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 indie-publish my new ones.


145 comments… add one
  • Maria (BearMountainBooks) Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:18

    As writers, we really don’t have a choice but to go DRM free. We just have to trust our fellow-man…

    If you haven’t discovered a downloadable product called Calibre, look into it. He subsists on donations and I can tell you that the program is worth looking into. You can upload your HTML and get the various formats you need.

    I recently started selling ePUB directly from my site. I’ve used Calibre for a while, but for getting out review copies, selling direct or just checking formats–it’s very, very valuable.

    Many readers use it to sort their “book shelves.”

    Maria

  • Kevin Jun 1, 2012 @ 5:33

    btw, http://www.economist.com/node/21553445 is another more “idealistic” argument: Making it legal for libraries to archive your work.

    DRM-circumvention is illegal in many countries, including the US, meaning it is illegal for libraries to make an everlasting archive of your book.

  • Algot Runeman (@algotruneman) May 31, 2012 @ 6:46

    I prefer to “own” my copy of a work. That simply means I want to use it as I see fit. In a paper book, I feel free to write notes in the margin or underline what seems important to me. With careful storage, a paper-printed book has long term durability. My grandchildren can enjoy the copy of a book I treasured as a boy.

    Digital versions suffer from bitrot. Formats have come and gone. Storage is very tough to accomplish for even a decade, much less centuries.

    Digital versions have a big benefit though. With digital, I get the extra benefit of being able to capture clips to a common location where I can use them combined with other resources. The digital content becomes more than it was by itself. As with paper sources, I do expect to acknowledge the original author if I involve others in my mashup.

    Typically, DRM prevents that benefit. I am generally restricted to read-only use. DRM has deprived me of both ownership and digital benefits. I am merely borrowing my copy from a particular source.

    My background is education. I was a teacher. My job involved giving students access to new and exciting information. My job was to help them make personal connections to the knowlege and to make their own creations using that new information. I didn’t charge extra for students who accessed, processed and generated more than some others did. I gave my curation skill as evenly as possible. I *gave* it to my students. I’m biased by that habit. We paid for textbooks, but I wrote many, many worksheets, guides, assessments, etc. I did not charge my students for those, either.

    Since retiring, I’ve become interested in the Software Freedom and Open Educational Resources efforts. I’ve become an advocate for these ideas because I think students deserve to have access to as many tools as possible. Those tools should not be restricted, locked down, tied to ridiculous EULAs. The tools should be as accessible as possible, with the output as compatible as possible with other tools, not simply those in the specific toolchain of a single vendor. Remember the fragile reality of digital formats.

    DRM is an extra impediment to the longevity of a digital product, an unreasonable, and specifically additional lock on the value and potential for the document’s future use.

  • M. Rosenthal May 30, 2012 @ 23:00

    I’d like to suggest a different way of thinking about the question of whether or not to use DRM.

    For every copy of your work that someone buys, you get not one, but two different kinds of benefit. One is monetary, the other is publicity. Everyone who reads your work and recommends it to a friend is providing you with marketing services, free of charge.

    Even when someone reads your work without purchasing it, you still get the latter benefit.

    If you use DRM, most potential purchasers will either pay you or get scared off by the DRM. Only a relatively small number will be sophisticated enough to break the DRM. But you’ll never know just how many people gave up on reading your work and found someone else to read instead because they didn’t want to deal with your DRM. The only people available to spread the word about what an awesome writer you are will be those who were already such fans of yours that they were willing to struggle through the hassles of DRM to get your writing.

    If, on the other hand, you choose not to use DRM, the initial number of paying readers will probably be smaller, BUT you’ll be creating a much larger army of people who like your work and can provide you with free marketing.

    With a fan base that’s orders of magnitude larger you’ll become far better known, and that publicity tends to feed on itself, which will translate into radio and TV interview opportunities that would be far less likely with the much smaller fan base you’d have with DRM.

    So even if the percentage of paying readers is smaller than with DRM, in absolute numbers they’ll eventually overtake the number of paying readers you’d have if you used DRM.

  • Richard May 30, 2012 @ 19:38

    I have pretty much stopped purchasing books in paper format because it so nice to have them in digital format.

    I prefer PDF format for technical books or books that have specific formatting that does not transfer well to other formats like the Dummies series for example. This works especially well on my iPad. I also have a fair number in Kindle format which are mostly, if not all, novels. These work well on my Kindle device and the Kindle software for my iPad.

    DRM. I do not like it, but I understand why it is around. I have, and never will, give a de-DRMed file to someone else. However, I do remove DRM from all of my titles. If my preferred device changes in the future, this ensures that the purchases I have made are still available. The logic behind this is not too different from my not having to purchase all of my paper based books (again) just because I move to a new house. Maybe I need my “compass” recalibrated, but I don’t believe I should have to purchase all my eBooks again when I simply change computers (what a PITA) or worse, completely change devices, technology, or platforms.

    • Richard May 30, 2012 @ 19:43

      I am, at this point anyway, simply a consumer of information. If I was writing and publishing that might change my viewpoint some, but it may not either.

    • Richard May 30, 2012 @ 19:43

      I am simply a consumer of information for now. If I was writing and publishing that might change my viewpoint some, but it may not either.

  • Ruth May 30, 2012 @ 19:27

    First off: Holly, do what YOU feel comfortable with doing. No matter what you decide, you’ll annoy some people. That is just how life goes.

    However, from my point of view, watermarking – ‘this copy purchased for the personal use of XYZ. Thankyou for your support!’ in small font along the bottom of pages throughout the work (or similar) would be the most favourable option for me, and this is why:

    I’m old enough to remember the beginnings of the computer revolution. I remember when there weren’t such things as ‘home computers’. I remember when the internet was still dialling into your local BBS and hopping to spare space on a university PDP and hoping the links weren’t too flaky. I’m old enough to remember the gradual spread of various types of DRM and ownership keys (ugh! anyone else remember those pieces of plastic scored so when fitted over the monitor you could decode the passkey distorted on it?) Over that time, over and over, I’ve seen companies come and go, standards change, systems mutate.

    I don’t mind the technology improving so that old software won’t run (well, I do, because that means I have to buy new stuff but heh). I do see red when company gets bought out and closed down, or dies, and suddenly what you have no longer works (they could at least say its now orphaned and if you have a legit copy here’s your ‘freedom passcode’ since we’re no longer in business).

    I do mind when companies go overboard with things like the infamous sony rootkit, or making a book ONLY available in ONE format which is unreadable anywhere else.

    This is why DRM and format/proprietary tech-locked items annoy me. Long and bitter experience has taught me again and again that no DRM can be trusted, whether its a password, or its an install program locked to your computer setup, or it is something that only runs on one reader (and lo! there was swearing in the house when after an ‘upgrade’ whole swathes of files could no longer be read).

    In principle, they’re a good idea. In practice, they tend to snafu.

    I have no objection to eBooks.

    I generally prefer a ‘real’ book because until now, the readers I’ve looked at are uncomfortable for longterm use, but that is changing. Monitors to begin with were a sure-fire way to headaches, too. The more they improve, the closer I’m looking at them. The size of my physical library is scary. It is around the 4,000 mark. I do not need it bigger, but . . . if I buy eBooks I want them to be readable in another 40 years, whatever technology has done in the meantime. I do not want to have to somehow keep the equivilent of a TRS-80 working so I can read them, (or be stuck with reels and reels of Saturn rocket data on tape which can’t be accessed like NASA has).

    I use Project Guttenberg quite a lot, for example, for older texts in the public domain, and several places collect specialist out-of-copyright booklets/papers on specialist subjects which have been scanned (for which PDF is very useful!) Many of these older scans are actually easier on the eyes when printed out and hand-bound – many of them weren’t exactly printed well in the originals and monitor flicker makes it worse.

    Price, by the way, is a minor (but usually nice) point. Most eBooks are slightly (sometimes greatly!) cheaper than hardcopy. You are, after all, still paying for the time and effort to write, edit, check, format, and produce them – just not for their printing and binding and distribution through normal warehousing outlets. They may have bonuses – pictures you can zoom in on, audio or movie clips – which books don’t.

    eBooks do have advantages over hardcopy. Mind you, it is far cheaper to drop your recently published paperback in the wet grass than your Reader (or consider dropping superglue on your Reader while crafting).

    It is the DRM/locking that worries me. Annoys me. So far the eBooks I’ve bought have specifically been ones without DRM where I won’t get ‘trapped’ five years down the track. I do think Baen has the right idea in the longterm (their Baen Free Library is a great marketing tool) but surviving to that longterm might be tricky.

    But in the final analysis, it is what you, as writer and owner, want to do with your works that matters. There will always be thieves. There will always be honest people. There will always be those who see a wall (DRM) as a challenge to be got through or around because using the gate is too easy and the wall ‘shouldn’t be there’.

    What matters is you finding a way to make your work available in a way that makes you smile at night.

  • Robert Santa Maria May 30, 2012 @ 15:35

    Okay, I think everyone has lost sight of what Holly is trying to garner from your input.

    First off, I don’t think this is a discussion of Big Brother. If you’re paranoid about being watched, stalked or whatever by the Gov. then you better stay home and seal your house with aluminum foil. We have stop light camera’s. We have toll booth cameras. We have cameras everywhere. Do you really think buying Holly’s books will somehow alert the Feds, Homeland or the NSA and have then say “Gotcha!”

    C’mon!

    Simply put, Holly got ripped off by putting her books on digital format. She would very much like to avoid that in future. DRM is one of her options. Do you have any other that she may try, look into or discuss the merits of?

    As for sharing with friends: I had a “friend” who worked at an office where the copy machines were free-for-all. She used to take books I’d loan her and photo copy them. When she was done, she’d sell the photocopy to others with her earnings going to pay for paper, toner, etc. She “justified” the theft by saying she did pay for the book “Sort of.”

    Everyone has their own idea of what larceny is and isn’t. Everyone has their inner “thief”.

    For those of you who take offense to the idea that an author or publishers assumes you are a thief: Get over it!

    I was a cop for 15 years. I assume theft, rape, murder and chaos will ensue at any given time and, usually, from the strangest and most unexpected places. Which is why we have laws and safeguards.

    That’s what Holly is trying to find. A safeguard to her work that won’t leave her ripped off like the last venture.

    Hope this is read in the spirit I mean to convey. Holly needs your help. How about giving it?

  • Timothy May 30, 2012 @ 12:46

    •What is your opinion of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
    It’s a pain. I treat e-purchases like DVDs. I wouldn’t make copies of a DVD for others, though I would lend, so why give out copies of DRM-free books I received from the author?

    •How do you use digital (text) products you purchase?
    I mainly read on a Kindle reader. in my case, that’s my Kindle, my iTouch, and my work iPad. If the DRM protection is too much trouble I can’t read on my own 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.
    Both, though only a short story so far. I still purchase print books, mainly for reference, but like the portability of an ebook.

    •Why have you taken the stance you have on Digital Rights Management?
    I’ve run across older ebooks and audible book files that can’t acces. I paid for these, but the software says I have insufficient rights. It feels as if I rented the books and now they are past due. I’m out the money, but can’t enjoy the books any longer.

  • rudy May 30, 2012 @ 12:30

    I am an author / publisher and and don’t use it. The earlier versions of DRM coding would reformat your products and it’s hard enough to format for the Kindle as it is. My father always told me that you should sell enough of anything that if anyone stole half you would still be rich. (I think he was referring to the government).

    rudy

  • Simon May 30, 2012 @ 12:18

    I don’t have any DRM capable reader, so if you opt for DRM I would be unable to read your book unless someone makes an unauthorized copy.

    If you have a DRM free version with donate facilities or advice, I can pay you money and read.

    Last I saw 19% of Americans own a tablet of some sort, so likely I’m still in the majority in the US, and presumably a larger majority of the English speaking world.

    Donate facilities make it easy for someone to pay more than you suggest if they like it, people won’t do that if you write a contract that says it is $4.99 no ifs or buts.

  • Barbara May 30, 2012 @ 11:36

    I buy from barns and noble and I read on my nook, on my iPhone, and on my tablet. I also borrow digital books from my library. I prefer the digital format over paper because it is easier to carry my whole library on one of my devises.

  • Cameron May 30, 2012 @ 10:45

    Here’s my limited consumer-view:

    I stopped buying music from iTunes as soon as I found out that Amazon sold mp3s DRM-free. Immediately, without ever looking back, and I will never purchase music from iTunes again (even if it is not available on Amazon yet). The convenience of moving it from one to many devices without having to figure out how to register all my devices with some super-DRM-master-overlord is worth it hands down.

    So, that’s music.

    I know that books are a little different, and even Amazon has some DRM on its Kindle content. While I can appreciate that, I also appreciate the “lending” feature on Kindle books (when enabled) that lets my wife and I share between our two devices (which are on separate accounts) without buying a second copy of the same book or without actually physically trading Kindle devices (though lending is so infrequently used we have only been able to truly take advantage for a limited supply of books, most notably the Hunger Games series).

    I never had to worry about DRM when I bought a paperback. I just loaned it to my wife or vice versa.

    As far as I am concerned, I understand the place of DRM, but, as someone said earlier, it is a deterrent to me to PURCHASE the material, and if there is another option I would take that first, primarily for consumer convenience.

    Honestly, I’m looking forward to HTRYN coming out in an eReader format when I can buy it with or without DRM. But just let me read it on my Kindle (and Kindle for PC and Kindle for my Android Phone, etc. which I should be able to do if it’s available for Kindle). So, your decision on DRM won’t likely affect my decision to purchase. However, if you want my opinion on DRM – there you go, it’s clumsy, relatively ineffective, and just presents a nuisance for honest customers to prevent piracy by folks that wouldn’t have bought it legitimately (therefore no lost sale). I don’t think that’s the “people will steal it anyway” argument, but more the “people that would steal are not likely to buy legitimately” which I think is a slight nuance.

    I would hope at least nobody posting here would want to steal your work and would choose to monetarily support you.

    Thank you for all that you do and best of luck with the decision.

    Eagerly awaiting the courses (any way they come out),
    Cameron

  • Kevin O McLaughlin May 30, 2012 @ 9:37

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

    I would not use it on my books. I tend to avoid buying books with DRM, as cracking the DRM is an annoying additional step to having control of my purchases.

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

    Generally I read ebooks on a smartphone; sometimes on a Kindle device, also occasionally on an iPad.

    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 am a writer-publisher with multiple works out (without DRM). I am also an avid reader who has purchased in excess of a hundred ebooks.

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

    Multiple reasons. This is a complex subject.

    1) Breaking DRM is trivial. A free plugin for a free and easy to use software package allows easy access to DRM breaking for all major retailers’ DRM. I know you don’t want the “locked door” argument, but it IS valid. DRM does not serve it’s primary purpose: it does NOT prevent copying and distribution of books. At all. Ever. My six year old can crack DRM on any Kindle ebook. It *does not serve it’s intended purpose*. A locked door at least serves as a deterrent. DRM does not.

    2) DRM free books are the only books which are “future proof” for readers. Having DRM on ebooks makes transfer of books from one device to another problematic. If I want to maintain backups of my ebooks on my PC, I need to crack their DRM (otherwise I cannot load them onto my other devices from that backup). Amazon has shown us backing up is important, having pulled books from people in the past. And there is frankly no guarantee any retailer will *always* be there (five years ago no one thought Borders would die) – thus, having DRM free versions which can be adapted to other devices in the future is crucial to “future proofing” one’s ebook collection.

    3) DRM cracking is legal in most cases. In 2009, the Library of Congress made regulatory changes to the DMCA which allowed the cracking of DRM for personal use on all ebooks where the DRM “contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.” Link: http://www.copyright.gov/1201/2010/Librarian-of-Congress-1201-Statement.html

    What does this mean? Kindle DRM generally removes the read aloud function. Almost all DRM prevents use on “screen readers that render the text into a specialized format”. The LOC ruling did not state that you must be disabled to break DRM for these purposes, simply that DRM which prevented these uses could be broken for personal use. Effect? Almost all ebook DRM in use today can be broken by any user with *no legal recourse* for the publisher or retailer.

    4) DRM is annoying. Yes, it is generally legal and usually easy to remove. It’s still an added barrier for users to overcome. Why would you put barriers in the place of customers using your work that are not effective anyway? DRM does nothing to prevent piracy (see the fallacy of the locked door argument above), but does deter customer purchases.

    5) DRM is a powerful tool for enforcing the Amazon hegemony and deterring competition in ebookstores. While this seems counter-intuitive, given the arguments above, the fact is that most readers *won’t* crack their DRM. It’s annoying. They don’t want to bother. Therefore, once readers have invested in some books from a given retailer, they are unlikely to change formats (from Kindle to epub, for example), because doing so would make them lose those previous books (or go to the trouble to remove DRM and convert them all, which is a hassle). Indie ebookstores can sell mobi format for Kindles (Smashwords does), but cannot put DRM on those formats. While major publishers require the use of DRM, that means indie ebookstores cannot sell books to 70% or so of the buyers out there. Publisher use of DRM therefore discourages indie ebookstores from starting up, limits their growth, and helps enforce Amazon’s “walled garden” effect. If there was no DRM on any ebooks, ebookstores would be free to sell epub AND mobi formats, and Amazon might see some serious competition start up for Kindle users from smaller niche-focused ebookstores.

    So, for a variety of reasons, I do not use DRM. I support the legal cracking of DRM. I absolutely do NOT support piracy, and believe we must find ways to deter piracy. But DRM does not do the job; instead, it simply annoys honest customers while not slowing pirates down in the least.

  • Kevin May 30, 2012 @ 9:33

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

    I won’t buy anything with DRM; why would I pay for a product that’s less useful (more restricted) than what the pirates get? There’s enough good literature available either without DRM or on plain paper that it doesn’t even inconvenience me to stay DRM-free as a consumer. It would inconvenience me very much to buy anything with DRM.

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

    I’m a tinkerer, I constantly change what devices and programs I use, and I tend to read whenever I have 5 minutes free. So I’ll sometimes read on my tiny phone on the bus, sometimes on my big work computer (Linux), sometimes on a laptop.

    * 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 just a consumer 🙂 I read a lot though …

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

    I don’t want to be locked in to one device or company. I want to read books in the reader (program or device) that I prefer, not the one that Amazon/Apple/whoever wants to sell me. I don’t want to end up with lots of purchased titles that suddenly don’t work because e.g. the DRM server went down (not done with books currently, but search for “Diablo 3 DRM” to see how bad it can get) or because the company making the reader program went bust and it’ll never be upgraded so it works with my new computer, etc. And most of all, I don’t want to pay to be treated as a thief, while those who copy illegally pay nothing and get star treatment.

  • Julianna May 30, 2012 @ 8:08

    I find DRM distasteful in practice and in principle. It only punishes the people who are buying your products. If I purchased a product with DRM and it turned out to be a hassle to use on any of my devices (Nook, smartphone or PC), I would definitely think twice about buying from that person again. I’m not much of a tech person, but it took me about two seconds to google how to remove DRM. Still, it’s hassle and your legitimate readers won’t thank you for it.

    I’m an aspiring author. I’m strongly considering going the indie route for publishing, for a number of reasons. When/if I publish this way, I won’t be using DRM. I acknowledge that piracy is going to happen, but I believe that DRM is more of an affront to honest readers than a deterrent to those who don’t want to pay.

  • DragonsLady (aka Francine) May 30, 2012 @ 6:05

    Basically I prefer DRM free electronic media. I am primarily a consumer and having produced any fiction in some time though that may change as I figure out what I want to do with my retirement.
    Why? Because I prefer to read a book and if I can’t get a book, then I need to be able to read it on a computer. I don’t Kindle, I don’t Nook. I even have the most basic of cell phones because I don’t text either. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
    Just as an aside – our sun is entering into it’s solar sunspot phase. If we get hit with a solar flare like the one that hit the earth in the 1800’s, DRM or not will be a moot point since nothing electronic will work – from pacemakers to computers – anything that runs on electricity (not necessarily bio-electricity i.e. the human body) will work possibly for several months/years until we can replace/rebuild all the tiny little electronic parts that give us our cyber world. (Check out the latest National Geographic (paper edition) for an article on this.) But at least I’ll be able to reread Holly’s books in my spare time, if I have any after cooking on fire, growing my own food, bartering with neighbors, guarding what’s mine with weapons, etc. Just a thought.

  • Spredo May 30, 2012 @ 4:57

    For some reason, my last (ok, my FIRST) comment is still “awaiting moderation”.

    Was it something I said?

    When I reread my post, I cannot find that I have broken any of the “rules” for posting, although I may have overestimated the readers of this forum, and expect them to actually be able to READ the whole post to get the message.

    Irony IS dangerous, but in a forum for readers and writers…

    Just wondering, just wondering.

    If I have broken any of the rules, please let me know!

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 6:42

      Nope. It was that I quit work for the day.

      • Spredo May 30, 2012 @ 8:23

        My bad:)
        (Sick father just home from the hospital for the first time in 2 months, mother still in hospital, and for some reason, I interpret EVERYTHING that does not go according to my “plan” as something negative. But I’m getting better)

  • Hitch, aka Kimberly Hitchens May 30, 2012 @ 2:11

    Well….I fear that this won’t be swimming with the tide. (Disclosure: I own Booknook.biz, an eBook formatting and production company; we deal with this, and our author’s concerns over this, daily.) I am, primarily, in FAVOR of DRM.

    We already know-at least, I know–that Holly’s books, in fairly good numbers, have been pirated, on numerous occasions. I recently had a heated exchange with someone on either KDP or MR or wherever about piracy, and many of the same arguments were used there that have been used here; it’s a hindrance to honest people, and no deterrence to the pirates, and (the ubiquitous) “the author’s not out any money, because those pirates never would have purchased a copy, anyway.”

    I agree–as someone who has myriad devices–that it can be a hindrance to those wanting to read a book on Nook, and then on Kindle, etc. Are the vast majority of buyers actually multiple-device users? It seems to me that the bulk of the people who’ve answered this post are fairly tech-savvy–so I can say, with some authority, that you are NOT the average user, most of whom don’t even know what DRM is, much less whether it bothers them or not. Most of my clients can’t ‘sideload’ anything–trust me.

    To me, the problem distills down, fairly consistently, to a very casual approach to intellectual property. If you buy a print book, do you demand to be able to read it on your Nook? Your Kindle? On your computer, or across your television screen? No, of course not–it’s in one given format, and that’s that. When you legally LEND that book to someone else, you LOSE the use of that property, for the time it’s out of your hands. The same is not true of those e-copies “lent” around the house, inside the family, to your cousin’s cousin, etc. BTW–with regard to “sucking” content off your devices, DRM actually has nothing to do with that; Amazon, B&N, etc., know exactly what is on your device at any given moment, including your own personal, uploaded Gutenberg books sans DRM, so, scratch that argument.

    Will Adobe–parent/owner of Adobe Content Server–go out of business any time soon? Probably not. Will Amazon, with its proprietary DRM? Equally probably not. Is the aspect a consideration? Of course. But on the other hand, if Amazon goes out of business, they’ll stop serving all your content anyway, so…

    We all know the big problem with REMOVING DRM. Quite simply, then, there is no hindrance whatsoever to the illicit copying and distribution. Is DRM a *major* hindrance to the truly nefarious? No. But none is no hindrance to (what seems to be) a generation of young people with absolutely ZERO respect for IP. The discussion that “pirates will steal it and not pay for it, anyway,” even when people think they mean it, has no bearing on the CASUAL theft of easy-to-lift items. It’s demonstrable that making books easier to steal doesn’t make them stolen less; they are stolen MORE. Moreover, the same ardent anti-DRM protestor, who will defend to the death his position that what he stole (excuse, me, “pirated”) had no value, will go dead silent if you ask him if he’d walk into a bookstore and shoplift the self-same book. His answer, unspoken, is “of course he wouldn’t,” because he’d be PROSECUTED. He knows damn well that the “value” is the same; his entire “I’m entitled to this” argument has been blown out of the water; it’s that he has no fear of prosecution that allows him to steal the digital versions. So even amongst the hard-core, the deterrence factor has *some* effect. Where am I going with this part? A client of mine, who wrote YA fiction. Who had a girl who liked his books, who told her boyfriend just how much she wanted to “gift” a copy to HER friend. (This was a whopping $0.99 book, mind you). Well, the boyfriend, hero that he was, cracked it, and, teens being teens, 28,000 copies later–yes, 28,000–it was tracked down and stopped. And, of course, none of those brats will be prosecuted. Do you think that my client would LIKE to have his $0.35 a book for those 28,000 copies? Yeah, considering he was on the brink of losing his house–yes. Or even 1/3rd of it. Or even the tenth that MIGHT have paid for it–as it was merely a buck.

    My point is, once you REMOVE DRM, you have no control over this at ALL. Digital watermarking sounds spiffy–but it’s not as easy as it sounds to make robust. Not to mention, many digital watermarks resist copying, ANYWAY, which gets us back to square one. We have, internally, considered Steganography, with “watermarking” that would appear if someone tried to upload an unpaid-for Kindle book, because we’ve had such a surprisingly large problem with authors walking away without paying for those last few edits done to their eBooks. (sigh–it’s true, my view of the honesty of the populace HAS become jaded; I admit this bias.)

    I also think it is, percentage-wise, more likely that those opposed to DRM will post here, than those not; those not are essentially satisfied with the (general) status quo, or are tied to a given device, and thus have no “beef” to discuss.

    My last point: TONS of “books” and many other things are “apps,” and I don’t hear a single soul crying out that they are “inconvenienced” because they can’t copy the app from the iPhone to their Droid to their Verizon–they simply BUY ANOTHER. Given that most apps and most eBooks are in the same price range, this is something that makes me go, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?” Seriously–not confrontationally–why is this? Thematically, what’s the diff? Apps are certainly every iota as protected/DRM’ed, etc., as books, if not 10x as much, so…what’s the diff? Is it that the life-expectancy of the desirability/usefulness of an App considered to be that of the household fly?

    How Do I use Digital Products I Purchase?

    Lord, I’ve lost count. I run something like 10 SAS (Software-As-Service) systems at any given moment; I purchase books ranging from Amazon to DL’ing them at Gutenberg; I don’t tend to buy music–just not my bag–but my husband has thousands of dollars’ worth of music on his iPods–most of which we purchased in CD and transferred ourselves, for the reasons stated. (Plus–I just don’t love Apple. I’m sorry–I don’t, and seeing what I’ve seen with what THEY’VE done with eBooks, eBook platforms, Apple-controlled platforms, I don’t trust them as far as I could throw Cupertino). I have an iPad, a Kindle Fire, a Kindle e-ink (2); a NookColor and a Droid Tablet. I read on all of them, the iPad least of all because it’s heavy. I read all day on the 4 monitors on my ‘puter, (work), and play games on my iPad (Word-something); and I read predominantly on the NookColor and the Fire, because I like to see our and the competition’s formatting. 😉

    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, as discussed above, although to be clear, the content we produce is not our own; we are producing it on behalf of author-pubs and publishers. My content consumption is really quite high; other than music, I’m a Veloci-content-raptor. From pulse to River of News to books…I’m ravenous.

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

    Because I’ve just had too many experiences with the sad, sad state of human affairs, in which people seem not to do what’s right, by and large, but what’s easiest for them. If it’s easier for them to steal it, they do so. If they fear no prosecution, they’re even more inclined. An exemplar, not from an author’s standpoint, but from ours: we had over $10,000 in “walkaways” last year; people who simply walked away while we were producing their eBook and never paid, never emailed, blah-blah-blah. I changed our policy, and now require everyone to pay upfront, for their basic conversion fee. Fool that I am, I thought that I could trust these people to pay for their (post-production) copyedits when the books were done. 3 months into THIS experiment, we were getting ripped off to the tune of $2500–$3K per month–so now, unfortunately, EVERYBODY has to pay their $20 and $40 and what-have-you addons BEFORE I give them their Kindle book, a tactic I LOATHED implementing–but had no choice. Now–these are authors and publishers. Purportedly, a better, more educated, more thoughtful, introspective, philosophical class of people, right? But these people think nothing of stealing a product that they WATCHED being made under their own noses, with their own eyes.

    I just have little hope for a product remaining unstolen in large quantities if you make it EASIER for people, particularly to a product to which they have no personal attachment, no personal involvement, no skin in the game at all–I simply have no reason to believe in it. I wish I did. I wish I still had the basic belief in the honesty of people that I had 4 years ago, before Booknook.biz started to grow–but my experiences in this, and those my clients have suffered, in piracy, have not reinforced my earlier, apparently naive beliefs. I built 5-star hotels for 25 years–a vocation that the world believes is RIFE with corruption–and I saw less thievery and casual, careless theft than I see now. Would that I could say otherwise.

    Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth. It’s late; I’m tired; they are less organized than I’d like and more “stream of consciousness,” but I hope they make some sense.

    –Hitch

    • Michael Winiberg May 30, 2012 @ 8:08

      Many good points here, but – as I post elsewhere – bitter experience has persuaded me, even though I do buy DRM books, that the only way I can be sure to be able to read them in the future (even the near future) is to remove the DRM after purchase. That said, I don’t give them away afterwards.

      The only point I take issue with is that of APPS: yes, apps are not generally portable, although I have some that will work on all devices they support (android, IOS, PC) if you purchase on any one of the range available. However, for the most part, apps are much cheaper than mainstream ebooks, and – in the UK at least – ebooks are often more expensive than the equivalent printed copy, so the ‘incentive’ to pirate the ebook is much greater than for most apps.

      I reiterate, despite predictions of doom, and the continuing insistance that if piracy could be stopped the music industry would not be struggling, itunes (amongst others) has demonstrated that, if you make acquisition of legal, paid for, non-protected material easy and cheap enough, then it is a viable proposition.

      Adobe’s full creative suite (which I have used for many years) is a very expensive product which I am nevertheless happy to pay for, but I’ve been bitten twice now by the DRM, when equipment failures have forced me to rebuild a machine without having first been able to transfer the licences off. I mention this simply to point out that the longevity of the DRM owner has little to do with how long your access may last. In this respect the Kindle model (of multiple devices being licenced through an easy to use admin system) is much the best system of those out there at the moment – but Kindle readers have already had one episode of DRM being turned off after purchase…

      Mike

      • Hitch, aka Kimberly Hitchens May 30, 2012 @ 10:55

        I understand your “bitterness,” Mike, about what’s happened to you with other DRM, historically; but frankly, in my experience, no, Apps are not significantly cheaper than eBooks by any means. A huge chunk of the self-pubbed eBook market is between $0.99 and $2.99; most of the apps I use are not free, and, in fact, are more than this-usually $4.99-$9.99. I see them as roughly equivalent, so my question stands: why is it okay for APPS to be uncopyable, and not transportable across devices, but not for books? I genuinely believe that the average person now has an “entitlement” mentality to books in digital form that they don’t have for APPS; maybe it’s because people think, in their heart of hearts, that “well, *I* could write a book, so it’s not that hard, so, heck, why shouldn’t I steal it, it’s JUST a story, and it’s not even in PRINT” whereas they have greater respect for what they perceive as “programming.” Not to mention–software producers are more likely to chase you down than are book producers.

        I can’t find the post now–but someone else here pointed out that casual theft of software “way back when” (when I was young) of people using floppies for software–Lotus 1-2-3, etc.–was RAMPANT until the advent of the license code and preclusion of copying. I know that’s true. And that (as I mentioned above, in merely ONE exemplar), is what happens with non-DRM’ed books. All my staff know–if I catch them on the Darknet, that’s it, they’re out. I certainly can’t risk, professionally, even a whiff of impropriety, but more importantly–I won’t have it. Maybe that rigid morality makes me a dinosaur, but I won’t. I think the slippery slope of casual, self-justified, “it doesn’t hurt anyone” theft is a gateway drug to other moral bankruptcy. Much of what I’ve read on Holly’s boards here (or comments/whatever) has a good basis–like being able to read a book on multiple devices–but ALL OF YOU, every single one, know how to crack DRM and copy that book around on Calibre. So now, you’re arguing about how it inconveniences you for 3 whole minutes.

        Is 3 minutes’ too much to pay to protect an author’s legitimate interests? You KNOW that the “casual theft” issue is very real; hundreds of thousands of people don’t know how to find the Darknet, but they do know how to copy a DRM-free book and hand it to someone else in their reading circle.

        I, for one, will spend some time trying to see if I can come up with digital watermarking, or ANY other way of protecting my client’s interests–but until I come up with something else, that serves both masters–the desire of honest people to use books on multiple devices and the right of author-pubs to protect their work from “casual theft,” I’m sticking with my position on DRM. My experiences with how easily people slide into theft–WITHOUT even remotely-honest alleged reasons (most of which I find utterly uncompelling–not yours, I mean, but the “well, it’ll get stolen anyway,” and “no one gets hurt”) just make me believe that theft is too easily done by even those who would be HORRIFIED to be called “thieves.” You think those people who ripped me off to the tune of $2500-$3K per month think of themselves as “thieves?” I guarantee not. But they ARE. And so is anyone who copies a DRM-free version of HTTS and hands it to her buddy in her critique circle, “just to help.” And that, I fear, would be the fate, *particularly* of courses like HTRYN and HTTS, which will be desired by the SAME CROWD, mind you, that have cheerfully and without guilt ripped me off for the last 3 years. Not scuzzy, back-room, Red Bull-drunk hackers–AUTHORS. Say what you will about “honest consumers” versus “dishonest hackers,” but I have hard, dispositive PROOF that readers and authors are shockingly prone to theft. To say that it disheartened me greatly would be an understatement. Holly’s clientele is, *literally,* my clientele in large part (not counting my professional author clients)–but those that ripped me off ARE her (prospective) purchasers for this course.

        Like I said, I am absolutely open to alternatives, but it seems to me you are attempting to punish the author for the war between ACS (Adobe Content Server) and Amazon. As you’ve all pointed out that it’s so easy to hack, why not give Holly–and other hard-working authors–a break, hack it for your own personal use and enjoyment, and let her get her rightful sales from the millions who then WON’T casually steal the work????

        • Simon May 30, 2012 @ 12:37

          The point is if it is trivially easy to crack, someone will crack it and put it out for free, so the inconvenience the honest see doesn’t inconvenience the dishonest.

          Even the people too think to figure out how to crack DRM seem to know how to use Bittorrent.

          Authors (not publishers) are better off admitting this, and explaining upfront that they write this stuff professionally and if they don’t get paid no more stuff gets written. Give people a way to pay, and a way to engage so you can flog them the new edition, the sequel or your next masterpiece.

          I think the sense of “entitlement” is that if you buy a book it can readily last 100 year and be resold. If you buy a DRM protected ebook it will last all of 3 or 4 years before the formats change, the keys shift, or the device snaps, or Amazon delete it from you because they find they didn’t own it.

          There is an expectation that software won’t run on the next device, or may not, or may need some sort of emulator. Possibly this is a poor expectation we have of software vendors, but software vendors are good at producing low expectations in their users. eBook vendors are competing with an established market with high quality and expectations.

          Oldest book on my bookshelf is 110 years old, it cost me £2, I can probably sell it for more than I paid, even though it is available at project Gutenberg for free. Show me 110 year old protected eBook anyone can read – immortality through your writing lie in the DRM free route.

    • Julianna May 30, 2012 @ 11:38

      “Are the vast majority of buyers actually multiple-device users? It seems to me that the bulk of the people who’ve answered this post are fairly tech-savvy–so I can say, with some authority, that you are NOT the average user, most of whom don’t even know what DRM is, much less whether it bothers them or not.”

      The tech skill level of the “average user” is increasing every day. I would consider myself an average user. I’m not particularly tech-savvy, but I do own multiple devices to read digital material. It’s nice to be able to read things on different devices, but my main problem with DRM is this: as long as my content has DRM protection, I don’t really consider it MY content, even though I’ve paid for it. If I pay money for a book, I want to know that 10, 15, 20 years from now, I can still go back and reread it. (Yes, I reread books. Sometimes multiple times. It’s really not that unusual.) So yes, I AM concerned about the longevity of B&N, Amazon, etc. Reading this discussion just brought the concern to mind and convinced me that I really should remove the DRM on my ebooks and back them up on my hard drive.

      I’ve never had this issue with ebooks, but I have bought CDs, popped them into my computer’s CD-ROM drive to listen to while I work, and found that they wouldn’t play because of DRM. I was so angry about this that I have yet to buy another CD from that company (Sony). I completely boycott Apple because of how they try to control their consumer’s use of their products. I own a cheap Sansa mp3 player and it works wonderfully with all of my DRM-free emusic downloads. So I can say that, as an average user, I have had some bad experiences with DRM, and in the case of my music purchasing, have actively sought services that don’t use DRM.

      “A client of mine, who wrote YA fiction. Who had a girl who liked his books, who told her boyfriend just how much she wanted to “gift” a copy to HER friend. (This was a whopping $0.99 book, mind you). Well, the boyfriend, hero that he was, cracked it, and, teens being teens, 28,000 copies later–yes, 28,000–it was tracked down and stopped.”

      Here is the problem with this. By the time those 28,000 little brats had their stolen copies, the DRM had already been removed. DRM isn’t an issue to the person downloading the stolen material. It’s only an issue to that one moderately tech-savvy individual who removed the DRM and started distributing it. As you’ve pointed out, all it takes is ONE person removing the DRM to start a wave of piracy.

      It’s also a fallacy to think that without piracy, the author would have been paid for those 28,000 copies. Just because someone had the opportunity to get a free (stolen) ebook doesn’t mean that they would have sought out the author and bought the book on their own.

      I am an aspiring author and content-producer. As a new writer, I would actually be pretty pleased if 28,000 people read my book, or even learned of its existence. If the issue is casual piracy among people who don’t really know that’s what they’re doing, then inform them with a friendly little message and let them click on a link to pay for the book. If one 10th of the 28,000 did this, as an author, I’d be pretty happy about it.

      If I were an established author with a following, I would look for ways to fund my sequels up-front with a Kickstarter project, or something similar. Once you can start holding your books hostage until you’re paid for them, piracy just becomes advertising for your next release.

  • Michael Winiberg May 30, 2012 @ 0:51

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

    As many others have said, it penalises the legitimate user without deterring the pirates.

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

    I have been a long-term user of ebooks, and have been bitten twice now by DRM being either disabled or becoming unusable through the actions of the originator: firstly with Microsoft Reader books (which I have given up all hope of recovering after many attempts) and by the changing nature of the Fictionwise site, which I used for many years. Others may have been bitten by the (temporary) turning off of a large number of Kindle books a few years back.

    Now, being a technical person (I’m a software developer by trade) I still purchase DRM protected ebooks, but I strip the DRM immediately – which takes seconds, and is almost entirely automated – so that I can both consume them on multiple devices (iPhone, iPad, PC, laptop etc) and protect my purchase against the arbitrary disabling of the DRM.

    There is another aspect to DRM which you (Holly) touched on in your remarks, but which doesn’t seem to have affected other correspondents thus far: the geographical limitation on ebook purchases: I have a large collection of mainstream fantasy books by authors such as Davide Eddings, Terry Brooks etc. Over the years I have attempted to replace these with legitimate ebook versions, but have often been refused the purchase because I live in the UK. Ironically, if I lived in North Korea or Iran, I would have been allowed to buy. I have corresponded with both authors and ebook publishers over this silliness, as the only people it hurts are the publishing houses and especially the authors (whilst encouraging pirates to fill the gaps), but I am assured by all parties that this arrangement (which they all agree is pointless) is enforced by the various publishing houses that have regional publication rights. All I can say is: the internet knows no boundaries and the publishers need to learn from the travails of the music and film industries before they suffer the same fate. If you make it difficult for legitimate users to purchase your products then they will go elsewhere – to the pirates! For a prime illustration of how charging reasonable amounts for legitimate but unprotected content can work, look no further than itunes!

    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 a little of both – I have written technical articles for publication, edited, produced and even printed news-sheets and brochures, handbooks etc, and I am also an avid reader, currently just starting on writing short-story horror fiction. I am a member of a mutual critiquing web-site (critters.org) which is a wonderful resource for finding out what people think of your writing before imposing it on the wider world.

    I also consume technical publications and newspapers (paid for) electronically – the newspaper information is widely available on multiple devices, protected only by a paywall – the magazine (Scientific American) is not DRM protected and supplied as PDFs.

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

    Personal bad experiences with it, and a knowledge of how it works and hence how ineffective it is, except against legitimate users!

    Hope you find this helpful.

    Mike

  • Chris May 29, 2012 @ 23:24

    When it comes to software DRM is outdated concept. Only big companies use it, all smaller developers removed it completely (after careful consideration).

    And “If you put DRM on it, people are just going to steal it anyway” *is* an acceptable argument 🙂 It’s XXI centurty, if someone wants to sleal it he can do it (torrent, kaza, emule, IRC, warez sites). It only annoys the legal consumers and reduces the sales (why would I pay for an inferior version that mess up with my system when I can download a pirated version that is better in all aspects? And yes, sometimes I ended up buying something legally and then using a pirated version because it was more convenient, which I find ridiculous :D)

    BTW, I bought one of your things (don’t remember what it was), I’m quite sure I would not if it was DRM protected.

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:18

      “It only annoys the legal consumers and reduces the sales (why would I pay for an inferior version that mess up with my system when I can download a pirated version that is better in all aspects?”

      One would hope it was because you had the personal integrity not to steal what you had not earned. If you always buy the copies legally first, then download versions that do not have copy protection as your reader copies, I see no problem.

      But the first time you decide to skip the legal copy and simply download the stolen copy (“pirate copy” sounds somewhat debonair by comparison, and lends a bit of unearned glamor to raw, ugly theft) you lose your integrity and become just another petty thief.

      And I think that leap becomes easier for people to make the more they allow themselves to make excuses about their convenience justifying theft.

      • Chris May 31, 2012 @ 6:24

        “But the first time you decide to skip the legal copy and simply download the stolen copy (“pirate copy” sounds somewhat debonair by comparison, and lends a bit of unearned glamor to raw, ugly theft) you lose your integrity and become just another petty thief.”

        It’s the other way round 🙂 I was born in Poland during communist regime, so I never heard about “intelectual rights” as a kid, since copying stuff was never illegal back then. It was later when I learned the concept and much later when my country regained freedom and slowly the intelectual rights were introduced to legislation.

        Not everyone was born in USA you know 🙂

    • Steve Smith May 30, 2012 @ 8:43

      >When it comes to software DRM is outdated concept. Only big companies use it, all smaller developers removed it completely (after careful consideration).

      That’s not true. For example, Scrivener employs seven people and they use a license key, enabling a potential customer to try out the software before buying.

      • R.C. Mann May 30, 2012 @ 10:07

        “That’s not true. For example, Scrivener employs seven people and they use a license key, enabling a potential customer to try out the software before buying.”

        I tried the beta version of Scrivener, read their site’s term’s of use, and promptly deleted it. On the other hand, yWriter5, which I use, offers similar features, is donationware, and has no DRM of any kind.

        • Steve Smith May 30, 2012 @ 12:52

          Software companies who demand money for the software protect it with DRM. There are few exceptions.

          • Chris May 31, 2012 @ 6:28

            Basicly *all* indie devs abandoned DRM. Only big companies still use it.

            • Steve Smith May 31, 2012 @ 16:40

              I already mentioned Scrivener, which employs just seven people. Another program I use is Grammatica, from Grammatica.eu. According to their website, their team consists of only five people. Then there’s Mental Case from the Mental Faculty, which describes itself as “a small independent software developer.” A single individual is identified as “the developer” of that program. I don’t know if it’s a one-man shop or if he has helpers.

              All of these require a license key to operate their programs after a trial period. And I’ve downloaded plenty of trial versions that

              Could you identify a single company that demands money for its software that doesn’t use a license key?

              • Simon May 31, 2012 @ 23:45

                Oracle, a rather big software company, do not protect their key products with softare keys, or even per seat protection, despite charging serious money for these products.

                One of the reasons the big software companies don’t is corporate customers paying them get upset if after they implement their Disaster Recovery plan, or do a system upgrade, they are left waiting for a key from software suppliers to bring their systems back online.

                In Oracle’s case the pricing justifies fairly stringent enforcement.

                In contrast Redhat also charge serious money for their main products, and use license keys to control updates, but the written bits are all available free of charge, which goes to emphasise that software whilst written is different in key aspects to books. Redhat of course have developed a model that is based around being paid to write and support, not being paid for having written stuff in the past.

              • Simon May 31, 2012 @ 23:50

                Oh and I note that the computer I’m using to comment is using software that was entirely free of charge, and comes with all the source code for all the software and the freedom to change it, and the skill set involved in doing all that is considerably more expensive than getting books well written and editted.

                Software is different, but both publishing models have long been broken, it is just taking a while for the world to catch up with the changes.

  • Cat (from HtTS) May 29, 2012 @ 23:22

    I’m a producer of content and thought about the same question for a long time. Since I’m also a computer programmer with lots of friends in the “scene”, I know how minimal the protection with DRM actually is. So I decided against using it. So far, I have not had my books pirated — but I’m not yet selling thousands of copies so I don’t really count. I know that some authors consider stolen books as free marketing, and that’s the way I see it too.

    At the beginning of all my eBooks I put a short paragraph asking the reader to buy his/her own copy if they got the eBook without paying for it (and it not being a gift). So far, the responses were positive (3 of my readers commented on this via eMail).

    As a reader, I’m always annoyed when I get DRMed eBooks since they are bound to a single device. I now own a Sony and a Kindle but can’t read the Kindle eBooks on the Sony when they are DRM-protected. As long as I own both, it doesn’t matter. But before, when I only had the Sony, it was driving me up the walls. Also, no one bothers to tell eBook buyers if the book is protected, so when I bought the book I had to read it on my PC because I only found out after the purchase that it wasn’t going to open on my Sony.

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:19

      On the other hand, everything I’ve done in ebook format has been stolen. For me this is not a theoretical discussion, but an ongoing problem.

      • R.C. Mann May 30, 2012 @ 9:44

        I regret that your work has been stolen. It’s a pain in the ass, and a shame. It truly is. But the ugly fact is, that your books are out there now. Anyone who wants one can get one illegally. The only people who will buy one now are the honest folks who aren’t thieves. Why is keeping DRM on the versions you sell, and thereby making life more difficult for your honest customers, to your benefit?

        I am not criticizing you, I am curious. As an amateur who hopes to move into professional writing, this is more than theoretical to me. My opinions are based on experience in tech writing and software. So I may be totally off base.

  • PD Singer May 29, 2012 @ 22:00

    Every time I end up with a DRM product, it’s cause me endless aggravation. Barnes and Noble wants a credit card on file to even access the files we’ve paid for, and changing the card can lock us out of our purchases. It reduces portability across devices–I read on my computer as well, particularly for reference materials where I need to switch between screens. I do not buy DRAM products if there is a choice. I strip it whenever I can, muttering imprecations all the while. It annoys the honest consumers and barely slows the pirates.

    As a producer of books, I wish DRM actually did what it’s supposed to. It doesn’t. A DMCA form is one of my prepublication documents, and I end up using it many times over, which is a different variety of aggravation.

  • Kyle May 29, 2012 @ 21:15

    I saw a picture of two puppies that sums up DRM perfectly: One had a medical cone around their neck and the other was free and smiling. The former would be the paying customer.

    At the end of the day DRM is more of a hassle for the people who are actually paying and does very little to stop piracy.

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:21

      So if the sad puppy is the paying customer, then the happy puppy would be the thief?

      And why do I want happy thieves?

      Where does the happy, honest paying customer who does not “share” (copy and give away) unprotected books show up?

      • Zoe Cannon May 30, 2012 @ 8:10

        The way I interpret it, if the books have DRM then the sad puppy is the paying customer and the happy puppy is the thief. If the books don’t have DRM, then both the thieves and the paying customers are happy puppies. The thieves are happy either way. The difference is in how happy the paying customers are.

        The only way to avoid happy thieves is to sell exclusively in print (which you could do if you wanted, through CreateSpace or something similar – although I’m not sure what the cost or logistics would be for producing a course as large as yours). Even that didn’t work for J.K. Rowling – but people aren’t generally willing to go to the trouble of creating illegal digital copies of print books unless the author has J.K. Rowling’s level of fame.

  • Jerry May 29, 2012 @ 20:40

    I agree with everything that’s been said about the negatives of DRM so I feel no need to restate it. People have test marketed their material (games, music, etc.)with and without DRM and have found non-DRMed material sells better. DRM creates a hassle and dislike of DRM and its associated products. People, like myself, who have had DRM problems refuse to buy DRMed products b/c they don’t want to deal w/them. I either find an alternative, DRM-free, equivalent product or go without.

    DRM to me is comparable to buying a computer videogame instead of console game. On the couple of occasions I bought the computer version, I regretted it fast: I had to spend hours figuring out how to make it make it workable on my system and it affected my enjoyment of the game–I was already very mad by the time I was able to play the game(one occasion I really was ripped off since I couldn’t get the game to run even though I had the requirements listed and it was b/c of the DRM and I couldn’t get my money back–I might as well have flushed the money down the toilet). When I buy a console game, I pop it into my console and it plays w/o any hassle–like magic! 🙂 Like DRM-free products tend to do (consoles games do have DRM; I’m not saying they don’t, but their DRM usually doesn’t interfere w/their playability b/c it designed w/one system in mind. A large part of the reason why DRM has problems is that it must be read across various computer set-ups and ebook readers and that’s asking for trouble in trying to account for all the possiblities. I also dislike being told what I can and cannot do w/something that I’ve bought.).

    When I’m ready to put my content online for sale, I’m planning on including a statement that says something like: If you’ve found this book helpful/enjoyed this book and didn’t pay for it, then please consider paying for it by going (here) and donating either the price of the book or whatever amount you wish to donate. Your payment/donation will enable me to create future works that you’ll enjoy/find informative. Thank You.

    I’ve seen people who’ve pirated wish they had a way to pay for the book but b/c all the legal copies were DRMed they didn’t. Also, I’ve seen people say they pirated b/c they refuse to support that particular publisher b/c they hated them b/c of (insert reason why; one popular reason is b/c of some racist statements their employees have made on their blogs/in their comments on other blogs (see the Haydens). These people also say they want the book, want to support the author, just don’t want to support the publisher. Offering an option like the donation button covers those people too.

    If they do, great! If they don’t, well, ime, they probably wouldn’t have anyway. Some people pirate just to pirate; once they get it, they don’t do anything w/it–read it, watch it, etc. It just sits there taking up hard-drive space. I don’t know why; I’ve just figured they have a hoarder mentality.

    • Holly May 30, 2012 @ 7:25

      I’ve seen people who’ve pirated wish they had a way to pay for the book but b/c all the legal copies were DRMed they didn’t. Also, I’ve seen people say they pirated b/c they refuse to support that particular publisher b/c they hated them b/c of (insert reason why; one popular reason is b/c of some racist statements their employees have made on their blogs/in their comments on other blogs (see the Haydens). These people also say they want the book, want to support the author, just don’t want to support the publisher. Offering an option like the donation button covers those people too.

      So in what universe is stealing the book because of not liking the individual or company that spent the money to produce is justified?

      • R.C. Mann May 30, 2012 @ 9:37

        People don’t always react because in a particular way because its justified. Not all choices are based on reasoning, ya know.

  • R.C. Mann May 29, 2012 @ 20:29

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

    It depends on how one defines DRM. If you are talking about a simple key type arrangement, where you buy a book along with a key to unlock it, then I would have no issue. I don’t advocate it, but I would have no objection in principle. As long as the key allowed me to have unlimited control over the content in terms of formatting, copying, archiving, etc.

    I do dislike the watermark idea, simply because I feel an itch between my shoulder blades about the way big brother is constantly tracking me as it is. Adding something else to identify me, for nothing more than the “suspicious activity” of buying a novel, would add another layer of insult to injury.

    Modern media is fragile and undependable. Even CDs have a limited lifetime, and there is not a hard drive in the world that is not going to crash sooner or later. If you don’t can’t make backup copies of your data you might as well kiss it goodbye. You *will* lose it sooner or later. So any DRM that tries to retain control over the product after purchase is not “rights” management in my opinion. It’s an attempt to have sell one’s cake and retain ownership of it too. Once the original media dies, you have no choice but to buy another copy. Or rather, buy permission to temporarily use another copy.

    DRM operates under the assumption of guilty unless forced to be innocent. That may or may not reflect the real world, but it’s not complimentary to one’s customers.

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

    On my laptop exclusively. My eyesight is poor, and I want something that lets me adjust text size, colors, and brightness to suit my personal preferences. I do not own a kindle or any other e-reader, nor do I plan to buy one in the future. There is software available that will let me read any e-book 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.”

    Both. I publish amateur fiction. I am currently working on getting my first pro short story sale. I have published several articles, editorial, reviews, etcs. for various online technical sites (mostly software related). Nothing I have produced was ever DRM’ed. Nor do I intend to apply DRM when I start self-publishing my fiction.

    I purchase music, software, and reference books. I only buy fiction online when an author I particularly like has a book for sale and I cannot find a hard copy. The rest of my online fiction reading is taken from Gutenburg, or other free sites. Again, I read on my computer when I can’t find a hard copy. I do not download anything that I do not have a legal right to take.

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

    My reasoning is purely pragmatic. It is my opinion that DRM is based on a false assumption. Those who advocate DRM apparently believe that if a pirate was prevented from hacking a product, they would be forced to buy a legal copy. I consider this ludicrously naive. A pirate is not going to buy anything. If they can’t hack something, they will simply steal something else.

    Also, modern DRM can be hacked by any script kiddie. It isn’t even a case of a burglar breaking into your house. It is a case of ordinary visitors being required to wait for your butler to open the door, and a pirate being able to turn the knob themselves. As someone who has a superficial understanding of programming, I consider that most types of DRM being used today range between a joke to mildly insulting.

    It is true that DRM changes, companies go out of business and leave consumers high and dry, etc. But that falls under caveat emptor in my opinion. I simply don’t buy anything infected with DRM, any more than I would buy something that I knew was infected with a trojan virus.

    As for the lessons you are planning to publish? Who besides serious students who plan to become authors would read them in any case? Of the potential students you are shooting for, how many are likely to make a habit of pirating intellectual property?

  • Karen W May 29, 2012 @ 20:12

    I’m willing to buy ebooks with DRM now because I can easily break it. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t buy, because it’s so likely to be throwing money away.

    I still have my favorite science fiction paperbacks I bought when I was in 8th grade.

    Much more recently, I had a Rocket ebook reader. Guess how useful books in that format are? Fortunately, I wasn’t stupid enough to spend money on the expensive DRM’d stuff, so I didn’t lose much.

    Amazon is intelligently run right now. Its founder is still alive and involved in the business. Some day, the bean counters will likely take over, and there’s a serious risk we’ll discover that the library you can download your stuff from indefinitely is kaput. I trust no company to remain customer-friendly when the people who set it on that course are dead.

    I have all my ebooks cracked and backed up on a hard drive, so I’ll be fine.

    I’d probably to have a policy of buying unDRM’d ebooks only, if you could easily search for them on Amazon. But there isn’t any good way to turn them up in search. (You can tell once you’re there by the presence of “Simultaneous Device Usage Unlimited,”, but you can’t usefully search for books like that.)

    I don’t have anything up on Amazon yet, but I’ve sold writing before, and I’m going to publish. I refuse absolutely to do my readers such a disservice as to crud up my books with DRM. All it accomplishes is annoying the non-techies who want to read on another device. And it will potentially make my work inaccessible, as time passes. I want neither.

  • Zoe Cannon May 29, 2012 @ 20:07

    I’m against DRM, both as a reader and as someone who intends to self-publish ebooks. If a book has DRM on it, then chances are you aren’t going to be able to read it at some point in the future. I don’t plan to stick with the same brand of reader all my life; I’ve already gone from a Sony to a Nook, and I want the freedom to switch again if a better device comes on the market. And what if I do want to stick with the same brand of reader, but the company goes out of business? What if they switch to a new format and their new readers no longer support the format they used to sell (this has happened with both Sony and B&N)?

    I reread books. Right now I’m rereading a book that I first read close to fifteen years ago. Will I be able to do that with my ebooks? If they’re DRM-free, sure – they can always be converted to whatever the new format is. If they have DRM on them, though, who knows? Ebooks are fairly new, and already there are plenty of stories out there about people who lost access to their Amazon accounts and can no longer read their Kindle books, or who bought one too many new computers and had to fight to get Adobe to reset their Digital Editions device activations. There are people who bought books in .pdb format (the format Barnes and Noble, among others, used prior to the launch of the first Nook) who couldn’t convert them because they had DRM, and now, as far as I know, no ebook reader reads .pdb anymore. The problem will only get worse as the market changes and companies come and go. I don’t like taking that chance with books; they’re too important to me.

    I suspect this problem would come up a lot with courses like yours. I’ve referred back to my HTTS and HTRYN lessons a lot, and will likely be using them as a reference for a long time to come. You might end up with readers who want to refer back to a particular lesson, only to be confronted with a DRM error when they try.

    Another thing to consider is that the lock is already broken – anyone who wants to can find out how to remove Kindle or Nook DRM. In book piracy, there are two categories of people involved: the uploader and the downloader. Some downloaders will hear about the book and immediately hunt for an illegal copy, not even considering getting a legal copy; others will consider the legal copy and decide to get an illegal copy instead, because they don’t like the price or for some other reason. But I don’t think any downloader is going to look at the legal copy and think, “This doesn’t have DRM, so I’ll pirate it instead.” (Although they may choose to pirate the book because the legal copy does have DRM). So DRM isn’t intended to stop downloaders, only uploaders. But if someone cares enough about making pirated content available to go to the effort of putting an illegal copy of a book up on a file-sharing site, I don’t think the added effort of going through the simple DRM-removal process would be much of a deterrent.

    DRM would probably make it less likely for people to give copies of your books to their friends, rather than recommending them to friends who would then buy their own copies. You might get a few sales that way that you would have lost if the books were DRM-free.

    I do understand why people choose DRM. But I don’t plan to use DRM when I publish my books, because for me the inconvenience it would cause to my readers wouldn’t be worth the limited protection against piracy.

  • Debbie Mumfordd May 29, 2012 @ 19:42

    My 2-cents worth:
    As a reader, DRM annoys me because it limits my use of a file which I bought and paid for. I want to be able to read on whatever device I choose, and I don’t want to have to jump through hoops to enjoy a book I’ve purchased.

    As a writer, I never activate DRM because (besides my own aggravation with DRM) I’ve seen my husband and adult children so aggravated they vowed never to purchase another book by that author. I have no wish to alienate my readers.

    As to the issue of pirating: I look at it as an advertising expense. If people who have not paid for my novels read them and like them, perhaps they will *never* pay for the privilege to read another…BUT word of mouth is a powerful thing, and if they enjoy them, they may recommend them to others. So, rather than get wound around an axle about digital theft, I choose to think of it as unintentional marketing.

  • Lucian Stacy May 29, 2012 @ 19:15

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

    I won’t repeat what many others have said about the flaws in DRM. I won’t purchase DRM works for many of the reasons listed above. I can understand the desire to protect your intellectual property, however all DRM does is make it harder for the honest person to use your product. The dishonest person barely slows down removing the protection.

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

    I read digital publications on my nooks (nook color, and nook simple touch), my tablet, my smartphone and my PC. I normally won’t purchase e-books from Amazon or B&N preferring to purchase directly from the publisher when possible.

    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 much more content for personal consumption than I produce. What I produce is technical articles for trade publications. The publications I write for don’t use DRM since they want the magazines to be read as widely as possible and are usually distributed for free within the technical community.

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

    I am an avid reader. I re-read books. I don’t like having to re-purchase books. Spending good money (is there any other kind?) on a book and then not being able to read it later convinced me never to purchase books with DRM. I will purchase a dead tree version instead.

    The following links are to the Wikipedia article on Jim Baen and to the Baen Books website. I think that they have shown, at least for fiction, that DRM free books work.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Baen#Stance_on_DRM

    http://www.baenebooks.com/t-drm.aspx

  • Jeanette Raleigh May 29, 2012 @ 18:29

    I self-publish on Amazon and have considered going back through and double-checking that the DRM is off on my work because from what I’ve heard, it can cost sales.

    The problem seems to stem primarily in that people have so many forms of reading available. For example, someone who has a Smart Phone and a Kindle may want to pick up where they left off by moving from one device to another and DRM does not allow this.

    (This is all hearsay from other authors. I actually only have a Kindle myself and haven’t really run into DRM issues as a reader because of my limited technology.)

  • Lucy May 29, 2012 @ 17:55

    DRM locks out readers. I encounter the problem with e-books that are only sold in Kindle format. Fine, if I can convert it to e-pub for my Nook (of course, that adds a level of bother that I factor in when deciding whether to purchase). But DRM means I can’t convert the book. That author has lost a sale.

    Yes, I could read a Kindle-format book on my computer, but that will never happen with a reading-for-pleasure book. For a course such as you are proposing, I would consider reading through Kindle for Mac. It’s not something I’d be inclined to curl up with.

  • Steve Smith May 29, 2012 @ 17:45

    There are good and bad implementations of DRM. Because of DRM, I am able to download a movie to rent. I am able to download a software application on a trial basis. In either case, after the rental or trial period, I can no longer view the movie or continue to use the software. DRM enables these models to be workable and at least provides some of friction for those who want to make illegal copies.

    Somebody mentioned that, in the early days of personal computing, Borland International used to make their software available, licensing the users to use it “like a book.” Not only Borland but applications from other software companies — dBase, Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, MS-DOS, and many, many more did not have any copy protection. The result was that people would copy their programs onto a floppy, take them home, use them on their home computer, give copies to their friends. Even in the offices, companies that were not crooked by any means, they’d install illegal copies on some people’s machines because it was so easy to do and the temptation was so great. Today, almost all PC software companies have abandoned that policy, and they require you to enter a license code. And as a result the kind of unrestrained illegal copying has really slowed down. My job is working with software, and my experience is that DRM makes my job easier to do. And I have no doubt that it does put a damper on illegal copying.

    But what about ebooks?

    Some people have said DRM is not going to stop the pirate, the person who really wants to make an illegal copy. But that’s a red herring because, according to publishing executives, the purpose of DRM is not to stop those who are truly sleazy highly motivated; it’s to impede the casual copying and sharing of files by people who are not really sleazy. People who don’t think they are doing anything wrong will give a copy of some ebook to a friend, who’ll pass it on to somebody else. These people really don’t think they are stealing. People will rip a music CD onto their computer and then lend the CD out to somebody else to do the same, and think there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Somebody else has said that DRM on ebooks is easy to crack. It’s easy to crack because they made it easy to crack. A solution would be to change the encryption scheme periodically. When you’d download a new book and there’s a new scheme in place, the books currently on the device would be converted to the new format. That would be more expensive, and it would inconvenience the users somewhat, but it’s one that the publishers and distributors have decided not to use. The level of DRM on ebooks is probably reasonably effective at deterring most casual copying and sharing.

    I think ebooks are moving away from DRM. We’ve had Rowling (a major publisher, all by herself) and Tor Books (the biggest SF publisher) announce that they’ll make their books available without copy protection. One motivation is that they don’t want their readers to be locked into Amazon, giving Amazon the power to dictate terms of sale.

    If I’m reading a novel, I don’t really care if it’s locked down. I probably don’t reread more than one out of every ten novels I purchase, so the extra value of a $9.99 ebook would be about $1. But writing instructional manuals are a different thing. I want have a printed copy. The best electronic format would be an unprotected, printable .PDF. I could print it out, put it in a binder, mark up pages if I needed to, etc. I have purchased some of Holly’s books in that format, and I really like it.

    • Steve Smith May 29, 2012 @ 18:55

      I forgot to answer one part of the question.

      I do purchase content to consume: ebooks, music, movies, software. All kinds. Currently, I am not producing content to sell.

  • Lindsay Kitson May 29, 2012 @ 17:44

    I will be another voice against DRM in it’s current form.

    My main reason is the same as many others have said before me already – the inconvenience to readers outweighs the benefits.

    I’m speaking from both a consumer perspective, and an author’s. I got an e-reader for christmas last year, and I *love* it. I’ve bought almost exclusively e-books for myself now, both fiction and non-fiction. However, my Sony E-reader doesn’t handle PDFs well, and to use Holly’s course notes on it, I have had to convert them to e-pubs.

    If there’s no DRM free version of Holly’s courses, and none with a DRM that allows me to read them on my E-reader, I’m faced with a choice if I want to buy any of them – 1: read them on my computer, which I *hate*, it’s all scrolling and finding your place – ok, the e-book programs would eliminate the scrolling, but I still would be tied to the computer screen and couldn’t have it open on my reader while I have my manuscript up on the screen at the same time.

    Or 2: strip the DRM with Calibre, which takes seconds. And, assuming I’m not giving it to anyone who hasn’t paid for it, I’m not hurting the author by doing this. I’d be paying for it. Just modifying the file so that I could put it on the device I want to use it on, which DRM stops me from doing. And, as others have said, a less tech savvy person would not know how to do that, and would just be screwed.

    I’m going to present an argument that I was chastized for presenting on the boards because I was apparently “demonizing” Amazon and other companies – the thread, and all of what I thought was a civil discussion, was deleted with no explanation, so if this gets deleted, I’m sincerely hoping for an explanation, but I’ll try to present it with as much civility as I can.

    The biggest criticism of DRM is that the inconvenience to consumers outweighs the benefit. Certainly the argument “If you lock your door, people are just going to break into your house and kill you anyway.” is valid, and I agree that deterrence has value, but on the other hand, how can you run a store if the store’s doors are locked?

    My question to the creators or DRM is, why has this criticism not been addressed? Their answer has not been to look for a way to avoid inconveniencing their customers while still protecting their merchandise, but to point fingers at pirates and say it’s the actions of those few who have brought about the need for said inconvenience. I’m unaware of any effort to prevent said inconvenience.

    I, and many other professional authors who have posted opinions on the internet, cannot help but notice that DRM has the added effect of locking the customer into one device. Making it difficult for a customer to move from one product provider to another is a known business tactic, across industries. Many have argued that, if the purpose of DRM was truly to protect artists, and not to prevent customers from buying books from competitors, then the creators of DRM would be looking for a solution to the consumer’s problem.

    So, for myself, I buy DRM free whenever possible, and honestly, I’ve had problems sometimes, finding a copy of something that will work on my device without having to strip the DRM.

  • Ed Greaves May 29, 2012 @ 17:22

    To all the folks in this thread who think that DRM is a good idea because it somehow protects your work: Let me assure you it does not. After my last post, I opened up Google, typed in the first thing that came to mind: how to crack amazon’s DRM
    Bam. .3 seconds later I had a page of links. Clicked the top link to an article on WIRED magazine, which showed me a link to another page with *step by step* instructions on how to remove DRM from most of the popular forms of DRM. Sure, the instructions come with a cute little caveat that says: Don’t use these instructions to pirate stuff. But you now see just how easy it is for someone to be able to pirate your DRM’d stuff.

    I’m not in favor of piracy. But I want people to be making these choices with their eyes open. DRM does a lot less than most people think to prevent piracy. In the best case, you’ll keep already honest people honest, by preventing thoughtless acts of piracy. IE, they weren’t thinking about the fact that it is wrong to copy the ebook file and give it to a friend to read. But mostly if you live under the illusion that it’s protecting your work, then the real harm is to your psyche when you find out that your work probably *is* stolen and posted out there for free somewhere, by someone who just felt like posting more files, and doesn’t even know or care about your work, your livelihood, or you.

  • Ed Greaves May 29, 2012 @ 16:36

    Holly, the problem with DRM is that it could interfere with your legitimate customers being able to protect their investment and read on any current or future e-reader, and at that same time does virtually nothing to protect you from piracy. Real pirates live to crack code. No matter how good the DRM, eventually the pirates will break it, and be able to remove it. They have unlimited resources and time. As I understand it, there are already programs available to strip the popular DRM from sites like Amazon and B&N, which makes me feel the endeavor is largely like yelling at the incoming tide.

    At best, DRM will protect you from people who innocently do not understand that it’s not cool to share the files around to friends who haven’t paid for it. But it won’t stop anyone serious from cracking the code, and then it’ll be made available. At worst, it could annoy some of your legitimate customers. All other things being equal, I’m in favor of pricing things right, so that it’s not worth someone’s time to pirate the material. You’ll never stop everyone, but if the work is priced “right” most people will just cough up the cash and be happy to do so.

  • Robert Santa Maria May 29, 2012 @ 16:34

    Holly: First, I empathize with you on the migraines. I’m about to enter my “season” for them (high humidity and low barametric pressure are my catalysts). Try Walmart’s brand of migraine medication. It’s called Equate and it works for me.

    As for your question.

    It seems to me you have choice between guarding your works (which, let’s face it, even if it is to help others it is still your work) or having it stolen or hacked or whatever those crazy kids are calling it these days.

    I think it would be better for you to be able to control the disbursement of the information if you had this “lock” on the door.

    Yes, DRM has its defections and imperfections. However, you have to gauge whether you want to have the information be so locked up even legal use of the material is prohibited.

    You’re the author, creator and instructor of this here lesson plan.

    Let’s be honest and see this work for what it is: intellectual property. I know it’s a vague term of the law, but it is very much one that pertains to this question.

    Holly, you’re not Beyonce or Adele. People don’t to listen to your instructions on their way to work or at a saturday night party.

    What they want is the information they need (and crave) to write a novel, short story, etc.

    This is instructional material and as such there are certain platforms that are perfectly suited to DRM for such material.

    Myself, I would rather see you have total control and have a few disgruntled (I know you want me to play nice but let’s be real, there will be disgrunts) users.

    I have a high respect for you works. Have the same and guard what’s yours so you can continue to benefit from your hard work.

    You know, the brain strain that causes those migraines (if you’re like me, plotting a story is pleasant, query letters equal an evening with an ice bag on my head).

    That’s the bottom line.

    Rob

  • Spredo May 29, 2012 @ 16:04

    Why do you need DRM?
    I mean, even before ebooks and stuff, I was copying copyrighted material. Whenever I bought a book, I would go to my private xerox machine, and copy 3-5 versions of the new book.

    I would have one book for reading, the original for my archive, and 2-4 versions I could lend to my friends. Why would anyone really want to stop me from doing what I have always done?

    But seriously…

    When I buy an ebook, I buy it cheaper than I would the paper version. Why should this allow me to have MORE versions of the book? I could understand this if the ebook version was more expensive, but when it is cheaper?

    When I bought a book and a friend wanted to borrow it, I had to part from my precious book. And if my «friend» mistreated the book, I would get it back in worse shape. (And if the «friend» forgot who actually owned the book, I would never get it back at all)…

    My point is; why should we expect MORE from a cheaper book, more easily distributed and quite handy when traveling? Why should we suddenly be allowed to buy ONE and give one to each of our friends?

    One point against DRM is that you cannot see one pirated book as one lost sale, as most of the «pirates» out there would never BUY the book anyway. And this is correct.

    Another good point against DRM is that it does not work. (Give me 5 minutes, and I will find three or more programs that removes DRM. Give me 5 more minutes, and I will find 10 different websites that would help distribute the pirated book.) So, the DRM of today needs improvement.

    But when everybody starts whining about how «hard» it is when an ebook is protected by DRM (it is almost as hard as distributing a PRINTED book), I start wondering…

    DRM will NOT save your book, it will be pirated anyway. But maybe the actual buyers will BUY another copy instead of just lending someone the book if the book is DRM protected? I love my paper books. And I love my ebooks. But I would much rather lend someone a COPY of my ebooks than lend them an actual book, ebook and otherwise.

    (But I wouldn’t mind if you came up with a better DRM-solution while working on this)

  • Cindy C Bennett May 29, 2012 @ 16:01

    I am a writer and originally stayed away from DRM based on many people’s arguments that not only are there consumers who won’t purchase DRM protected items, but there are many distributors who won’t touch them either.

    Imagine my naive surprise when my books began showing up on Torrent sites. (I’ll save that rant for another time.) At first, I spent a great deal of time tracking them down and sending requests to have them removed, which is time consuming and frustrating. Eventually I realized I had better things to do and gave up trying. Honestly, it hasn’t affected my sales, so I no longer even bother. I figure those people who don’t have a problem stealing peoples hard work from a Torrent site probably wouldn’t have bought the book in the first place.

    Bottom line: It isn’t worth it to me to punish my legitimate readers in order to make life (very) slightly more difficult for those who would steal it. Skip DRM and save yourself the headache. It’s very hard to undo DRM protection on anything you upload.

    BTW, iTunes is now offering all items DRM-free. If you own a previous DRM protected item, you can go back to iTunes and for a small fee (of course) get the unprotected version.

  • Storm May 29, 2012 @ 15:42

    I am both a producer and consumer of these products. As a consumer, I really resent having to purchase two different versions of a manuscript because DRM prevents me from, say, converting my Kindle book to Nook, or vice-versa. It makes me reluctant to continue to purchase materials from the individuals who produce DRM-locked materials — not because I resent paying for their work — I certainly don’t, and will be the first person to purchase full-price from my favorite authors’ works as soon as they come out electronically… but I do harbor resentment, and it bugs me that I have certain favorite books that I can’t swap between the readers that are most conveient for me and my household.

    As a comparison, when I buy a hard-copy book, any of the members of my family can read that same book without me having to go buy each of them a separate copy. This seems fair to me, and seems like the standard I would expect for a digital version of that book — just because one of us is using a Nook and the other a Kindle, I don’t think that expectation should have to change.

    We’ve run out of room for hard-copy books. After amassing a library of over 1000 dearly loved books, we’ve decided that all future purchases will be electronic — so DRM is a huge issue for us.

    As a -producer- of content, I keep my own situation in mind as being probably more common than most publishers know or care — I offer my content without DRM. Honestly, if someone loves my books enough to share them, that, to me, is a really GREAT thing — after all, how many new readers might find my work that way who would never have picked it out of the myriad offerings in the new digital bookstores.

    So with that in mind, my opinion is that DRM does not offer sufficient value to offset the potential issues it raises, for the projects that I create.

  • Bob Billing aka Astropolis May 29, 2012 @ 15:41

    I’m opposed to DRM for three reasons, two technical and one as an author. I’ve been in the computer business for almost 40 years now, and I see two big problems.

    1) False positives. The technology is simply not good enough at the moment, it frequently flags as pirated material obtained legitimately.

    2) Lack of continuity. If you buy content that is licenced for one reader only, and that reader has to be replaced because it wears out or gets broken, you will need to move the content to another device. However if the vendor has ceased supplying keys for that content, your entire book collection can vanish overnight.

    3) The back catalogue. I recently allowed a published story (Harnessing the Brane-Deer) to appear on a “Best SF” website. It has been pirated in a small way, but the sales I have got from the exposure have far outstripped the loss due to piracy.

    I don’t see DRM as contributing much to writers’ incomes, I do see it creating unnecessary problems for readers.

  • Amber Pryor May 29, 2012 @ 14:24

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

    I don’t see DRM as a way to protect content but a way to limit its usability by lawful consumers.

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

    I buy ebooks and read them on various platforms (Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Linux). I avoid DRM in products that I purchase, preferring sites like allromanceebooks.com that sell content DRM free, and did not purchase music from iTunes until their music went DRM-free. I’d buy more books from Amazon.com if I could get them DRM free. I can’t even tell if the books on Amazon are DRM free, or not, until after I buy them and so far it seems that the majority of the Kindle ebooks have DRM.

    As a side note on buying ebooks with DRM from Amazon: I don’t understand why I’d want to buy an ebook that costs the same, or more than, the paperback version when, 1) I won’t own the ebook (it will be “On the Cloud” and encrypted so I can’t put a backup copy on my computer), 2) I can’t let my mom borrow the book (like I normally do with my paperbacks, 3) I can’t even sell the ebook to a used bookstore the way I might with my hard copy books. Ebooks have their advantages: my bookshelves don’t threaten to overflow as often now that I’m buying ebooks. Also, I love how easy it is to pull out my iPhone and read my books no matter where I am (train, Doctor’s office, etc) but I’m not going to pay much for a DRM ebook that in a way has more cons than pros as compared to my paperbacks. However I can be convinced to buy cheap ebooks with or with/out DRM simply because when there is a bargain price, most people are willing to buy an inferior product (see cheap but ragged books at some used bookstores- they won’t last multiple re-reads so lending them out is useless, you can’t re-sell them but they are cheap so we don’t care).

    > 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 mostly buy content but my husband is a software engineer and he writes Open Source software which is published under a license which permits reuse by all (MIT/X11 and Apache 2.0 licenses). He knows more about the DRM debate than I do and he provided many of the links below.

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

    DRM requires buy-in to a single platform, which rarely supports all the devices that I want to use. Linux support? forgetaboutit. It also hampers reuse of content, of which there are two important examples:

    (1) Text to speech. The Kindle (and other devices) can provide text-to-speech support for written content. This is useful for the blind and for those who want to listen to their books while driving. Amazon allows publishers to prevent text-to-speech support as part of their DRM offering. Removing DRM means keeps these options open.

    (2) Remix: not quite as widely present for written works, there is a growing remix movement for music and video in which content is mixed together in new combinations, or repurposed.
    Remix-culture on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/topic/G2hpyefEyB4/remix-culture

    Star Wars Uncut: http://www.starwarsuncut.com/

    Voice actors reading through the Star Wars script: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SBzRmWeC6Ds

    Anime Music Videos: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=anime+music+video

    Much of this is covered and permitted by fair use. DRM can actively hamper such reuse by making it difficult to obtain material without going through an “analog” filter. In the case of books, the “analog” filter would be reading the book and re-typing its contents. All it does is slow things down, which may be enough of a disincentive to keep it from being reused in the first place.

    Finally, DRM changes the very definition of “purchase”: DRM’d content “purchased” through Amazon for the kindle isn’t “owned” by the downloader, as Amazon still has large amounts of control over the content post-sale. For example, they have previously REMOVED all copies of 1984 from Kindle devices: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html

    It also isn’t possible to sell or give away digital content, unlike real property (see the First Sale doctrine, circa 1908).

    Without DRM, I’m able to freely backup content, thus preserving my investment. I don’t need to worry about Amazon removing content that I’ve previously purchased. I don’t need to worry about my content being in a silo that I cannot easily search through or quote from for research/commentary/education/entertainment.

    Without DRM, I’m free to use the content that I purchased on any device I own, without any say-so by the Content provider. For example, I’d be able to read Amazon-purchased content on a Nook reader (which is currently impossible), or a Sony eReader, etc.

    The following article gives reasons why DRM won’t be around forever and helps explain why publishers like TOR are going DRM free:
    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/04/understanding-amazons-strategy.html

    The above article also mentions that the “real driver for piracy is the lack of convenient access to desirable content at a competitive price.” See the Oatmeal’s Game of Thrones (NSFW): http://theoatmeal.com/comics/game_of_thrones

    Yes, piracy is wrong but telling people that it is wrong and hoping that they do the right thing isn’t a pragmatic solution: http://www.marco.org/2012/02/25/right-vs-pragmatic

    A pragmatic solution is a solution that gives your customers what they want (convenience) and makes you money. This isn’t a pipe dream either: http://buy.louisck.net/news/a-statement-from-louis-c-k

    That’s all. I hope this information is useful.

  • Faith Perergine May 29, 2012 @ 14:20

    I do not like DRM at all. Take for example Adobe. I can activate up to six devices on my adobe ID. I currently am on my second e-reader, and have e-books on a computer and a notebook. And these devices unfortunately don’t have eternal life. It is possible to activate more devices with Adobe but one has to get into contact with their customer service to arrange that.
    The second reason why I don’t like DRM is that it limits the devices on which I can read something. I don’t have a Nook, but like to purchase something at B&N occasionally.
    Therefore I buy DRM-free, and when that is not possible I strip the DRM on the digital book using Calibre. I also use Calibre to convert kindle books to epub format since my Bebook obviously doesn’t support that format.
    I also make back-up copies of my digital books. Just in case something happens and I can’t download another copy from the bookstore where I bought the book in the first place.

    I am only a consumer of e-books, but even as a consumer I am wondering why writers/publishers take the effort to put DRM on the books. It seems to me DRM can too easily be hacked, and those people who desire to obtain and/or spread illegal copies won’t let DRM deter them. and with Calibre around it’s not even difficult to remove DRM for ordinary people like me. And while I use Calibre only for personal use, others might not do so. On the other hand, I as a consumer get only irritated when a book has DRM. I get irritated because my instant gratification is delayed, since I purchase most of my digital books the moment I want to read them.

  • Stephanie May 29, 2012 @ 14:03

    Well, people have probably already said what I’m about to say but I will be happy to back them up and add another opinion to the discussion.

    I don’t plan to use DRM because I don’t consider it a good product (I’m not sure it can be called a product, but bear with me)

    I’ve heard DRM can cause similar problems to what I’ve dealt with on iTunes, having to reauthorize devices numerous times because of system glitches. I had this issue with iTunes music, but it didn’t bother me much, and I’ve never had it with any of my ereaders (granted those are all kindle, the actual kindle device, kindle for iTunes and kindle for the PC, so grain of salt) I say this to show I’m informed, but this is not a factor in my decision.

    So here are my reasons for considering DRM a bad product.

    I know many consumers read the books they purchase across several different devices, and DRM does not allow them to reformat. A good number (I didn’t run stats on this or anything) of the readers I talked to said they flat out refuse to buy DRM ebooks because it interferes with how they manage their purchases. No one told me it was because they felt insulted by an author’s gall to use DRM, which I was told was the main reason people do this.

    DRM is also too easy to break. My cousin showed me how to do, and it is laughable. If I’m going to use something that will cause issues for my readers, I want it to actually deter theft. I want a potential thief to weigh my book versus an equally good one without DRM and go after that one. With DRM as weak as it is, he’ll happily take both without breaking a sweat, and all I’ve accomplished is alienating a portion of my reader base.

    The sense I get from talking to readers is that DRM is a joke at best, and an aggravation at worst.

    If DRM is ever fixed so that it allows the owner of the product to reformat it, and so that it is actually a challenge to break, I will use DRM. Until then, I plan to insert a small message into my novels along the lines of “If you liked this book, and did not purchase it through proper channels, please consider doing so. That way the author can keep writing more awesome books for you.”

    I do believe people are basically good, and even free-riders are willing to pay for a product they enjoyed.

  • Ray Johnson May 29, 2012 @ 14:03

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

    Although I respect the desire of anyone to protect their content, I am opposed to DRM, for a number of reasons. It punishes the legitimate user, by forcing them to jump through hoops, while those who pirate the same content usually remove the DRM entirely. A system that results in legitimate users having more trouble using what they paid for seems absurd to me. As it happens, I spend some time on a site with a bunch of coders and hackers (not crackers, hackers; hackers hack their own and their friends computers; crackers crack other people’s machines) who, because they invest a lot in IP of their own (the programs they write) are sympathetic to content owners – but almost none of them supports DRM. They are too aware of the technical issues, all the things that can go wrong for the buyer. I don’t pretend to understand this as well as they do, but I trust their advice in other areas.

    More than once I’ve seen people on these forums lamenting the fact that they wanted to buy something legally, but it came with DRM, so they wouldn’t. I’ve seen people who are otherwise strongly against piracy who consider the inclusion of DRM a justification for stealing material instead. Although I don’t agree with that stance, I can understand the frustration that drives it. I have a piece of software I paid $300 for and can no longer access because the DRM is broken. Even if the DRM maker stays in business, there is a risk that newer operating systems still won’t support that old DRM scheme. (That’s what happened to my $300 software, which was made for Windows 3.1… it is a reference disc, and so should run under any OS, but ‘thanks’ to the DRM included, I can no longer use it.) So I consider it an unfair burden placed on those willing to pay. Because of what the crackers and the pirates are like (there are many of them who would rather spend days cracking DRM than just pay a few bucks for something – it’s a point of pride for many of them – I don’t believe it is possible to design a system that allows legitimate buyers to use what they paid for without inconvenience and has any chance of stopping piracy. Yes, there are pirates who can’t or won’t take the trouble to break it themselves, but they can wait, secure in the knowledge someone else will do it for them, and put it up on the torrent sites. The harder the system is to break, the more certain people consider it a personal challenge. So no system is likely to do half as much to stop piracy as it will do to annoy legitimate users.

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

    I tend to use them on my computer – but I want the option to use them on any other device, if I decided that suits me. I like universal formats. I do not like device specific formats. Part of that is my ‘training’; I was a professional genealogist, and I learned to think long term and mistrust anything tied to one specific format. (I do understand publishers only have so many options. But my ideal is a universal format.) I am also legally blind – which makes me strongly prefer formats I can tweak to make them more usable for me. And formats that let me use whatever device, at the time, will work best for me.

    I do agree that any author or publisher has the right to use DRM if they see fit. But unless that was something I wanted badly, that one detail would incline me strongly not to buy. In your case, Holly, I’d at least think about it. That’s a compliment. Over 90% of anything I might buy otherwise would be ruled out just because it included DRM. That’s how strongly I feel about the issue as a consumer. (And in the cases where I did give in and buy it, because I wanted or needed it badly enough, I’d feel I’d been badly taken advantage of.)

    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 writer, and I own copyrights, but I haven’t produced much content to sell online. I may do so in the future, but other issues in my life have kept me from taking that step so far. I have had content I posted to a blog stolen – specifically, scraped for use in a splog (or spam blog). That was painful. And since under the DMCA, if the scraper chose to claim they had a good faith belief their use was “fair use” (it was not, in my opinion), the very fact they were willing to fight it would force me into a legal battle I can’t afford. Which prevented me from even doing anything about it. So I’m not unsympathetic to the perspective of anyone who owns content they worked hard to create. (Although it was not for the same reasons, anyone who doesn’t believe it is possible to lose a legal fight in which the law is on your side should Google “Sharon DeBartolo Carmack” – she had to give up a copyright she owned because she couldn’t afford the fight, even with some lawyers volunteering their services.)

    I certainly purchase content to consume. I’m a reader. Always have been, always will be. I do prefer print, but when I can’t get anything else, or for certain uses, I’ll happily buy electronic books. I have a fair number of yours. 🙂 And a few of the “33 Mistakes” books, and so on… I don’t pirate it, although I enjoy the legitimate free content online (Project Gutenberg, anyone?) as much as anyone else. I will add – and I’m trying to be honest in saying this – that while I would not steal content, if I bought something that had DRM crippling it, I would not consider it unfair or dishonest to get someone to hack that DRM for my own use. I would hesitate, only because I’d wonder if they might make a copy for themselves while they were at it, but if I knew they wouldn’t… Sorry if that offends anyone, but since I suspect you want the most accurate results you can get, I’m trying to provide accurate answers.

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

    In spite of my natural inclination to sympathise with anything that can protect an author’s right to their own work, everything I know suggests it is a bad idea. My instincts as a professional genealogist teach me to consider anything with any measures of this sort as having a built in “self-destruct date”, just a date that isn’t wholly clear in advance. My hacker friends tell me DRM is not much of a deterrent, because even the most carefully protected content gets stolen. And once it has been cracked, it’s out there, for anyone to take. The hackers I know point out additional ways DRM can blow up in the faces of legitimate users. And my own experience as a user has taught me to hate it, to consider it a scheme to force me to buy the same content, over and over, just to keep a single, usable copy for my own use. (The $300 software I mentioned above? It is no longer available for one time purchase, but I could subscribe to it, for almost $200 a year… No thanks. I’ll never buy from that publisher again.) So I’ve concluded that DRM does little to accomplish what it’s supposed to do, while tying the hands of the people who actually paid.

    As for the community I mentioned, it is called DonationCoder. These are folks who program, who want to get paid. It isn’t the easiest forum to search, but there are threads about DRM over there. And a few supporters as well, because people never agree on anything… 😉 However, I didn’t want to mention it without at least giving anyone who was interested a chance to go on over and see for themselves, if they’re willing to do the work of searching the forums to dig up all the topics I’ve read over the years (and probably a lot of others I’ve missed, too).

    • Ray Johnson May 29, 2012 @ 14:22

      Since I don’t think I made this point clearly enough, let me stress one thing about DRM that particularly galls me. Once one person breaks the DRM, and shares that broken file with others, there is a DRM free version out there, available to anyone and everyone willing to steal it. The only people left struggling with the DRM are the people who paid. The analogy of a lock on your house isn’t a very good one, because if a thief breaks that lock, you can get it repaired. With DRM, once one thief breaks the lock, every thief can run in and out of your house with no trouble at all. The only ones left fiddling with their keys all the time are the people who live there, who have a right to be there, who precisely because of their honesty can’t take advantage of that permanently broken lock. (Unless they buy the legal version, then download a pirated copy just to get it without the DRM. I’ve heard of people doing that, and even then, they had to go through an extra step, that second download, just to get what the thieves are all getting with no trouble at all.)

  • Martyn V. Halm May 29, 2012 @ 13:49

    I’m a writer myself, prepping my work for publication. I won’t use DRM for exactly the reasons already given – it won’t deter the pirates, and it will annoy regular customers. I’ve returned CDs with DRM to the store, because I couldn’t import them into iTunes to load them on my iPod. That annoyed me, but I understood that the choice for DRM was not with the artist, but with the record company. With my own books, however, if I use DRM, my readers will know that it was my choice to annoy them and limit them the use of the e-book they bought from me. And if someone wants to mess with my work, they’ll find a way to remove the DRM and do what they want to do anyway, so the DRM isn’t going to help against piracy. What helps against piracy is increasing the knowledge of the public that artists/authors need their royalties to stay in business and make more music/books. If someone buys a pirated copy of my book, they may enjoy one book, but if they buy my book legitimately, I get money which will allow me to free up more time to write more books. If my books just get stolen, I might stop writing because I wouldn’t be able to afford writing without compensation.

    Conclusion: Don’t use DRM, but add a note to the text that explains to the public the necessity to reject piracy and buy your work legitimately to support you and your art.

  • C.A. May 29, 2012 @ 13:46

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

    My opinion of (and experience with) DRM is that it punishes honest consumers, and has no effect on criminals. It’s not that I think it’s ineffectual (although, in most cases, it is). My issue is that it punishes the very people you want to encourage: people who are paying you for a legitimate copy of the digital content. (I’ll explain why and how it punishes them, with real-life examples, in the ‘why’ section.)

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

    I read ebooks on my Kindle, my computer, and my phone, pretty much interchangeably. This currently works for as long as the devices I use support Kindle, but if I decide to switch platforms (for instance, if I decide that the Nook is a better product for me as a consumer, or if I want to buy a phone that doesn’t have a native Kindle app), DRM would make the switch difficult in the extreme, and potentially very expensive.

    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 both ebooks and physical books for my own use. I have never pirated a book, and I spend a lot of money on ebook content every year. I’ve bought hundreds of books in ebook form, from various publishers and platforms. (In other words, my money is where my mouth is.)

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

    The reason I feel that DRM punishes the very people you want to encourage (legitimate, honest book buyers–like myself) is based on experience. Here are just three things that have happened to me (not hearsay, not friend-of-a-friend):

    1. Ten years ago, when electronic music purchasing was still in its infancy, I bought a CD in digital form from a site that put DRM on its music. A year later, I replaced my computer. I contacted the site and asked them how to deactivate the music on my old computer and activate it so I could play it on my new computer. This was just one person, wanting to use the music in one place–I wasn’t trying to share it, or put it on two devices concurrently, or anything fancy like that. I just wanted to take the music with me when I switched computers. I was told that they didn’t have a structure for doing that; if I wanted the CD again, I could buy it again at full price on my new computer. This kind of hardline policy is very rare these days… but the fact that DRM makes it possible makes some number of honest customers leery. And even if the site does allow multiple activations to allow for hardware upgrade, that leads us to point 2….

    2. About five years ago, I bought an ebook from a site that used DRM to lock the content. At some point, the site went out of business. I discovered this fact when I went back to read the ebook again, and found that it had become unusuable in the duration–and since the company was out of business, I had no recourse, no one to talk to who could unlock or activate it. I’d bought a book at full price and now it was gone, through no fault of my own. Granted, it is unlikely that Amazon is going to go belly-up next year… but ten years? Twenty? Fifty? What will happen to my books then? What if I switch computers and try to re-activate my books on the new one… and discover that Amazon is gone and nobody is maintaining their DRM management? I’ve just lost access to all those DRMed books that I paid for.

    3. A few years ago, I purchased an ebook in a not-commonly-used format. The company then changed the format of their media, and stopped supporting the old format. I could no longer read the book on upgraded versions of the software, because the format wasn’t supported–and because the book was DRMed, I couldn’t convert it to a format that newer devices and programs could use. I kept the old, out-of-date installation of the reader around as long as possible to allow me to open the file, but when I finally upgraded my computer, I (once again) lost access to media I had paid full price for, through no fault of my own.

    I am hesitant to use DRMed products precisely *because* I am an honest customer. In all of the above scenarios, had I pirated the content, I would still have access to it now. I don’t condone book piracy and I wouldn’t do it, but it bothers me that, *because* I buy books honestly, I am at greater risk of losing my access to them. It seems to me that people who actually pay for books should have more security in being able to read and use them, not less.

    It seems to me that the kind of watermarking that we’re beginning to see (that doesn’t restrict access to the book–thus, you won’t ever lose your ability to open it just because a company went out of business–but that marks your copy with information about you as a customer) is a lot better. If a customer is honest, they can use your books without worry. If they aren’t, the information in the book allows you to track the piracy and find out where the leaked books are coming from–something that’s not possible with locked-content DRM.

  • bob May 29, 2012 @ 13:39

    It’s a given that most people don’t “like” DRM, because it can cause inconvenience, and it’s adversarial.

    DRM will NOT stop piracy, period. There is no shortage of software and hackers out there that can circumvent anything. Nothing sold on Amazon, for example, is undefeatable. Nor most other platforms.

    So what’s a person to do? Find a way to turn your content into an “ongoing stream,” where there’s some ongoing experiential aspect, or reward, to just buy it. I’m not suggesting serialization, although that’s one possibility. It could be the provision of ongoing complimentary content of some kind – whatever your creativity conjures up. Even your working notes, interview material, etc., might be interesting to people, kind of like the “extras” on a DVD. These are things that you might let “flow out” to your buyers over time, making them happier about their present purchase, and anticipating their next.

    Here’s a great example: take the game, “Angry Birds.” It’s inexpensive, which in itself is a great inducement to just buy it. Still, it has been copied and passed around. So what did its creators do? They created additional game levels that automatically updated into the game, over a period of several months after the purchase. So for a modest price, people had instant gratification, and extended gratification. Sure, they could still go hunting for a pirated copy, but why bother?

    Instead of focusing on DRM, consider ways to make the purchase and after-purchase of your content an overwhelmingly gratifying experience. Do that at a modest, impulse-oriented price, and see what happens.

  • Julien May 29, 2012 @ 13:24

    While I respect the need for content producers to protect their rights, I do feel that it is possible to get too draconian over Digital Rights Management (DRM). At present, DRM is done badly more often than not, inconveniencing legitimate buyers over people who wouldn’t buy it regardless.

    The digital text products I have bought so far are mostly all pdfs. I can also deal with epub and mobi formats as I have installed Calibre on my computer and can convert between formats, but it is an additional step and additional pain. I’ve bought them from individual author’s websites (like yours, for example) and I’ve bought hobby-related (RPG digital books and anthologies) from a website known as RPGnow.com/DrivethruRPG.com.

    RPGnow.com uses a digital watermarking system of DRM, where they put a small watermark containing the customer’s name on the bottom right of the page, but lets the customer download the product in pdf form to be used at will. I believe this has sufficient casual deterrence value for the ordinary consumer to not pirate to the world (since their name would be published to all and trackable).

    DRM protection methods that make use of proprietary formats are extremely aggravating to the ordinary consumer. They have to download proprietary software (which may have bugs and issues and crashes and problems), and get accustomed to how it displays books and text, and then books are spread out all over the place because some were bought from this or that store and can only be opened with this or that program. I managed to get Overdrive working, as my local library uses that, but it was a pain as one program had to be downloaded for the PC, and another separate one for the iPad, and there was various logins and account passwords to remember.

    I am not able to use Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook stores as I am not living in the United States. These products are region-locked away from my part of the world (Singapore). I am well aware that others in my country have managed to jump through hoops and import the Kindle and Nook, import gift cards and do incredible things in order to get access to ebooks – for myself, it is way too much inconvenience to even consider, and its borderline illegality may cause me to lose the paid-for products at any time the DRM provider decides – I would much rather not buy the product at all.

    I read the text products on my computer, often using Adobe Reader, and also transfer them to my iPad via Dropbox for reading while mobile. Any DRM that prevents me from reading in these two ways would frustrate me greatly, and it would strongly affect my decision to keep purchasing using that distribution platform.

    Currently, I purchase content to consume. If I did produce content to sell, I would likely not use any proprietary DRM. Why? Neil Gaiman says it best. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110211/00384413053/how-neil-gaiman-went-fearing-piracy-to-believing-its-incredibly-good-thing.shtml

    I believe there are some important DRM lessons to learn from games software, which is another place that one can encounter extremely frustrating DRM. (eg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SecuROM) One of the most upsetting and frustrating things to encounter is DRM providers closing down, or shutting off their activation servers, or activation limits, all of which affect and inconvenience legitimate users far more than pirates. There have been a number of such incidents in the past.

    There is currently one digital distribution platform (Steam) which has gained acceptance among a good number of gamers, but it took them 4+ years of consistency and proving themselves to be MORE convenient than no DRM, by making the process of installation and updates painless, and allowing the games to be played on any computer as long as one logs into the Steam service with their account. Essentially, Steam offers a subscription service to the games, and the DRM is effectively invisible to the consumer.

    Impulse and Desura also tried to copy Steam’s digital distribution method, but have wound up against the problem of having TOO many propietary formats, they have their supporters, but nowhere near the numbers of Steam users. Consumers just don’t want to have to manage three or four different pieces of software just to play their games (or read their books.) They want them all in one convenient place of access, Steam just got there first. Electronic Arts started their own service, Origin, to distribute their games, but have received criticism for being an obvious corporate ploy to have control over their games and pricing.

    For myself, I will not be transferring to multiple platforms in order to suit corporate suits. I much rather boycott their products instead. Besides Steam (whose ubiquitity and convenience has won me over, and I am well aware I am essentially paying for a subscription rather than owning the game forever per se), I have ended up supporting only Good Old Games, which is a website offering DRM-free games. I believe this respects the customer that has paid a price for a product (digital though it may be) and would like to move it or transfer it in a convenient fashion.

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