Travellers Beware: Google Play Might Delete All Your Books

Travellers Beware: Google Play Might Delete All Your Books

It's easy to forget that owning something digitally is way different from owning it for real. And if you do forget, it can bite you in the arse. That's what happened to Jim O'Donnell when he traveled into Singapore and found that Google Play Books app on his iPad had up and deleted all his ebooks.

You see, the Google Play Store doesn't operate in Singapore, Google Play Books aren't available in Singapore, so obviously it's not going to sell to people who are there. But apparently the DRM goes a step further, and can/will actually delete your stuff if it catches you visiting the wrong part of town the world.

O'Donnell explains on a post in the Current Liblicense Archive:

So when I got here, I noticed that several of my iPad apps had updates on offer, so I clicked and approved. One of them was Google Play. When it finished and I went to open the app, it told me that it needed to update my book files and this might take several minutes. Time passed and the screen filled in the covers of the 30 or 40 titles I keep live on the machine. Two of them were books I am actively reading for my teaching this fall.

But all of my books had un-downloaded and needed to be downloaded again. ...It turns out that because I am not in a country where Google Books is an approved enterprise (which encompasses most of the countries on the planet), I cannot download. Local wisdom among the wizards here speculates that the undownloading occurred when the update noted that I was outside the US borders and so intervened.

The helpful update didn't affect O'Donnell's ownership of the books, of course, but he found that outside of Google Play territory, re-downloading was impossible. And all this could have been avoided by refusing the update, but that's a shitty thing to have to know ahead of time.

It's unclear if the Android app behaves the same way, but the Google Play Terms of Service does clearly state:

In certain cases (for example, if Google loses the relevant rights, discontinues a service or a Product is discontinued, breaches applicable terms or the law), Google may remove from your Device or cease providing you with access to certain Products that you have purchased.

Emphasis ours. Also "bleh".

But the moral of the story is that you're buying a licence, not a book. And licences can come with strings attached. Obnoxious strings. [Current Liblicense Archive via Boing Boing]



    Almost certainly not legal in Australia, and no matter how much companies wish it was so, they cannot make us sign away our local consumer rights (ESPECIALY when they specificaly say that Australians must sign away their local rights), so I can see this ending bad if google tried it here and it was contested.

      Problem is that although you purchased it in Australia if you use it outside of Australia then you have no case against Google. Whilst in Australia they would/will adhere to the law but they CANNOT be forced or made to comply with Australian law in another country.

      It's a case of; How does one infringe on your Australian right when you're in singapore.

        because your purchase was made in australia
        and google australia took your money, who are bound by that law

        this time the egg clearly came before the chicken and the egg is the t&Cs

        also...just use a proxy/vpn?

        Last edited 19/08/13 10:42 am

          Doesn't matter where you bought or where you come from, if you're in another country you are bound by their law and their laws alone. Unfortunately it's black and white.

          Personally I'd simply look for a DRM free solution so that they're not linked to an account with this issue.

    So why don't they refund the cost of the license if they deem it no longer appropriate for me to own?

      They don't deem it in appropriate to own. They're saying that should you enter certain zones you are not allowed to see certain content. Leave said zones and ALL content will be returned to you automatically.

    How many more years to we have to put up with this geoblocking crap?

    FFS this BS has got to stop. We're heading towards a world of 0% ownership. Let people read their goddamn ebooks in other countries. Stop trying to squeeze every damn dollar of of ppl! This DRM crap is the worst, and ppl wonder why piracy is as widespread as it is.

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