The Free Software Foundation's Defective By Design campaign just added the Amazon Kindle to its list of DRM-related offenders. The organization started a petition against Amazon for restricting readers' access to their own books and effectively discouraging reading options. Complaints include Amazon's switch to publisher-controlled text-to-speech disabling and the removal of several pre-purchased works from the device. Most recently, 17-year-old Justin Gawronski filed suit against the company for removing George Orwell's 1984 from his Kindle and rendering his electronic notes worthless.

Defective By Design's campaign aims to shame manufacturers and companies that purposely cripple products with built-in DRM restrictions. These restrictions are generally meant to limit the user's access to their own media in order to increase profit margins. While Amazon's locked down business tactic has unfortunately become standard practice amongst many eReader manufacturers, critics disagree with the tactic in the belief that educational material and personal property should remain accessible across platforms and services.

DRM and Defective By Design

Remote content deletion and the ability for publishers to disable media player functionality is seen as a violation of the rights of consumers. One past campaign criticizing Amazon's tactics encouraged Defective By Design supporters to tag the Kindle and Kindle eBooks with "kindle swindle" on the Amazon site. Today's petition builds on that campaign with big name signatories such as Creative Commons, esteemed free culture advocate Lawrence Lessig, author Lewis Hyde and Harvard Law professor John Palfrey.

The petition states, "We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon's are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon's use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear threat to the free exchange of ideas."

To add your name to the petition visit the Defective By Design site.

Turf War and the Future of E-Readers

The Kindle Store currently offers more than 300,000 books in addition to access to top magazines, newspapers and blogs. Nevertheless, the company is already facing stiff competition, albeit largely from other DRM-based device manufacturers. From a consumer standpoint, Amazon's Kindle is a beautiful and easy-to-use device, but its content distribution design purposely burdens the consumer while appearing to cater to sellers and publishers. However, 2 weeks ago News Corp media mogul Rupert Murdoch expressed unhappiness with his current Kindle revenue split and Amazon's publishing policies. While Murdoch denied rumors that News Corp. would build its own e-reader, he did complain that Amazon would not share its Wall Street Journal subscriber info with the publisher. As suggested by ReadWriteWeb's Frederic Lardinois, hardware design and agreements will shape the future of the eReader. But more importantly, today's events set a precedent for how we interact with our own culture and culture-making.

The current nature of the eReader market has many of us convinced that books and ideas lose their value simply because they've been shared, and the truth cannot be further from that. It will be interesting to see if Defective By Design can gain the momentum to keep digital books from following the familiar path of content lock down.