Kindle DRM Cracked

The Register has details of a challenge issued and accepted amongst a bunch of hackers which has resulted in the DRM scheme for Amazon’s protected Kindle e-book files being cracked. Even though Amazon appears to have taken more care with their encryption, it was not proof against the efforts of dedicated reverse engineering and hacking.

I wonder if we can now generalize on the cost of being the dominant distributor of digital content of a particular kind. DVD encryption was arguably cracked because of the popularity of the format, to the point of exclusivity for some titles. While Apple’s encryption wasn’t consistently cracked, I would argue that their decision to drop it was forced by the same demands for device portability and the futility of maintaining encryption for the long haul. (Cynically, you could paint Apple’s dropping of DRM as a response to charges in the EU but since those were also motivated over interoperability claims, I’d say it’s a close thing either way.)

I think it is reasonable to suggest the crack here comes about as a consequence of the Kindle’s success. It certainly makes me re-consider the calculus on whether a Kindle is worth purchasing. Of course, it remains to be seen how Amazon responds to the crack and how further cracks evolve from there. Not all encryption schemes that fell before did so easily. At least one of the hackers responsible is in the US and could run afoul of big content under inducement or trafficking in circumvention devices. Thanks to ACTA and other policy laundering, even his Israeli collaborator eventually could run afoul of local law for his efforts.

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