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You are here: Home Blogs Community No, Amazon did not release all of the Kindle's source code

No, Amazon did not release all of the Kindle's source code

by John Sullivan Contributions Published on Jun 17, 2009 02:52 PM

by John Sullivan
Operations Manager

It was unfortunately reported yesterday by a number of sources (including one pointed to by the New York Times) that Amazon had released the source code for the software running on the Kindle DX.

1) Yes, there is an Amazon page offering source code for software used on the Kindle. This isn’t all of the Kindle source code. It’s a selection released in order to comply with the license requirements of the code originally written by other people (like the GNU Project) which Amazon modified for its own purposes. It’s good that Amazon is complying with the licenses and not behaving illegally, but this is hardly something praiseworthy. Amazon benefited from the freedoms passed on to them by other free software authors, and that benefit comes with an obligation to convey that same freedom to their users -- to share alike.

2) Sadly, because the Kindle is afflicted with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), the source code release doesn't help users improve their Kindle. Yes, you can look at Amazon’s changes and in theory you can make further improvements to code that could run on the Kindle. That would be awesome — except that Amazon has tivoized the Kindle, blocking your ability to put modified code back on your own device. Doing so requires circumventing part of their DRM system, which could earn you criminal prosecution under the DMCA. If Amazon were actually respecting its users, it would not prevent you from loading modified software onto your own device. Look but don’t touch is the message here.

3) What’s not released is significant — the code, for example, that allows Amazon to arbitrarily disable the Text to Speech feature whenever they want, remotely. Code that gives them significant power over users and how we can access books (in ways that have nothing to do with actual copyright law) remains secret.

So, the Kindle is still defective by design, and is still a tivoized computer running proprietary software. You can help by correcting this inaccurate story where you see it, and by writing to Amazon to let them know that they should remove the DRM from the Kindle and start treating their users with respect.

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