Monday, August 3, 2009

Vanishing in the Middle of the Night

Let's say you go to Barnes & Noble and purchase the latest thriller. You are reading it, totally engrossed. You want to keep reading, but finally fall asleep late at night. In the morning, you wake up and your book is gone. In its place is a small pile of money exactly equal to the purchase price of the book.

Well, it happened to thousands of people recently. Amazon removed a couple of e-books from thousands of Kindles recently claiming the versions they sold were still under copywrite protection. Ironically, two of the books involved were 1984 and Animal Farm. As you may expect, Amazon is being sued over this already.

This action leads to all kinds of questions about the ownership of digital media. If you buy some digital music, you can always burn it to CD or transfer it to another hard drive not connected to the internet. With media like the Kindle, there is no way to transfer it to another device. Therefore, Amazon always has the option to delete it (and they have).

Let's go to the next step. Any online information is subject to change. We are now at Orwell's point where history can start being rewritten easily. We have all seen it on some local blogs where the author goes back and changes his original posting after criticisms are made. People here are free to remove comments (I will admit I have edited blogs after posting for bad errors, but I use strikethrough for the original text so everyone can see the changes I made). However, many amateur bloggers don't exactly hold themselves to very high standards in case you haven't noticed.

The Internet Archive attempts to help by taking regular snapshots of the internet. I have found it difficult to use and incomplete, unfortunately. I applaud them for their effort as any organization that attempts to stop potential shenanigans with history has my support.


kkdither said...

I never looked at it that seriously. As owner of a blog, if I wanted to add something or change a few words, I just figured I had artistic license to do so.

Changing something underhandedly, especially after criticism, though, is totally different. The JT did, and I believe still does, that frequently. They've put forward incorrect information or sleazy journalism, then change or delete without notation.

If I've had to alter something that changes a blog, I believe I've always indicated it in red.

Now you have me worried. Did I alter history? OOOhhh. Not claiming any authority or journalist talent, who would really care?

OrbsCorbs said...

I edit blogs after posting them, primarily to correct mistakes or clarify something. After kk commented on the "clip" of a BBC documentary that I'd embedded in a recent blog, I went back and added to the blog that the embedded video was a playlist. (I misunderstood her comment, but you understand my motives.)

However, if there has been a development that ties directly to the blog, or there's further news, etc., I will type in a break line (----------) at the end of the blog. Below that, I post "EDIT," usually noting the time, and then add whatever it is.

Amazon's defense is that since they (unknowingly) didn't have the rights to the books, distributing them was akin to distributing stolen property.
Stolen property should be confiscated and returned to the rightful owner.

A sticky wicket, indeed!

hale-bopp said...

I understand that argument about stolen property, but let me give you a real life example.

I love an acapella group called the Bobs. They released a Christmas CD called Too Many Santas featuring a song called Santa's Got a Brand New Bag based on Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. After the CD was released, it turned out they didn't have the rights to the song and had to recut the CD without the song. However, no one came into my house to take back the CD I previously bought. Am I a criminal in posession of stolen property?

As for blogs, I don't have a problem with correcting minor typos or even making a bigger correction if its all documented (I even consider the ability to add updates like that a strength of this medium, orbs). The problem is if someone tries to do a total rewrite of history ala 1984 and are we making it very easy to do that with our reliance on digital information? Think big picture on this one.