David Reed: Forget copyright,

Amazon may have accidentally kindled a revolution in the way people think about their rights over data. In case you missed it, the e-retailer experienced a massive irony failure when it decided to delete copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from customers’ Kindle e-book readers. The company had good reasons to stop distribution of these documents, since they had been sold by a marketplace retailer who did not hold the copyright. What surprised customers was that Amazon had the capability to remove things from their devices remotely and without consent.

As it happens, Apple retains a similar right over its iPhone, with a back door to the system that allows it to delete “rogue” applications. Its argument is that it wants to be able to stop malware before it spreads. Both cases underline the fact that customers are increasingly renting content as part of a service, even though they believe they have purchased it outright. For now, those service providers retain the upper hand. But all that could change.

Increasingly, customers are using these rented services to create their own content and store personal data. Generating new intellectual property of their own within these environments has become one of the more exciting aspects of Web 2.0. Most of these customers assume that the service will remain available and that their content is under their own control.

That perception is coming up against the harder reality that service providers can alter or terminate access rights at a moment’s notice. Remember the outcry when Facebook moved to claim copyright over everything posted on its social network? Amazon has experienced a
similar pushback from customers upset that their personal library can be accessed without their knowledge.

In many cases, these services are one of a kind – there may be nowhere else to create or store data. While their providers have every reason to protect what they offer and spell out their rights in the terms and conditions, customers can not be expected to act like lawyers and read the small print. Where else would they go if they disagreed?

So what is needed is some give and take. Service companies need to accept a limit on their right to intrude. Otherwise, the bold new connected world might find itself empty of an active population.

Editor, DataStrategy

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here