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Lego machine removes DRM from Kindle e-books

Lego Mindstorms, a Kindle, and a laptop combine into an art project that is an automated system for scanning e-books and creating DRM-free versions.

DIY Kindle Scanner
Lego Mindstorms once again spawns an unusual creation.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET.

Lego Mindstorms robots have been put to many good uses, such as solving Rubik's cubes and acting as a motorized wheelchair. Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at the Vienna University of Technology, used Mindstorms to create a machine that automatically strips the DRM from Kindle e-books.

The DIY Kindle Scanner works by taking screenshots of each page of an e-book. The contraption holds the Kindle up in front of the camera on a laptop. The robot presses the "next page" button, takes a snapshot, and continues the process until it has captured a DRM-free version of the book.

The captured images get sent to a cloud text recognition service that generates a plain-text file, creating a practical final product that could conceivably be shared or used without the shackles of DRM, though Purfathofer isn't necessarily promoting that idea.

Purgathofer isn't using the DIY Kindle Scanner as an assault weapon against DRM-crippled e-books, but rather as an art project. "This is not intended to be understood as an instruction or invitation, but rather as a provocative thought experiment," writes Purgathofer. He also describes the device as a statement about the "futility of DRM."

Despite its capabilities, Purgathofer told All Things D he has only scanned one book as a proof of concept and hasn't shared it with anyone. Whether or not his creation skirts the laws around DRM is a matter open to debate.