Is Amazon's Silk browser a copyright pirate?

Does the Kindle Fire's browsing technology violate licensing laws?

By , Guest blogger

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    Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle Fire at a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011 in New York.
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Amazon introduced a new tablet yesterday, the Kindle Fire, which uses the “Silk” browser, which is discussed here, and in the video below. One smart think Silk does to speed up web browsing as seen by the user of the Kindle Fire by “pre-loading” content into Amazon’s “cache” in its own “Amazon computer cloud” (i.e. Amazon’s servers)–and to optimize them for the Kindle Fire (e.g., a 3MB image is scaled down maybe to 50k because that would look the same on the Kindle Fire as a 3MB image, but could be transmitted more quickly).

But to do this Amazon’s servers have to store copies of files obtained from other websites, including images (as explicitly stated at 3:07 to 3:26) and other files which, of course, are covered by copyright. At 3:54, it’s explained that if Amazon’s computing cloud sees you looking at the New York Times home page, and it predicts, based on other user statistics, that you are somewhat likely to next click on some NY Times subpage link, then the Amazon servers will go ahead and download that next link, and cache it, in case you do click on it next, so that it can serve it up more quickly.

Now this makes sense technically, but what it really means is Amazon’s servers are making copies of other people’s copyright-protected content: images, files, NYTimes web pages, and serving them up to Kindle Fire users as if the Amazon computer cloud servers are the host of those images. It is a bit like if Amazon ran a site called NYTimes2.com, and had its servers constantly copying content from NYtimes.com and duplicating it on NYTimes2.com, and serving up the content on NYTimes2.com (which was copied from NYTimes.com) to browsers.

Recommended: 'The Everything Store': 5 behind-the-scenes stories about Amazon

Now, does the idea make technical sense? Yeah. It’s brilliant. Does it infringe copyright? Well, I guess we’ll see! But thank God copyright is there to promote innovation!

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