From Techdirt comes this upsetting but not terribly surprising story about a Georgetown professor who downloaded a Google Books update while travelling, and then had it ‘undownload’ his books when it detected he was outside the USA.

From the article:Google Books

“What makes this tale particularly noteworthy is the way it brings together a host of really bad ideas that the publishing and distribution industries insist on deploying. There’s DRM that means you can’t make backups; there’s the country-specific usage that tries to impose physical geography on your digital ebooks; and there’s the update that spies on you and your system before deciding unilaterally to take away functionality by ‘undownloading’ your ebooks. And copyright maximalists wonder why people turn to unauthorized downloads….”

Hear, hear! Although, I can’t say I am terribly surprised by a story like this. I remember travelling to the U.S. for a vacation with my iPad once, and several legal-in-Canada apps, including the CBC Video app, would not play while I was outside Canadian borders.

I have no illusions whatsoever that any app I download has the means to spy on me and detect all sorts of things. That’s why I only purchase DRM-free books now. I’m fine with Big Pub telling me what I’m allowed to do with content I don’t own, such as library books.

But when I buy it, it’s mine and I expect to be able to do as I please.


  1. Digital Rights Management are not Consumer Rights. That’s why I tend to use my Kindle in offline mode as often as I can, and that’s why I always strip DRM from my ebooks. My ebooks should be mine, whatever the licence says.

    Companies don’t trust me, so I should not trust companies and neither should you.