Regional licensing is still a bitch


Today I tried to buy an ebook. I’m a big fan of the Kindle and buy ebooks all the time. So I wanted to buy a digital copy of Lawrence Lessig‘s Republic, Lost on institutional corruption (which ironically is responsible for the mess I’m about to describe). I was surprised to find it only as hardcover and audio book on Amazon.com – and tweeted as much.

Nicely enough, Mr. Lessig got back to me personally, asking where I was accessing Amazon from. Turns out that even though my Kindle is connected to Amazon.com (ie. Amazon US, not Germany) the Kindle version just wouldn’t show up.

Intrigued by his pointer, I fired up a VPN to get a US-based IP address, but still no luck. In the end I noticed that my Kindle was set to “Region Europe”. Digging into the Kindle settings, I managed to switch it to the US by putting in a postal address I used to live at.

Let’s recap. To buy a digital book I had to…

  • register my Kindle with the US version of Amazon
  • fake an IP address through a VPN service
  • switch the Kindle settings to the US by way of an old postal address

All that to spend some money on a book that would have been cheaper and much, much easier to pirate.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Lobby lists for total transparency


Reinhard Bütikofer, member of the European Parliament for the German Green Party, publishes a list of all his meetings. Whoever he meets up with, whether they’re lobbyist, interest groups, colleagues or citizens, they show up on this list.

This is way more transparent than politicians in Germany are legally required to be. More importantly though, it’s an important signal. It says: “You’ll always know who I’m talking to, who I’m listening to, who might be trying to influence me.”

I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a big announcement. The list was mentioned just in passing in Bütikofer’s weekly column. In his post, he says he was inspired by the White House Visitor Record.

I do think, though, that initiatives like this deserve attention. As long as there are no legal requirements to publish lobbyists’ efforts more thoroughly (and regrettably it doesn’t look like this is going to happen anytime soon), more politicians should step up and voluntarily share this kind of information. It’s an important step in the fight against institutional corruption.

Props to Reinhard Bütikofer for being one of the first to go this way.

The next step, and that’s where it would get really awesome, would for all politicians to publish these lists in a standardized format so we could crunch the data thoroughly to see patterns emerging.

Update: Ulrich Kelber, Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) lists all his income, too. (Thanks, Falk!)