/Tag: drm

The problem with digital sharing.

This looks at the new schemed by Apple and Amazon to allow digital sharing, and basically excoriates them as being a “failure of copyright law”.

While I sort of agree–current digital lending processes are pretty shit–there’s one big huge single glaring difference between, say, a digital ebook and a physical print book. That it:

You can’t actually “share” an ebook. You can only make a copy of it.

This is the core difference. If I loan you a book, then while you have that book, I don’t have access to it. More importantly, that one single book is still linked to one single purchase that I (or whomever) gave in exchange for it. Who actually possesses the book at any one time is kind of moot; that’s why it’s a purchase and not a license. This is the model of gods exchange that makes “sense” to us, because it’s the one we’ve been using since we first invented commerce like a zillion years ago, and that’s all well and good.

Except, by the very nature of the technology, digital files do not and cannot work this way, and pretending that they can is, in my opinion, extremely disingenuous. Unlike physical books, a digital ebook has a zero1 cost of reproduction. Perfect reproduction. That is, there’s no functional difference between a copy of an ebook and the original ebook. What this fundamentally means is that there’s no way of ensuring our 150,000-plus-year-old model of commerce functions in this new online environment.

(I’m not kidding about the “150,000-plus years”, either. No wonder business models have been slow to catch up to modern digital realities, given “trade of physical goods” is something that’s been around about a long as humanity has.)

So vendors–be they Apple or Amazon or whomever–introduce artificial restrictions to try and find some kind of solution. This is where we get DRM and digital file licensing and all that nonsense from, with various different attempts having various different levels of success.

Ultimately, I think that assuming digital media can ever be truly (a-har) analogous to physical media is naive, no matter which “side” of the argument one stands on. Which, yanno. Doesn’t mean I don’t think DRM isn’t shit, or don’t want more user-friendly licensing terms on digital content, or whatever. Only that, like. Some of the conversation around the issue is a bit… yanno. Muddled. Shall we say.

Oh well. I’m sure in another 150,000 years we’ll’ve figured something out.

  1. Technically “close to zero”, but the technically is enough in this instance. []
2018-04-27T14:27:43+10:0013th November, 2014|Tags: drm, tech|

DRM is not a feature.

In its experience, Tor discovered that DRM did not stop anyone from copying, and in fact served only to lock them into the DRM vendors’ platforms. If you sell a million bucks worth of DRM-hobbled e-books on iBooks or Amazon, you create a million dollar switching-cost for your customers if they ever decide to switch to B&N or Kobo or any other new platform that might emerge in this still developing market. These companies are dire competitors, and they use DRM as offensive weapons against one another, suing anyone who makes a tool that might convert DRM-locked files from one platform to run on another.

–Cory Doctorow on DRM.

Like Doctorow, I tend to be of the opinion that DRM is bad but, as an author, there’s not much I can do about whether it’s applied to my books or not; when it’s released, Liesmith will have DRM because, as far as I know, that’s just with Random House does. This is not something I like, but it’s not really something I can change, either. (Believe me, if I was actually offered to option to opt-into a DRM free distribution I’d take it, but I’m not so… sorry, basically, is all I can go with on that one.)

Doctorow makes the argument that DRM had never actually lead to a sale; no customer in the history of ever has ever thought “gosh, I hope this title has DRM!” But the thing he doesn’t mention is that publishers do “sell” their DRM–and other anti-copyright measures–to authors as part of their “why you should sign with us!” pitches. I can kind of see why; for a debut or midlist author, piracy really can hurt,1 and DRM would seem to be a solution, of a sort.

Thing is, it’s not. As I’ve mentioned before, I de-DRM most of my own, legally purchased ebooks so I can remove them from their walled gardens and read them in whatever goddamn ereader I happen to be fond of at the time (currently iBooks), and using whatever formatting I goddamn want to (fonts and line heights in ebooks still tend to be fucking awful, because IDK people are still typesetting them for print, not screen, or something). This takes me about five minutes. I’m actually not sure what the legal status of this is in Australia; back probably ten to fifteen years ago, our Competition and Consumer Commission was big on protecting the rights of consumers to strip DRM-ish things like region-locking on electronic devices but I’m not sure if their stance has changed (it definitely seem to’ve softened).

So I dunno. All I know is being able to remove the DRM and use the resulting files more flexibly is the main reason I do, in fact, buy so many ebooks.

  1. Or, at least, the perception of it can hurt. Basically, raw sales figures are the only thing that stands between an author and another contract. There’s definitely an argument to be made in here as to whether piracy actually leads to lost sales–I’ve heard arguments both ways–but for authors who live royalty-cheque to royalty-cheque, finding their works on pirate sites can be an absolutely devastating feeling. Especially if they’re the sites that charge (yes, these exist). Basically, my point here is that, if you want to read free ebooks, for gods sakes borrow them from your library, okay? Authors get paid for those ones. []
2017-07-17T11:05:50+10:0031st August, 2014|Tags: cory doctorow, drm, ebooks|

Regional licencing is broken.

Charles Stross on just what the hell is going on with region restrictions for books, anyway?

As someone who lives in an English-language market that nevertheless often gets books months later than the US or UK (assuming we get them at all), all I can say this: yes this. It’s especially egregious nowadays with online book buying and the physical/digital split. It’s not uncommon to find a book, released in the US but not Australia, can be imported in print format but not legally bought as an ebook.

Which, yanno. From a consumer point of view? Not so great for encouraging the legal purchase of titles, yanno. (See also this comment.)

Of course, as Stross points out:

So what started out as a natural side-effect of books being heavy and not worth shipping across oceans has turned into a royal pain in the ass for readers—but where the desired solution for the readers (global sales, a flat worldwide market) will cause significant pain to the authors in the medium term (and by “pain” and “medium”, I invite you to consider how you’d reply to a proposal that you take a 20-40% pay cut for 3-5 years).

(Also I’m a bit curious about Stross mentioning Orbit as a globally operating publisher of SFF, because a non-zero number of books branded as Orbit in the US are released here under Hachette’s UK-based Orion imprint. Notably this isn’t all Orbit books, just some of them. So… IDEK. Imprints, amirite?)

Also, for the record: One of the excuses often given for why bookselling is so broken in Australia is that the higher prices and import restrictions are to “protect local authors”. As a local author who had to go overseas to sell her work–and I did try and sell it locally, believe me–you can probably guess what I think of this…

2014-07-23T08:00:25+10:0029th August, 2014|Tags: books, charles stross, drm, publishing|

Publishing lock-in.

It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion’s share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon’s DRM.

The more books Hachette sold with Amazon DRM, the more its customers would have to give up to follow it to a competing store.

–Cory Doctorow on the DRM own goal.

DRM is promoted as locking a purchase to a customer. What it actually does is lock a customer to a retailer.

2018-04-27T13:48:48+10:0010th August, 2014|Tags: amazon, books, business, cory doctorow, drm, ebooks, hachette, kindle, publishing|

Publisher sued over DRM.

This is interesting. The basic argument is that a DRM’d product is inferior to a non-DRM’d product, and thus publishers forcing some booksellers to provide DRM’d ebooks while the publisher directly sells those same books non-DRM’d is “putting booksellers at a disadvantage”.

2018-02-08T08:08:54+10:008th August, 2014|Tags: books, drm, law, publishing, tech|

DRM makes no sense.

Cory Doctorow gives the 101 on DRM. Basically, DRM as a concept–not just individual implementations, but the whole freakin’ architecture–is technologically unenforceable. That’s why it needs to be backed by laws.

Bonus: even the presence of “legitimate” DRM on your computer makes it inherently less secure for you and easier for an adversary to exploit. Awesome.

2016-05-14T10:03:57+10:0016th April, 2014|Tags: drm, infosec, tech|

On piracy.

[W]e need to face facts. Piracy’s here. It’s staying. We can’t stop it. So we need to find inventive and attractive ways to work around it. We need to accept that this brave new connected and tech savvy world we live in has different rules and different limitations to the one we were born into and grew up in.

We need to think about what offers we can make to readers to encourage them to buy legitimate copies of our books, rather than download them for free. Is this bundling ebooks with paper books? Or special editions? Or box sets? Or merchandise? So many obvious opportunities for experimentation that pirates simply couldn’t match.

–Forbes on piracy (and DRM).

2017-07-17T11:14:59+10:0010th April, 2014|Tags: drm, piracy, publishing, tech|