all the songs are in the same app, and then series and movies live fragmented.

Other cases are to be taken much less seriously, such as when Netflix an episode of Maya the Bee was charged for containing a penis carved from a tree. But lose certain movies that we were supposed to have paid for or see how a book that we have bought is rewritten by someone else’s willwithout having any option control over it to at least override those changes, leaves little room for doubt.

There are movies, series, books and music that I want to feel linked to me forever because they have helped shape me throughout my life. It does not seem to me an acceptable option to entrust them to outside platforms that at a given moment will be able to withdraw them from my reach or modify them, even in which a purchase is supposed to have been made.

I will continue reading or watching streaming content on these types of platforms, but in works that transcend, I will contemplate other types of ownership relationships. Maybe for the same principle vinyl sales continue to rampage and they are already much more than a hipster hobby or a niche for nostalgics. They are something that belongs to us and of which no one can deprive or modify us.

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Featured Image | Javier Lacort with Midjourney.

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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