Discussing DRM (Digital Rights Management)

Okay, first let me state the rules. This is a NO FLAMES DISCUSSION. If you post a personal attack against anyone talking here, I’ll delete your post.

Second, this is a THINK BEFORE LEAPING DISCUSSION. I want to know your opinion of Digital Rights Management, how you use digital products, whether you are a producer of content or a consumer of content, or both, and why you think what you think.

I need to know what you think because I am at this moment struggling with the internal debate over releasing the twenty-nine How To Think Sideways lessons in DRM-free versus DRM formats.

And please let me note right now that “If you put DRM on it, people are just going to steal it anyway” is not an acceptable argument. An analogous argument to that is, “If you lock your door, people are just going to break into your house and kill you anyway.”

My current position is that deterrence has value. I am willing to be convinced that DRM-free is a better way to present my work, but you have to have good, compelling reasons.

I listen to what you say.

I reversed myself on not selling anything from my own site when I discovered that a lot of foreign writers would no longer be able to get my writing courses. (I won’t use Smashwords, which I consider an unprofessional market, which was my other alternative for foreign readers.)

So here is my four-part question:

  • What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
  • How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
  • Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
  • Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

Please answer all four parts.

Comments as you’re posting

We’re up to comment 24 as I write this, and this is what I’ve discovered so far that is news to me.

  • I buy a book on my Kindle, and only read it on my Kindle. Some people read across devices and even on computers, (which I find as much fun as squirting sand on my open eyes, but…okay). People apparently read for fun on computers. Who knew?
  • DRM management systems can go out of business, orphaning purchasers. I had no idea this happened.
  • Some people consider the price set on an item as justification for theft. This is not encouraging, but it isn’t a DRM issue, either.
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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

145 comments… add one
  • Tom Benedict May 29, 2012 @ 13:18

    I find DRM in its current incarnation to be distasteful. It provides a deterrent. Unfortunately what it does is deter people from purchasing the information. Some of the reasons for this have already been mentioned, but I’ll list them anyway:

    There is no one encoding scheme for DRM, nor is there a single repository. Also, DRM grants a recipient the right to access the information, but the information is still controlled by the DRM repository. In practice what this means is that in the event a DRM repository goes out of business or sells off the DRM content arm of their company, people who paid to access the information may no longer be able to access it, even though money changed hands.

    Also what this means is that a DRM file may be available in one form, but not another. This limits the devices on which it can be accessed. A non-writing example of this is someone who keeps all their music on their iPod, who then buys a DRM keyed CD. In some cases the contents of the CD can’t be loaded onto the iPod without circumventing the DRM encryption, so the entire purpose of buying the CD is lost.

    I use a variety of digital text products, often in different ways. Works of fiction are almost all loaded on my Kindle and the Kindle application on my phone. Catalogs and technical work are all loaded on my computer so they can be searched and accessed where I will use them. I would consider books about writing to be somewhere between the two, and would possibly load them on both sets of devices.

    I am both a content generator and consumer. So far I haven’t sold any works of fiction, but I do write articles and technical papers that have been published in electronic form. I consume digital text products almost every way they’re delivered: free off the web, purchased PDFs (largely technical papers), scans of older journals on CD, files for the Kindle, etc.

    The stance I take on DRM is if I can get something as a non-DRM, I will. If I can only get it as a DRM and it plays nicely with my Kindle, I will. But if I have to jump through hoops to make it work with my reader of choice, I’m likely not to get it at all. This has had more of an impact on audio content than text content, as most authors who publish in electronic form are willing to publish in more than one DRM format, whereas the music industry tends toward proprietary encryption schemes that are tied to particular labels. Even so, I don’t like to purchase DRM encrypted products if I can possibly avoid it.

    One point I feel should be raised in case this analogy is being tossed about: Rights management schemes for software and for textual content should not be compared as apples and apples. They are not. Software typically has a short lifetime associated with it. (How many TRS-80 and Apple ][+ games do people still play on a regular basis?) But I have books at home that were last printed eighty or more years ago that I still refer to regularly. I’m willing to pay for a software license, knowing I may not use that software ten years from now. I’m not willing to do that with a book because I know for certain that I will.

    In case anyone reading this thinks that the idea of a DRM repository going defunct is only so much hand-waving: Remember the Rocket eBook that came out around 1999/2000? None of the titles I purchased for that reader are available to me now. The fine print clearly stated that I hadn’t purchased those titles. I purchased the right to access them for as long as the company allowed me to. They are no longer in business, so they no longer allow me access to those files.

  • Rod Burns May 29, 2012 @ 13:13

    Adding my 2 cents to this discussion…

    In my experience DRM is a more of a hassle to the user who is trying to use the material in a proper manner than it is to the pirate who is trying to steal the material and sell it for profit.

    I use all sorts of digital media every day (books, games, music, etc.) and it’s getting to the point where I avoid products that have heavy-DRM schemes attached, if there is another alternative for what I’m looking for. I’ve also purposely *not* purchased items simply because the DRM was so draconian.

    Any DRM scheme is broken within days of being released, so you are not preventing piracy. All you are doing is punishing the legitimate user of the material by making him jump hoops if he ever wants to use the material on a different device than the one he downloaded it on.

    My opinion, for what it’s worth 🙂

    • Minichirops May 30, 2012 @ 10:55

      It’s difficult to be in favor of DRM, as much as I’d like to be, because it’s so incredibly irritating.
      I’m a consumer, and have a fairly extensive library of kindle books on my laptop — and like with movies, music, and games, it’s easier to get ebooks illegally than to get them legitimately. I make the effort, but it’s annoying, and sometimes impossible, to jump through the loops DRM forces me to, due to my slow and unreliable internet connection.
      I once bought a game, then was unable to install it (steam kept timing out and wouldn’t stay connected long enough) and I had to pirate the game so I could get a steam-free version to install.
      Until DRM methods match the user-friendliness of their pirate competition, it seems like a good idea to avoid them altogether – because irritating clients is not a good way to get return business.

  • Deborah Robson May 29, 2012 @ 13:06

    Holly, I’m going to start by saying that I am both a writer and a publisher, and I consume a small amount of digital material. As writer and publisher, I have dealt with pirating of material (not even digital: scans of our books from library copies). It’s a huge pain and nuisance. I’ve been studying and thinking about DRM and piracy from all angles for a number of years. I do take action about piracy when it is a reasonable use of my time, but I am not going to waste my life trying to prevent it (impossible)

    At this point, I am not in favor of DRM. I am in favor of notes within books, like those included in the materials offered by Take Control Books: simple and effective. In fact, I like Take Control Books’ model in its entirety. (The text in the books says: “If you have an ebook version of this title, please note that if you want to share it with a friend, we ask that you do so as you would
    a physical book: “lend” it for a quick look, but ask your friend to buy a new copy to read it more carefully or to keep it for reference. Discounted classroom and Mac user group copies are also available.”)

    DRM gives too much power to the providers of the platforms and just annoys readers/customers.

  • Christopher Kellen May 29, 2012 @ 12:58

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

    My opinion on DRM is that it’s a losing battle. It prevents a legitimate reader from using a product that they’ve purchased in all of the ways that they might want to do so, and does nothing to inconvenience someone who takes 30 seconds to Google a circumvention method. If a company chooses to stop supporting a given DRM scheme, the legitimate user no longer has access to what they purchased. If they want to re-read your book, they can’t, because it’s gone forever.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?

    I read on my Nook Tablet, on my smartphone, and sometimes in Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader via my PC. I also very much like the ePub Reader plugin for Firefox.

    I also strip the DRM off of every book that I purchase, because I don’t want to risk losing the eBook if Amazon or B&N decides to change their formatting slightly, and then close down the old authentication servers. This allows me to ensure that the files are safe, and allows me to convert and read them wherever I want.

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.

    I’m an indie author, and I also read a lot (as, you know, you might expect from an author). I currently have four books available on Amazon.com, all DRM-free, and two offered for free. On principle, I will never DRM any of my work.

    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    Specifically, right now, I am taking advantage of the promotions offered by Amazon KDP Select. This means that if I were to DRM my work, any readers who might not have a Kindle or want to read on their phone or PC are out of luck. Without the DRM, they are able to use a program like Calibre to convert the file to one that will work on their reader — which is exactly what they should be able to do, given that they purchased a copy of my book.

    I don’t like making my books exclusive, but the promotional tools are extremely valuable to someone trying to gain visibility in the market. Why would I limit my readership by locking up my books in an exclusive format?

    I’m an IT guy by day. A technology solution is intended to solve a problem. DRM is intended to be the ‘solution’ to piracy, but it doesn’t actually solve anything. It might as well be useless, and if some SNAFU stops one reader from reading one of my books, who’s to say that they weren’t the one who would tell 100 of their friends about how great it was?

    I do not honestly believe that adding DRM to my work would increase my sales. I had a great month in April thanks to some strategic promotion. My books are all available on pirate sites and ebook forums – I’ve seen them there. If everyone always got it for free if they could, then how did I have such a great month?

    Anyway, just some thoughts from an indie author who wishes that the ebook industry, just like the music one, would understand that DRM is not a useful tool (and also would hurry up and standardize on a single format!)

  • Jason Sharp May 29, 2012 @ 12:56

    I generally go the non-DRM route. There is a lot of mention about how DRM protects writers. However, before technology, we bought from bookstores, and then we would loan those book to a friend or sold them to a used bookstore. The writer would never see another dime from that book. I don’t see what the difference is? Yes, writing and being an author is a business, but authors like J. A Konrath are making a lot of money and he does not support DRM either. The more someone shares his book, the more readers he gets.

    Writers aren’t protected by DRM. It is very easy to strip. So why create a harder time for readers? Just an opinion…

  • Brad May 29, 2012 @ 12:50

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    Hate it, Hate it, Hate it… Yes it is a deterrent, but only until the first person cracks it, and lets not kid ourselves, crack it they will, then the DRM free version will do the rounds, giving the pirates a fully working product, while the honest people end up with the frustration of a restricted file. To use your house analogy, its like leaving a key under the mat (for the crooks to find), while forcing friends and family to climb down the chimney.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    1) load it onto a portable reader or sometimes print it out on paper to carry around with me.
    2) load it onto a computer for when I’m at my desk and want to use the keyboard or make notes
    3) Depending on the file, I sometimes copy sections into a word document and work through the exercises.
    4) most importantly I use text-to-speech conversions and listen to 90% of my text files on mp3
    None of these are possible with DRM

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    I just purchase content, but I refuse to buy anything that has DRM protection.
    A far better solution in my opinion is to give people added incentive to buy the original file. Say free updates and periodically released bonus content, access to discussion forums etc.
    I also prefer the watermark method, where each file/page is coded with a unique number that can be traced back to whoever purchased the file.

  • Elin Gregory May 29, 2012 @ 12:49

    I don’t have a Kindle or an iAnything. I buy epub files for my Sony ereader, usually directly from publishers. If the only option is to buy a Kindle file I go without unless it’s absolutely necessary that I read the work, for instance I’m scheduled to review it. I was caught out several times by discovering that ebooks I’ve bought from Amazon can’t be converted to an accessible file.

    • Laraine May 31, 2012 @ 0:12

      Elin, can’t you get the Kindle.app for your Sony reader? I know it’s available for iPad because I have it; that’s how I read my Kindle books. I would have thought the more gadgets Amazon had their Kindle.app on the more books they would sell.

      I’ve never had an e-reader before and always wanted one. When iPad third generation came out I told myself, “Okay, if it kills you in the process you are going to get one of these!” I borrowed money and then saved like hell to pay it back. That meant regarding the supermarket as my enemy and tackling the weekly shop with a positively MEAN attitude. It meant staying away from TradeMe (NZ’s version of eBay) unless I was selling something, buying NOTHING for the household, NOTHING for myself (no clothes, CDs, books, etc). It meant, IOW, behaving like a positive Scrooge. And I managed it–my iPad is now all mine. I love reading e-books every bit as much as I expected. At least I can find what I want on my iPad, no matter how many books are there. Finding anything on my two-deep bookshelves is downright impossible. Not to mention that you can’t find ANYTHING in a printed book unless there’s some sort of index. Even with an index, I’ve often found it difficult to find what I’m looking for. But with an e-book I can search for the few words or phrases that I can remember. Long live the e-book!

      • David Masters May 31, 2012 @ 0:16

        I have a Sony eReader. It’s not nearly as advanced as an iPad, and it certainly doesn’t have apps! It’s much more akin to the kindle, its only function is to read ebooks in certain formats. The main format is .epub.

        However, if a book is DRM-free, you can convert it from Amazon’s format (.mobi) to .epub using the free software calibre. I often do this to enjoy books I’ve purchased from Amazon on my Sony ereader.

      • David Masters May 31, 2012 @ 0:18

        And very well done on your saving Laraine, that’s an inspiring story!

  • Lisa Watson May 29, 2012 @ 12:49

    I am definitely against DRM. It limits how and on what device I can read the material, and it doesn’t stop piracy so what’s the point? to aggravate those who buy from you? it’s easy enough for someone to strip DRM if they are so inclined.

    If I were to buy a physical book (which I still do frequently!) I own the book. I can lend it to a friend if I want to, no one can dictate how I enjoy the material. I could sell that used book at a flea market after reading it! No one thinks anything about it, it’s an acceptable practice.

    Frankly, there are people who scan books that they can’t get already in digital format to add to their libraries. Some people do it for the flexibility of reading it in a myriad of ways. I bring this up, because others scan their obscure books and share their scans!
    So whether you DRM or not, only have your work in print or not…people if they are so inclined, will find a way to read the material the way that they want to read it.

    Those who are truly interested in your work, will buy it. DRM is more of a nuisance to the honorable people who buy from you without really deterring those who would be bent on piracy!

    Just my 2 cents – and I have bought DRM’d material, it’s a pain, plain and simple.

  • James Hartley May 29, 2012 @ 12:46

    I have been in the computer industry for a long time. Back when the PC first came out, what is now called “DRM” was the known as “copy protection.” It didn’t work then, either. It simply caused trouble for the legitimate user (couldn’t re-install after a crash or upgrade) while to the hacker types it translated as “Comes with a free puzzle.” It was FUN trying to crack the protection, and then to give away a cracked copy as a form of bragging … look, look, see what I did?

    I have a number of e-books published, and none of my publishers use DRM … a policy that I am definitely in favor of. Bottom line: DRM inconveniences the honest user, and DOES NOT prevent piracy … don’t use it!

  • Atarah May 29, 2012 @ 12:45

    I have had negative experiences with DRM in the past with both music and books. The minute my computer and especially my hard drive completely crashes, I lose access to my music and books. It is even more frustrating if the supplier no longer has a website or access to the site has since been restricted geographically. DRM seems to be very black or white. Allowing a person to download a DRM free book, but limiting the number of downloads or license keys could be an option. ( There of course, devious ways of removing DRM.)

  • Urvi May 29, 2012 @ 12:33

    Hi Holly,

    Here is my take on the issue. I am a reader, a writer, and a student in all of your courses. Here is my opinion on the matter.

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

    I believe that DRM is ineffective and that it unwittingly targets legal users of media.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?

    I use digital texts solely to read my copy of the text. I never “share” the book. For most of my life, I have had one computer for all of my media. Recently, I attained a Nook, which I use regularly for reading texts instead of my primary computer.

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.

    I purchase content to consume, and I have been doing so long before the Kindle came out. I have been a follower of digital texts for over half my life, starting with Project Gutenberg, continuing with buying texts from indie authors and publishers, and ending with buying digital college textbooks.

    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    Here is my horror story: A few years ago, I was mandated to download an Adobe Digital Editions update on my computer. There was no way around it. I had already purchased an entire library of ebooks in the EPUB format, which were DRM-protected under my account. Back then, I knew of no other way to read the media other than through Adobe Digital Editions.

    After my mandatory update completed, my ebook library was completely inaccessible due to some sort DRM glitch. I forgot the exact error message I received, but it read something along the lines of “Cannot open ebook because DRM license unrecognized.”

    Over the next five months, I contacted Adobe support (who misunderstood my problem completely), and I pored over the Adobe help files. After the five-month period, I was still unable to read my legally-obtained texts. (As a separate issue, I also could not even legally borrow ebooks from the local library, but I understand that DRM is necessary for library books to simulate a “borrowing” experience.)

    Finally, I had to wipe my hard drive completely and re-install the Operating System from scratch in order for Adobe Digital Editions to recognize my DRM license. I was able to retrieve some of the files of my ebook collection and access these files fully. Other files, I lost due to file path errors that could not link my DRM license to the new location of the files on the hard drive.

    The error does come up now and again these days, even though I am now using a completely new computer. Adobe Digital Editions is still one of the primary methods of reading DRM-protected content and transferring it to specific eReading devices. I steer clear of the program, however, due to its buggy nature. I now use the Nook for PC application, for most of my computer-based reading and data transfer. Nook for PC has also given me the DRM licensing errors, but they have usually cleared.

    In short, I believe DRM-protection causes unnecessary grief to those of us who legally obtain content by causing us to jump through countless, frustrating loops arising from faulty software. I would hate to lose access to your course materials for months at a time, since I refer to them often as your student. I know it’s a big request to ask you to trust your students, but I do hope that you will consider forgoing DRM protection–or at least implementing some safeguard for those unfortunate souls retracing my footsteps.

  • Diana Hawkins May 29, 2012 @ 12:31

    Hi Holly, I’ve actually done a lot of talking with the authors I represent and authors I know on this. We’re choosing DRM free…mostly for making our writings more accessible to our particular audience and how they use their devices. Much the same way as you’re trying to do.

    My opinion is that DRM free is better for us, and as a user, I’d prefer DRM free. I use multiple devices and haven’t came across an issue yet, but my use of them is about to increase and I’d like the added assurance of being able to use what I purchase wherever I like.

    As a writer, I’m going DRM free in both fiction and non-fiction.

    I understand the concerns…just not convinced from what I’ve found on DRM so far, that going with DRM is neccessarily the right answer. Seems too unstable where it is supposed to be secure from user comments I’ve seen, and I’m not so convinced that it’s as secure as they would like us to believe.

    But again, I’m not an expert on this, and really just beginning to fully learn about it myself.

    Good luck!
    Diana Cacy

  • Jim Brown May 29, 2012 @ 12:29

    There are three reasons why DRM hurts authors. Two of the reasons are direct, the third is an analogy.

    1. DRM will be broken anyway. The DRM used by the movie industry is typically broken within a week every time they roll out a new scheme. For popular game programs, the cracks show up within a day or two. It won’t stop those who want to copy.

    2. It pisses off your legitimate paying readers-probably not a wise strategy. If the DRM scheme you choose to implement locks your work to a particular platform or makes it harder in any way to use, your work becomes less valuable. Many people simply will not buy DRM.

    3. The analogy: If you are in charge of a column of troops marching toward an objective and you come under fire from a sniper, what do you do? Stop and take cover? If that is your choice, then the sniper (one man) has effectively stopped your whole column with just a handful of bullets. The other alternative is to accept the casualties and keep marching-that way, to take a few losses, but have a chance to win the war. Just so with DRM: Don’t worry about the “lost sales”- those guys were never going to buy anyway. Concentrate instead on giving your readers reasons to buy: good stories, reasonable prices.

  • Chris Olson May 29, 2012 @ 12:29

    Alright, I am sure many people will not like what I am going to say. Oh well. I’m learning to write and, as you say Holly, you are going to insult someone if you write honestly.

    Anyway, on to the questions:

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

    I really think it is a bad idea, as it is currently implemented. It touches on your “don’t lock the door” argument. It winds up punishing the honest and only mildly slowing the thieves, at least in the software world. A more apt analogy would by to force the honest people to go through a locked door with a key, prove who they are to a guard, and then walk around with an escort to make sure they don’t take anything, while the thieves just have to pick the lock to get in and take what they want. Then the thieves make fake keys and hand them out to anyone who asks for it.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?

    I read them on hardware that supports the Kindle Reader or on my Kobo eReader. I have been known to purchase a book and then download the DRM free version so I can read it where I want. Note: I do buy a copy first. Then I invoke the right to make personal copies and fair use. I’m honest, but opinionated.

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.

    I have produced software games for the Palm Pilot (or the Palm Connected Organizer). I released it without any DRM, and saw pretty good sales for niche games. It was pirated, but so were other games. I did not put any DRM in because I would have been responsible for it, and I really didn’t want to waste my time on something I was convinced (by stats) was not worth my time. My time was better spent producing more games.

    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    At least in the software arena, DRM hurts the honest user and the producer. The thieves barely notice it. They break software protection the /day/ the software is made available. so for how ever many hours/days it takes you to protect your work, it takes the dishonest people less than a day to break it. One gentlemen (I will look up the reference in a bit. Can’t find the exact article, but here is one with a similar point of view: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Witcher-2-DRM-Pirated-download-crack,15782.html), tested this. His DRM free software outsold his DRM-ed software.

    Telling.

    I am not at all sure this applies to novels, lessons or other works of art like video and music. Apples and Oranges, after all. But it is interesting and worthy of consideration.

    Chris Olson

    • Walt Socha May 29, 2012 @ 13:31

      I think your statement: “It winds up punishing the honest and only mildly slowing the thieves, at least in the software world” is the best summary of the DRM issue

      • David Masters May 30, 2012 @ 6:54

        I agree, Walt.

  • kate May 29, 2012 @ 12:21

    There’s also the issue that with many DRM items, you don’t actually OWN what you pay for… books, songs, etc. can be removed from your device, for instance. I’m really not a fan of paying a lot of money for something and then being told it isn’t actually mine to use. This is made worse with DRMs that repeatedly re-check a program or file to make sure that you *still* own that thing you paid for. After a program or file gets updated, things can go haywire and occasionally decide that because of the change, you clearly stole that file/program. Or, as Ruthanne said, you can’t download updates at all because the DRM won’t let you. It ends up being a huge hassle for the buyer, and in the end, probably a hassle for you too, if you end up having to deal with purchasers having lots of problems.

  • Zachary Ricks May 29, 2012 @ 12:21

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    DRM places an obstacle between the content and the reader. That’s what it’s specifically designed to do. Now, hopefully, everything works correctly, and the experience is seamless for the paying reader, but in practice it can cause problems. That’s usually more of an issue with things other than text (software in particular), but can be a problem with text as well.
    Moreover, DRM is regularly circumvented, hacked, and cracked. We have yet to see an encryption method for mass-media distribution that hasn’t been. PGP, of course, and other public / private key encryptions have been staying ahead of the game so far, but you do have to up your key size every now and then.
    So – it creates obstacles for my readers, can screw things up, and gets hacked anyway.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    I usually read them on my phone or Kindle, but I like having some assurance that I’m not locked in to a particular platform or format.

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    I do both. Flying Island Press has been running since July of 2010, and we produce a short story magazine – FlagShip – in various e-text formats as well as audio. I’m also releasing my own writing in podcast and e-text format on my blog.
    Nothing I produce and nothing FIP produces is encrypted by DRM. At this point, we make ourselves as available as possible (our own website and Amazon, mostly), and as inexpensive as possible (1.99 for an issue in text or audio, 2.99 gets you both versions), because I believe that if it’s easy to get and inexpensive, people will prefer to pay than to spend the time and energy mucking around with a torrent.

    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?
    I spent most of a semester in law school studying the effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act here in the US, and came to the conclusion that it didn’t do much good. We already have laws in place that forbid copyright infringement, and DRM winds up criminalizing activities that I consider reasonable fair use. We also have statutory minimum damages for copyright infringement. I don’t need DRM and the associated statutes to go after someone who’s not playing by the rules.

  • althea May 29, 2012 @ 12:21

    Though I have a Nook Tablet and have bought a few books for it, I will never leave paperbacks or print media for the simple reason that I don’t have to worry about ‘formats’ or whether I can read what *I’ve* paid for on one device or another. There is never a reason to penalize a legitimate buyer because their format for reading your work has changed.

    Besides that, Calibre can strip the DRM out of, or reformat your work (as well as other programs out there) so the DRM means little. I haven’t used it. I want to read what I’ve bought when I want and where I want. I don’t want to have to jump through hoops with an extra program and spend a lot of time trying to ‘fix’ something I already spent a lot of money on.

    DRM neither stops piracy nor promotes cross-platform reading. Please don’t penalize your purchasers by doing something that will invariably limit your sales.

    • Lucian Stacy May 29, 2012 @ 18:18

      Calibre does not strip DRM unless you use a plugin that is produced by a third party. It is a great tool for transferring and storing files as well as converting them to different formats for your various readers.

  • Kait Nolan May 29, 2012 @ 12:19

    I am a self published author and I am strongly opposed to DRM. Here’s the thing: There is no such thing as a DRM that has not been cracked. I personally have DRM stripping software for every format, not because I am a pirate and ever disseminate the work that I’m buying, but because I, as purchaser of a product should have the freedom to read it on any device I own or to convert it to a different format, should I need to (as in the case of books only available on Amazon where I have a Nook). DRM does not protect the work in the least and only limits legitimate purchasers of content. Those who pirate ebooks are going to pirate ebooks no matter what, as no DRM actually works. Pirates are not potential purchasers who are lost. They pirate just to pirate, not because they absolutely want to read something.

  • Penny Ash May 29, 2012 @ 12:19

    •What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

    In my opinion DRM is a double edged sword. It does at least slow the thieves down, which is a good thing. On the other hand I find DRM incredibly annoying at times. For example, I have a lot of MSReader books I can’t read because MSReader is screwed up yet I can’t convert them to read elsewhere due to the DRM most have. Like I said, annoying. But it brings us back full circle to the fact that DRM does work.

    •How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?

    Digital products I purchase (and I buy a lot of books every month) are usually read on kindle or in pdf form.

    •Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.

    I do, I have a book out on kindle at the moment and will be releasing others as well. I do not have DRM on my book mainly because It was previously published through a publisher (and subsequently pirated) and I didn’t feel the need to add DRM at this time. My next release will have DRM, to slow the pirating down.

    •Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    At best DRM will slow a lot of pirates down. It won’t stop them because there will always be that small group out there who see anything like DRM as a challenge to their idea that all information should be free. (Except of course their names and personal info. Hypocritical but there it is.) So DRM is both good and bad, but it’s really all there is right now.

  • Jadelyn May 29, 2012 @ 12:17

    What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)? Consider me another voice against DRM. The only people it tends to inconvenience are the paying customers.

    How do you use digital (text) products you purchase? I like to be able to listen to my music on my computer, iPhone, and non-Apple mp3 player; read books on my Nook; and watch movies either on my consoles/TV or on my computer.

    Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this. I’m a purchaser primarily, although I’m working on getting myself to a point where I’ll start producing content to sell as well (working on writing my first novel, using your HTTS course, in fact, which I intend to self-publish).

    Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management? Because as many people have pointed out, the majority of the problems caused by DRM aren’t for the people it’s meant to guard against; it’s for the people who have legitimately paid for the content, but are being locked out of using it for reasons of tech upgrades or side-grades or incompatibilities. An ebook in proprietary Kindle format does me shit all good for being able to read it on my Nook, and not all ebooks are available in multiple formats. A single non-DRM/universal format would be worth far more to me, because it would give me options in how to access the content that I legitimately paid for, if (for example) I were to switch e-readers for some reason.

  • Eric Landes May 29, 2012 @ 12:12

    I vote for no DRM. Here’s why:

    DRM does nothing to deter piracy.

    Using DRM tells your customer: “Sorry, I don’t trust you.”

    Eventually, DRM will fail for some technological reason. This happens to all technologies. At that point, you’ve got an angry customer, and any extra profit you may have made from protecting your material goes up in smoke dealing with the problems the DRM technology caused.

    DRM locks your customers into a particular flavor of technology. If they decide, down the road, to switch from (say) Kindle to Kobo or Nook, they’re out of luck.

    You can’t actually buy content locked with DRM. You actually buy a _license_ to the content. This is a fundamental problem I have with the current ebook ecosystem.

    If you feel you absolutely have to protect your content, look into watermarking, or some other sort of social DRM that doesn’t restrict what your customer can do with the files they buy.

    Those are my four bits on the topic.

  • Laraine May 29, 2012 @ 12:11

    I don’t use it, Holly, mainly on the grounds that if some low-life criminals want to break it they will. Even Rowling isn’t safe from them.

    As far as music is concerned, I don’t have any issues with iTunes or my iPod, mostly because I refuse to buy from any place that won’t provide me with lossless format. Consequently the only download I’ve ever purchased was from Hyperion (FLAC format, which I had no trouble turning into AIFF for burning to a CD, so clearly it had no DRM). I’ve obviously never purchased a DRM protected CD; have had no trouble putting my entire collection (about 400) into iTunes for my iPod. I wonder how long it will be before gadgets like iPod will allow us to listen to lossless format? Not that it matters; I don’t have the wherewithal to pay for headphones that would do it justice. Sorry for straying from the point, Holly, and I hope all our comments will be of help to you.

  • Robert Guthrie May 29, 2012 @ 12:10

    I’m sure John Scalzi has addressed this better than an unpublished reader like me could (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/04/24/torforge-to-go-drm-free-by-july-immediate-thoughts/), but for what it’s worth:

    DRM is a security blanket for authors, invisible to a majority of consumers, and a minor annoyance to technically savvy readers and pirates alike. The average reader will shop on the Amazon/BN.com site, and let their devices automatically download their purchases. They’ll read it, and then never look at the book again. To them, DRM is transparent; they don’t want to copy it to another reader app on another kind of device, and so they will probably never have any issues with it; when their Kindles die, they’ll be mad at technology, but never even consider that they just lost access to books they’ll never re-read anyway.

    The pirate will download the book, strip the DRM in about 3 seconds, and then offer up their own, DRM-free version for sale or free before your first non-advanced review has been written.

    I immediately remove DRM from my purchases, because I like to support local independent bookstore, purchasing through their Google Books storefront. I then transfer them to my 1st generation Nook. This device has segregated books I “side-load” from the ones that it automatically downloads from my purchase history on BN.com, and that irritates me to no end. I don’t shelve my paper books based on where I bought them from, and my electronic device shouldn’t force me to either.

    Also, I’m not 100% confident that Barnes & Noble will be around in 10 years, but I can be certain that the backups I have of all my (now drm-free) e-books will be. I’ll read those books again someday, on whatever devices I have available to me then.

    I don’t produce content of my own, so most of my opinions on DRM/ebooks come from reading the arguments of published authors who are big targets of pirates. I’ve considered their arguments as an outsider/consumer, and not as a producer of content, so I’ve come to agree with them more readily than I might if I had any IP to protect.

    My stance on DRM is probably clear at this point, and the why of it should be too: Stupid, arbitrary limitations of how I can file my e-books, and the likelihood that Amazon will put everyone else out of business, rendering my DRM’d books unreadable in the future if I follow the rules.

  • Leota M. Abel May 29, 2012 @ 12:07

    1. I think current DRM hurts legit consumers more than it hurts pirates.

    2. Text products: depends on length. Shorties most of the time I’ll just read online at my computer. Longer work I like to put on my Nook or my tablet. I got a Nook specifically so I could side load. I haven’t had to cross the tub/book issue yet, since I have a crappy tub, but actually kind of worried about that.

    3. I both produce and consume content. I’m a voracious reader and my bookshelves are sooo grateful I’ve gone more digital. I write erotica/e-romance that I self-pub w/o DRM via all the biggies (including smashwords). I’m also working on other genres that I will probably publish much the same way.

    4. It’s a combination of being fairly pragmatic as a producer and extremely annoyed by tech issues as a consumer. Current DRM is flawed and when it gets ugly, it’s ugly for the consumer not the thief. I mean, I get SO crabby when I’m watching a DVD and I have all the non-skippable warnings and ads. If I had just stolen it, I would be able to get to the movie already.

    As a consumer, I want to support the people who bring me awesome entertainment, because then they will bring me MORE MORE MORE. But I also feel like if I buy a book, does it matter which device I read it on? I already don’t have a physical item, I should be able to put my book on whatever I feel like reading on.

    As an unknown writer, obscurity is a far bigger problem than piracy. So I know it’s probably different feeling if you are already a name, which is fair. I still think that overall being easy for the consumer is more important, even if that results in a few lost sales.

    I do also think that friends sharing books is good for writers, even in the digital age, when it’s not always limited to the one copy being passed around.

  • Ieva May 29, 2012 @ 12:07

    This is going to be short because I am in no way an expert, I just use your courses/books a lot. I have a copy everywhere (on all the computers I work on, at least one USB stick and my eReader) because I never know when I’ll need to take a sneak peek at something while in the middle of writing. That’s never the case with other books (or any other content). So I suggest, when weighing your pros and cons, think of “sharing among different devices” as an important thing.

  • Lynn Light May 29, 2012 @ 12:03

    I am not keen on DRM either. I think it causes more problems than it solves. Again the constantly changing formats and devices are challenge enough. Just keeping up, for me, lol! And who knows what is coming down the pike next? Maybe they will come up with a better way to solve the issue soon? Here is hoping anyway.

  • Lisa PT May 29, 2012 @ 11:58

    As a consumer, I find DRM very restrictive. I own an iPad, a Sony ereader, and a Mac. I want to be able to read on any of these devices. Also, I want my ebook collection to act like a physical book collection. I want them all on the same “shelf” and to be able to save, store, and keep for the rest of my life. Some DRM schemes are dependent on outside sources to “decrypt” on the fly. If those sources don’t last as long as my life, I’ll lose my books. I want all my books, in whatever format, to be an investment I can access as I want to, DRM keeps me from doing that.

    One alternative you may want to consider, is digital watermarking. I believe the Harry Potter books did this, and many of my technical books are also assigned only to me. I’ll admit I don’t know how this works, but somehow my info is embedded in the ebook. If I were to upload these to a pirate site (not that I ever would), it would show I was the one who owned it and the publisher could come get me. I like this much better as I am free to use the martial, personally, however I want to. I’m sure someone has ways to crack watermarking as well, but there is criminal working every moment.

  • John Melka May 29, 2012 @ 11:57

    •What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    I do think it has its place. If you produce a reasonable product at a reasonable price, you deserve the price and you do not deserve to be “shoplifted”. On the other hand, Borland Software Corp was very successful using the “book license” for its software. It stated, simply, that you could use their program on any computer, one instance at a time, just like a book. There enforcement was legal not electronic.
    So my bottom line is that DRM, if it used, has to grant “in perpetuity” license for the user. You do not buy a book and come to it 10 years later and find all the typeface missing and a cryptic message about a “404 error” on your book. Anything less is cheating.

    •How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    OK, I have purchased both restricted (password, watermarked and franked) books for use in my profession. I have the same for my Kindle. As long as I can read the information on the device of my choice, I am happy.
    I did have some music I purchased (with burn rights I did not exercise) that disappeared when the company supplying it went under. That is annoying, hence my “in perpet” requirement, and the use of a software escrow method for the rights.
    I use Netflix right now. It uses DRM through Silverlight. I have no problem with it. It works as advertized and will stop working when and if I cancel my membership. This is what I signed up for.

    •Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    I do not currently do this. I have in the past produced “keyed” software. Their packages were non-standard, hard to use and good for one pass at security. If I do this kind of thing again, it will be with web based products and use digital certification to lock it. This is necessary because there are “use” provisions in the purchase, and there is a need to revoke the license if they are violated (think SPAM control as an example).

    •Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?
    It is simple. If I were to make a meal, carve a statue, build a house, or clean your stove, I would expect you to pay me an agreed upon remuneration (effort for effort). I would not expect to clean the stoves in the block for free, nor feed all of China for free. That would be unfair. On the converse, if I bought a flawless diamond from you, and found out it was a zircon, I would expect to give it back and get my money back.
    Internet commerce is still in its infancy. We are still working out how to do things, especially how to do them in a manner similar to what we would do in “bricks and mortar” stores. We need to make sure both buyer and seller are satisfied or they will refuse to use this medium again. We should be fair, avoid drackonian (especially, especially, especially GOVERNMENTALLY drakonian restrictions) and do our business.

  • Mike Schulenberg May 29, 2012 @ 11:56

    My personal opinion is that DRM is generally ineffective against piracy. Every implementation of ebook DRM, with the possible exception of iBooks, is easily stripped by anyone capable of doing a Google search and following simple instructions. However, DRM might be effective in deterring some people from casually sharing files with their friends.

    I don’t like DRM. I’ve been burned on it in the past when vendors have gone out of business. It hinders the honest consumer if they should want to format-shift their purchase, either because they want to read it on an unsupported device of their choice, or if they simply want to tweak how the book is formatted.

    I like the freedom of being uninhibited by DRM and it’s my first priority when making a purchase. I never distribute my purchases to anyone.

    I purchase a lot of content to consume–at least one ebook a week, along with digital comics and digital music. The DRM on digital comics makes me worried about the future, so I don’t buy many of them. Digital music has no DRM, and I love that. I also love how Baen Books doesn’t use DRM.

    I don’t have anything published yet, but I’m currently producing content I intend to self-publish with no DRM, assuming it’s any good when I’m finished.

    I can see how this would be a tough decision for something like HTTS. If it helps, even if you decided to use DRM and I didn’t already have HTTS, I’d buy it regardless of my own personal stance. It’s just that good 🙂

    But I just don’t see DRM as being very effective.

  • Greg Rohloff May 29, 2012 @ 11:56

    Smashwords has a pointed and precise explanation on why it supports non-DRM publishing. http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#glossary.

    • Holly May 29, 2012 @ 12:21

      I’ve read their statement. I was unconvinced. That’s why I’m talking directly to readers and writers.

  • David Masters May 29, 2012 @ 11:56

    A vote for DRM-free.

    1. DRM is incredibly easy to crack. You can get plug-ins for ebook management software such as calibre that removes DRM at a click of a button.

    2. If readers choose to share their books with friends, that’s a marketing opportunity. Savvy writers will include a call to action (or at minimum, a list of all their other books) at the end of every ebook.

    3. Piracy itself is a marketing opportunity. After Paulo Coelho’s books were pirated in Russia, sales of his Russian translation books sky-rocketed from 10,000 a year to 1,000,000 a year. Since then, Coelho actively encourages piracy of his books. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/01/paulo-coelho-readers-pirate-books

    4. The problem is not piracy, but obscurity.

    5. DRM is rooted in fear, and I’m all about sharing the love.

    • Holly May 29, 2012 @ 12:20

      Having read Coelho’s article now, I can see what he’s getting at. Where intellectual property is concerned, though, he’s full of shit.

      He says: “”The good old days, when each idea had an owner, are gone forever. First, because all anyone ever does is recycle the same four themes: a love story between two people, a love triangle, the struggle for power, and the story of a journey.”

      HTTS is none of those. It’s a unique, in-depth, process-oriented non-fiction writing course based on my own discoveries across the last 25 years. He might be describing what he writes, in which case, I’m sorry for his readers. He isn’t describing me. Or my students.

      “Second, because all writers want what they write to be read, whether in a newspaper, blog, pamphlet, or on a wall,” he said.”

      No, actually. I want to be read—but I also want to be paid.

      • David Masters May 29, 2012 @ 12:41

        Totally.

        The first comment on the guardian article is pretty cool:

        “The problem writers have in getting readers to pirate their work is maintaining the whiff of the daring and illicit. Make it too easy or too obviousl it’s something you want people to do and, after the buzz about the groundbreakers hits a diminishing returns spiral no one will be interested.”

        I guess I see it this way. Back when Napster was legal (wow, that was a long time ago) I “pirated” a lot of music from friends. I many artists I’m now a loyal fan of, buying their albums. Getting songs from friends was a bit like a personal radio station, and discovered all kinds of music I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.

        • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:02

          Honestly, I wouldn’t have a problem with people sharing my work with friends (not the whole goddamn world, but FRIENDS) if those who found it useful then bought legal copies themselves.

          My problem with legitimate readers falls with those who think that lending an e-book is the same as lending a physical book, but who don’t stop to consider that you give your one and only copy of a physical book to a friend when you loan it, so you don’t have it. If he keeps it, you hunt him down to get it back, or you buy another one, so that all copies remain paid copies.

          Whereas, if you give a copy of your ebook to a friend and he never returns it, you still have your copy, he still has your copy, and any friends he “loaned” the book to still have your copy.

          • David Masters May 30, 2012 @ 9:25

            Yes, that makes sense.

            However, I think people do consider those issues. For example, I was recently given an ebook for free as part of an author’s promotion. It’s a reference guide about freelancing. And I’ve fallen in love with this book and return to it so often I’m planning to buy a physical copy. (With reference books, I find it much easier to thumb through them as physical books. I hate reading anything longer than a blog post on my computer screen, and navigating vast swathes of text on an ereader is a horrible experience. Nothing beats flicking through pages to find what you want).

            Now, I have passed the ebook on to a close friend. I thought long and hard before I did this. But ultimately, I see it as a marketing opportunity for the book’s writer. He’s getting a new audience and, who knows, my friend may well buy a physical copy of the book too.

  • asraidevin May 29, 2012 @ 11:55

    I don’t worry about piracy. People are going to pirate or they won’t.

    Generally it comes down to respect. People don’t respect the big companies, and it’s easy to tell themselves they are only hurting the companies when they pirate.

    When your titles have your face on it, your story attached to it, it’s like a personal connection. It’s like knowing you, I wouldn’t steal from your house, I wouldn’t steal from your website.

    These days everyone runs a different piece of hardware, when I sell a book I want to know that know that whatever the user has, it’s going to work for them.

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:03

      “Generally it comes down to respect. People don’t respect the big companies, and it’s easy to tell themselves they are only hurting the companies when they pirate.”

      This is true in that people think it. It’s sadly untrue in that the individual authors are the ones who are most hurt.

  • Nina Niskanen May 29, 2012 @ 11:54

    Oh, I forgot to mention; if you just want to use DRM to combat piracy, you might be better off with a watermark-type deal. That would allow you to track down the people who started spreading the content to begin with without hindering the people who actually pay for your product. The thing about DRM is that it doesn’t prevent piracy and it doesn’t even help you track down the people responsible for it. It just makes things more difficult for your legitimate audience.

  • Stephanie May 29, 2012 @ 11:53

    DRM huh?

    Honestly, I am neither for nor against it completely. (I do not produce content, but consume many types. Movies, Video Games, Books, Music). I do understand wanting to make sure your stuff is secure, and am willing to deal with DRM if it is on something I purchase. However, I occassionally have problems with how DRM is implemented. We have 2 desktops, a laptop, and a kindle at our house. We have one amazon account for myself and my husband. (We read alot of the same things, usually things I have chosen). There have been times I have been unable to read a book on my Kindle because it has already been read on one of the desktops and/or the laptop. This is ridiculous in my opinion. Similar to saying, oh you already read this in the car, well no reading this on the living room couch. If I own a paper copy of a book, I can theoretically take it anywhere with me to read. Car, bus, train, plane, living room, bedroom, wherever. Not necessarily so with E-book, depending on how DRM has been applied to that particular book.(Desktop/large laptop in the car anyone? Wanna give it a shot? Me neither…) That has been the only issue I have currently run into with DRM for Ebooks.

    DRM for other media is a whole different matter, and makes me grumpy quickly if I have to reformat, re-everything my computer. IF I buy a disk(music, movie, game…), I should be able to listen/watch/play whenever on whichever piece of equipment (owned by me)that supports it, NOT see endless repetitions of this game has been activated already and is no longer playable (I know, I activated it, my computer said screw you and took a long, semi-permanent nap, I finally wake it up and make it run…now I can’t reload a game I bought onto the equipment I bought it for?! Not cool!) So my views toward DRM are ambivalent. It hasn’t yet kept me from buying a product (Though video games are rapidly approaching that line), but it has, often or occassionally (depending on type of product-games/movies/music much more than books), influenced how I enjoy that product. I do think it would be sad to see books become as DRM heavy as other products (movies, games) simply because I find DRM makes the products I buy less accessible to me in general. I only hope it does more so for those who are stealing it, although I do wonder sometimes…

  • Anthea May 29, 2012 @ 11:52

    •What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    I think it’s often badly done, so that it restricts the legitimate purchaser(licenser) of a product from using it on all their systems. In particular, I’m concerned about the longevity of the DRM’d books and music in my library, since as technology changes I may find it more and more difficult to access things. I’m already running into that having moved from iTunes to Google Music for most of my listening – I have to either pay iTunes to convert files, or burn them to disc and then rip them to mp3, so I have a lot of music that I don’t currently listen to. That said, I don’t boycott books because of DRM, but I will avoid software with especially invasive versions of it.

    •How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    Mostly I’ll read them on my Kindle if possible, or on a laptop or tablet or my phone depending on convenience and file type. Lots of devices. 🙂

    •Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    Mostly I purchase, mostly through Amazon, the Baen ebook store or individual websites, but I’ve also e-published three short story collections and selected DRM-free.

    •Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?
    I find the articles I’ve read against DRM to be fairly persuasive. I’m trying to remember which ones but pulling a blank for the most part. David Brin has had a few posts on the topic, I think, and John Scalzi. Mainly I think that it’s more of an inconvenience to purchasers than it is a detriment to pirates, but I suppose that’s partly because I’m a purchaser rather than a pirate. I don’t have that point of view to evaluate the question by.

    Good luck in the decision-making process!

  • Stacey May 29, 2012 @ 11:52

    1. I understand the reasoning behind DRM. As someone who both produces ebooks for sale and buys various types of digital content, I disagree with DRM. My own belief is why make it harder for the average person to enjoy what they’ve purchased? DRM is quite breakable. It adds unnecessary complications. If I want to use the product I’ve purchased in a manner the seller doesn’t approve of, it’s not the seller’s right to dictate to me how I may read my product. I’ve purchased it. It’s mine. It’s like buying a song. Itunes is very annoying about the whole thing. I just want a mp3 I can play on whatever hardware I want without the proprietary format getting in the way. I also believe that it doesn’t matter if DRM is used. Should the purchaser want to break DRM it can always been done. If a purchaser is stealing the content to re-sell or to “give away” that is a different subject and in my humble option I believe DRM will not deter a motivated thief. Ethics and morals aren’t things DRM can regulate. People either steal or they don’t.
    2. Text products I buy I print out, I also copy and paste relevant sections into my own journals for my own personal use. Sometimes, if I don’t quite get a section, I’ll paste it into word and play with it until it makes sense to me. I like to highlight sections. I like to copy paste sections from my kindle into google to run a search on information.
    3. I have purchased content for use on my affiliate review websites. However, the writer is fully aware of how the content is being used and I am purchasing the right to use it how I see fit. Other content I’ve purchased has been for my own personal consumption/use (ie course work or kindle type e-books).
    4. My belief is when I buy a digital product for my personal usage, I should be able to read it however it makes sense for me to. Whether that means printing it out, reading it in an e-reader, computer/laptop, or smartphone. I want to be able to do what I want with what I purchased.

    • David Masters May 29, 2012 @ 12:01

      Totally agree with the copy/paste and printing argument. Want people to write blog posts about your book? Let them copy and paste from your book!

      I get very frustrated when DRM stops me copy-pasting.

  • Nina Niskanen May 29, 2012 @ 11:51

    DRM-free is the future. Tor is releasing all of its content DRM-free because it makes good business sense for them and I would argue for you as well (Charles Stross wrote a wonderful piece about the business sense for Tor here: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/04/more-on-drm-and-ebooks.html). I’m trying to become a content producer, I am a content consumer and in my day job I am someone who works with technology. I’m also someone who owns digital content that I paid for fair and square that I can’t use anymore because the DRM-provider went out of business and shut their authentication servers down. That has happened several times in the past and will continue to happen as long DRM is a major thing. My stance against DRM is mostly based on my past experiences of losing content that I liked and paid for because the technology stopped working.

    You’re hoping (one might argue that you are already, but you’re moving to a new method so let’s stick with hoping) to provide content that people will come back to again and again. To keep from not ripping off the people who pay for said content you need it to remain available in the future and you just can’t guarantee that with DRM enabled products.

    I’m not really sure what you mean by how we use the content, but I use three different mobile devices (phone, Kindle and a pad) as well as several different computers because depending on the situation. I work wherever I please and that means I need my content mobile just like my technology. At the moment most of my ebooks are on the Kindle and I’m not entirely happy about that because it ties me down to that platform and when they act up and remove a publisher’s entire backlog, I don’t have access at all to that publisher’s stuff. Without DRM I could just convert the content I already paid for to a new platform and keep using it but with DRM I’m stuck using one platform. And when that platform’s technology goes obsolete so does my content.

  • rsf May 29, 2012 @ 11:50

    I’m a librarian, and I don’t particularly like DRM, because it is one more thing to go wrong between the reader and the text. With traditional print, only three conditions need to be met — first, that the reader is able to read the content (has programmed their brain for the language, can see the pages and turn them etc.), second, that the sun has come up, and third, that they have the book in their hands (or the magazine, etc.) Same content in an electronic format has many more requirements, not the least of which is cheap energy, but the software to translate the digital information into legible information is key, and that’s where DRM can fail. And even if it’s a situation where I could go online and download the program which would unblock the access to the content there’s the problem of the software provider wanting me to sign an agreement I wouldn’t sign for a can of dogfood, or wanting me to “register” and then selling my personal information to a mailing list or advertisers.

    As a result of my attitude toward DRM, if I have a choice between content that has DRM and that hasn’t, I generally choose the content that is DRM-free, even if I want it less. I do make a point of supporting the creators of content which I like directly as often as possible, but when things have gone out of print (as so much has!) I want the possibility of buying used materials from previous consumers to remain extant.

  • Lucy Francis May 29, 2012 @ 11:48

    I think DRM is a good idea that doesn’t actually work well in practice.

    I buy ebooks from a variety of vendors. I read on my nook, on my computer, on my tablet, on my phone…whatever I happen to have handy at the moment. I do the same with music. I also use Calibre to keep track of everything and change formats as needed.

    I am both a creater and a consumer. I self-publish my novels, and I am a voracious reader who buys a metric ton of books in both digital and paper.

    My stance on DRM was actually formed when purchasing music from iTunes and having to jump through hoops to listen to my own purchases on different devices. It drove me nuts. I know how easy it is to strip DRM, so it does not serve as a deterrent for pirates. What it does do is create problems for people who are legitimate purchasers who want to read on more than one piece of equipment. DRM can make it impossible for people to move their purchased works around. Plus, while many readers know how to strip the DRM and do what they want with the digital book, they shouldn’t have to go to the trouble. For those without the technie know-how, DRM just creates frustration.

  • K. Klein May 29, 2012 @ 11:48

    As a consumer, I do prefer DRM-free. I don’t pirate/share stuff, but it just makes it easier to share things I’ve bought between my various devices.

    But DRM or no DRM, I’m looking forward to buying these courses 😀

  • Carradee May 29, 2012 @ 11:46

    • What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    DRM is more of a hindrance than a help. It penalizes legitimate buyers without bothering pirates.

    • How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    I read it on my computer and/or Nook. I might also lend it to friends (through, for example, Barnes & Noble’s “LendMe”).

    • Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    Both. I produce e-book titles that I self-publish (all fiction, at the moment, though I have plans for non-fiction). All of it’s DRM-free.

    I also buy content: mostly e-books, but also some music. If something has DRM, I’m far less likely to buy it, even if I want it.

    • Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?
    This is most clearly explained in an example: There’s one book that I very much wanted to read when I bought it years ago, but due to a following computer crash and DRM headaches, I’ve never actually read it—or that author again—though I remember the book’s prequel fondly.

    DRM just frustrates those readers who want to be able to access the content they’ve paid for. If you frustrate them, you make it more likely they either won’t buy your content or that they’ll share the results so others won’t go through the same mess. I know I’ve downloaded cracked copies of e-books I already owned because the DRMed file was too much of a headache to open and read.

  • John Melka May 29, 2012 @ 11:45

    •What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    I do think it has its place. If you produce a reasonable product at a reasonable price, you deserve the price and you do not deserve to be “shoplifted”. On the other hand, Borland Software Corp was very successful using the “book license” for its software. It stated, simply, that you could use their program on any computer, one instance at a time, just like a book. There enforcement was legal not electronic.
    So my bottom line is that DRM, if it used, has to grant “in perpetuity” license for the user. You do not buy a book and come to it 10 years later and find all the typeface missing and a cryptic message about a “404 error” on your book. Anything less is cheating.

    •How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    OK, I have purchased both restricted (password, watermarked and franked) books for use in my profession. I have the same for my Kindle. As long as I can read the information on the device of my choice, I am happy.

    •Do you produce content to sell, or do you purchase content to consume, or do you do both? Please offer some details on this.
    •Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?

    • Nina Niskanen May 29, 2012 @ 11:58

      “So my bottom line is that DRM, if it used, has to grant “in perpetuity” license for the user. You do not buy a book and come to it 10 years later and find all the typeface missing and a cryptic message about a “404 error” on your book. Anything less is cheating.”

      That’s not possible with DRM. All DRM technology authenticates the content at regular intervals and once a company goes out of business or simply moves to a newer technology, they shut down the authentication servers resulting in that 404 error. That will happen always with every type of DRM.

      • Zoe Cannon May 29, 2012 @ 20:27

        If I’m not mistaken, Barnes and Noble’s DRM encrypts the book with a key based on your name and credit card number, rather than relying on authentication servers. I prefer this method over DRM of the “you can only read this on x number of authorized devices” method (like Adobe Digital Editions). It’s still far from ideal, though.

        • Liana Mir May 30, 2012 @ 11:44

          The problem with this method is that my current credit card HAS to be on file for me to read the books I bought two years ago. So even if I don’t need to purchase anything, they still need to have access to my money. I really, really just about had a cow when I discovered this and was in between cards because one had expired and they hadn’t yet sent me my new one and suddenly I couldn’t even finish reading my books that I had ALREADY purchased.

          DRM is useless. Pirates know how to break it and most legit consumers don’t. Talk about alienating the wrong audience.

      • Vanades May 30, 2012 @ 1:53

        And that’s exactly the reason why I don’t like DRM. I am one of those crazy people who re-read books and I want to be able to re-read an e-book in ten years same as I’m able to do with any paper-book I own. I’m currently re-reading books that I bought 20 years ago. With DRM an impossibility.

  • Anne Lyle May 29, 2012 @ 11:41

    I’m strongly against DRM, because it inconveniences honest users (who only want to convert an ebook to a preferred format) whilst offering trivial defence against piracy. Having gone through four different ebook readers in the past five years, all with a different proprietary format, I resent having to pay for a book again and again because I can’t transfer the original copy from one device to the next.

    I’m putting my money where my mouth is on this one, because one of the reasons I was so keen to sign with my present publisher (Angry Robot Books) is that they release DRM-free editions of all their books. Frankly, DRM has had its day – just recently Tor (and their parent company) announced they were dropping DRM, and I expect other big publishers to start following suit over the coming months.

    It might lose you a few sales in the short term once a pirate copy gets out there, but the majority of readers are honest and willing to pay a reasonable price for a good product – and they’ll thank you for making their lives easier.

  • Colleen May 29, 2012 @ 11:40

    I am currently against using DRM as a way to safeguard digital media. As a consumer, I buy my music through iTunes and my books through Amazon. I’m locked into those formats by the hardware I own: by owning an iPhone and a Kindle, I was forced into those boxes before I was even able to make an informed choice. No one told me when I bought my first iPod, many years ago, that I would be tethered to a music system I may or may not enjoy using, and that, furthermore, the choice to change in the future would be functionally taken from me, holding my purchased media hostage.

    This is what has largely informed my opinion of DRM. I am not convinced that deterrence does actually have a significant impact on criminal behavior, but it does have an impact on my behavior. Given a choice between DRM or DRM-free media, I will choose the DRM-free every time. I feel DRM is needlessly putative toward honest consumers for the amount of good it (potentially) provides.

    For example, I can (and do) listen to all of my music purchased through iTunes on my computer, my phone, and my old iPod. However, my partner (who lives with me) cannot put that music on her iPhone, because it’s on a different account (for many very good reasons). Now, she needs to have an iPod to carry around with her that’s linked to my account just to listen to music that we both own, since our joint funds were used to purchase it.

    Likewise, with my books, should my Kindle be destroyed or made obsolete, I’m punished as a consumer. Essentially, I disagree with the fact that the age of digital media means that I can only lease or license, never buy. I have a tiny apartment: I simply cannot store all the books I want to read and own. I am punished by this, however, in knowing that my media is no longer actually mine.

    DRM additionally decreases competition and, potentially, quality. It doesn’t matter if there’s a great, innovated new media player on the market: I will not buy it or even look into it, because I cannot afford to leave a large portion of my music behind and repurchase it all. The same goes for an eReader: I cannot afford to purchase all of my Kindle books again, should I choose to go with another reader, no matter how wonderful that reader might be. There are ways, of course, to crack DRM; I choose not to do that. Which again serves as a penalty for honesty.

    Knowing that you will not lose your customers even if another company can create something better, cheaper, or more values-aligned, what incentive do you have to innovate?

    (I’m not sure I clearly answered the second part of the question, so: I read books on a Kindle, but often share those between my phone and my computer. I listen to music through iTunes on my computer, on my phone, and on an iPod. I do not jailbreak any of the devices I own.)

  • Stephen B. Bagley May 29, 2012 @ 11:37

    1. I think DRM is necessary. I know many people who think nothing of sharing DRM-free books and music with friends. I assume they do it because they like the creators’ work, but they don’t seem to realize how they’re are hurting the creator. Or perhaps they think other people will pay the artists’ bills. I don’t know.

    I also know many people who would not ever pirate works, and they appreciate the openness of DRM free books and music. I purchase DRM free music so that I can share it easily between my computer, tablet, and music player. However, I don’t share it with other people.

    Small thefts are easy to justify, but they’re still thefts.

    2. I use the texts on my Nook and on my computer. Sometimes I print them out to read off-line or when I need to make notes.

    3. Yes, I produce content to sell. Books through Lulu.com. Lulu has made my books available on iTunes and other online stores, some with DRM, some without. The DRM books have sold more, but I think that’s because iTunes is so dominant in that area. However, I do make less money from the DRM books per book. I don’t know why, really.

    4. Because I believe creators deserve to be paid for their work. Art in any form is a tough way to make a living. I don’t know many people who can and who do so only for the money. But artists got to eat. They need the support. Cash is good for that. 🙂

    • Laraine May 29, 2012 @ 12:20

      Yes. I’m also quite sure people who buy unprotected books happily share them with friends, while also keeping their own copy. I bet my bottom dollar few people take notice of the Smashwords copyright notice. Most people seem to have so much trouble seeing a situation from the other side–putting themselves in the shoes of another, as it were.

      “Art in any form is a tough way to make a living.”
      Very true. As Olin Miller put it, “Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”

      • Stephen B. Bagley May 29, 2012 @ 12:38

        I love the Miller quote! 🙂

        It’s true that DRM can be an inconvenience. It’s only been a minor one for me, and it’s one I’m willing to put up with to ensure the artist gets paid.

        I suspect the majority of people who will respond here would never knowingly pirate, and thus DRM is an inconvenience to varying degrees.

        And it’s true there is no complete defense against intellectual theft. Someone could always buy a book and scan in the pages, as was done with Rowling’s books. But most pirates won’t because there is easier prey out there.

        However, Holly’s works are unique, so a pirate might be more inclined to make the effort.

        It’s a hard decision, but I still think DRM has merit. I, for one, want Holly to be able to afford to write, write, write!

    • Vanades May 30, 2012 @ 3:05

      I sometimes loan books (paper books) to friends. In some cases that has led to them buying more books from that specific writer. Books they wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t hooked them up with the first one. Same with books that I was loaned. I can’t do that with a book that has DRM. Which is a pity and a lost marketing-opportunity for the writer.

      In one case I was loaned a book and then ended up buying at least ten books by that writer and I plan to buy new releases as well. I would never even have checked out this writer if I hadn’t been loaned that first book. I also bought a copy of the book I was loaned because I wanted to own my own copy.

      If the book had had DRM I probably would never have read that first book and never bought all the other books. I think that would have been a greater loss to the writer than that one loaned copy.

      I’m also not too sure what to think about people who are trying to sell me something and yet at the same time think I’m a (potential) thief. Just saying. Purely emotional statement here.

  • Joseph Robert Lewis May 29, 2012 @ 11:34

    My books are DRM-free wherever possible. Over the years, I have seen a few titles appear on file sharing sites, but I have seen no drop in sales.

    The only people who care about DRM are the people who know how to break it. Paying customers don’t care… until they have a technical problem caused by the DRM.

  • Stephanie Osborn May 29, 2012 @ 11:34

    I think DRM is the way to go. I work hard on my writing and I want it protected. It’s bad enough to see “used” copies of my books up on Amazon etc. ON THE DAY OF RELEASE, but the idea of pirated e-copies makes me ill. I recently was queried regarding non-DRM copies of my ebooks by a specific person and informed said person that I didn’t think there were any; my indie-pubbed short stories all have DRM, and my main publisher does DRM I believe. This miffed the person. Later I was discussing a favorite TV show on Facebook, whose broadcast was decidedly noisy due to storms in the area. Same person suggested I go out on the web and find a video of the episode and watch it. I said that was a great idea; did he know of any legal (as opposed to bootlegged) copies on the Net? He got offended and went off in a huff. Only about an hour later I was informed by another person that the network had posted the episode online after airing. This tells me a lot about that person’s morals and willingness to abide by my copyrights, etc. And I’m not a big-name writer.

    No way am I going to go non-DRM with people like that out there.

  • Scath May 29, 2012 @ 11:31

    I’m DRM free wherever possible, and so far, I haven’t had any problems with piracy. In fact, the only time one of my ebooks ended up on a file-sharing site was BEFORE Amazon allowed us to select DRM/no DRM.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem either way or search out DRM free items to purchase. But I do pay attention to those who believe they should be able to listen/view their purchased content on whatever devices they own, and DRM makes that difficult.

    I get that, which is why my work is DRM free where possible. Plus, it’s apparently extremely easy to break DRM, so I don’t really see that it’s all that useful anyway.

    Just my .02. 😉

  • Ruthanne Reid May 29, 2012 @ 11:31

    Please don’t go DRM. Let me explain why.

    1. Those of us who genuinely pay for this then have to go through the difficulty of the product never working quite right. We can’t use it easily on our various technologies. We have trouble if we upgrade a computer. Sometimes when something happens like a hard-drive crash, and we lose our files, suddenly we can’t download new versions because of that DRM protection. It’s a serious pain in the you-know-what. (Yes, I have been through all of these things. I stopped buying from Barnes and Noble because their DRM makes it ridiculously complicated.)

    2. Actual pirates have the software and skills to remove DRM, anyway. It’s pointless. It doesn’t actually stop them – just the people who bought the material in the first place.

    *This rant born of frustration from being on the phone with various companies for hours on end trying to access products I purchased and then could not use.

  • Paul Howard May 29, 2012 @ 11:31

    Holly, may I post the link on some author/writing sites I visit?

    • Holly Lisle May 29, 2012 @ 11:42

      Yes, you may. I’d like to get as much feedback as I can from all sides of the issue before I decide how I’m going to handle this.

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