More lost than before on the DRM issue

The DRM discussion turned out to be far more depressing than I had anticipated.

I used to buy print books I really wanted in hardcover, then buy a paperback “reader’s copy” of those I wanted to reread so that I wouldn’t screw up my hardcover. I did this when I was making $99/week, and having to pay for my used Chevy Vega out of that income.

I bought copies of print books I especially liked for friends. I didn’t loan them, because I discovered early on that other people don’t treat their books as well as I treat mine.

Nowadays, unless I have to have the book for work, I don’t by print books anymore, because they’re a pain in the ass to read and to store. I don’t have room for print in the tiny place where we live.

So I buy e-books.

I buy books because I want the content, and have never quibbled about DRM content, or resented it, or had a problem with it. I read it on the device I bought it for (primarily the Kindle), and have treated additional copies for other e-readers (my iPhone/iPad and an early Sony e-reader) the way I treated hardcover/paperback. If I wanted the book on the other reader, I bought another copy. If I valued the book enough to want it in two places, I paid for it in two places.

I do not want what I have not earned. I do without a lot of things because I cannot afford them: this has always been true (though much more when I was younger).

So to have my readers tell me that many people they know consider the use of DRM as justification for stealing a copy, that people consider not liking the company that published the books as justification for stealing a copy, and that people consider a price higher than what they consider “reasonable” justification for stealing a copy, is heartbreaking.

There is no justification for theft in a free society.

If you don’t want to pay for the work in the format in which it is presented, do without.

To have some of the folks who read my work say to me, “If you release your work with DRM, I won’t buy it,” leads me to offer the following reply: I’m still considering releasing my work DRM-free, but if I do, do me a favor and don’t buy it anyway. If you think that threatening me by withholding your money—attempting to blackmail me economically—is appropriate action, you’re not anyone I want to know or help.

Here’s what’s sad.

I asked yesterday’s questions because I was looking for good reasons to quit using DRM. I WANTED to go DRM-free.

And to that end, I found two good reasons to offer my work without digital rights management.

  1. I did not realize that some companies that offered DRM have already gone out of business, leaving readers stranded. That sucks, and I don’t want to be a part of that.

  3. Some people read across many multiples of devices for their own personal use, and want to be able to to that without purchasing multiple copies, and I have no problem with this.

Both of those reasons make me want to release my work DRM-free.

But frankly, nowhere near as much as I did before I read all these replies.

I don’t want to hurt the people who legitimately buy my work by leaving them stranded with copies that they can no longer use, or requiring them to buy many copies to use across their own devices.

But I deeply dislike attitudes of entitlement that have been brought to light by readers reporting the activities of people they know who feel justified in their theft of works that don’t fit their arbitrary criteria of “not deserving of my money.” Or who feel justified in “sharing” (violating copyright) works with people who may then “share” them (violate copyright) further.

I find the following quote from this reply particularly chilling:

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.

So how much is 25 years of my life and experience in writing, and the time I took to create a system to teach what I know to others, worth? And how much is my right to my own intellectual property worth? That it can support my existence and allow me to create more works—if respected—matters to me.

To whom else does it matter enough that they will respect it and not share lessons with friends if I don’t add DRM?

Or even if I do?

I spent the morning researching copyright law and laws regarding being in possession of stolen property, however, and whether I finally decide on DRM-free or DRM, will probably release all of my work from now on with the following notice inside:

Dear Reader,

If you have purchased your copy of this work from a legal distribution site ( or sites listed here: [link pending]), thank you.

Please save your receipt.

Please do not copy and distribute this work—making and distributing even one copy of any copyrighted work, even to a friend, puts you in violation of US and international copyright law, and makes you subject to injunctions, and liable for monetary damages and statutory damages which, depending upon your intent and the extent of the distribution of your copy, can range up to $300,000 US for non-criminal infringement, and up to $500,000 or a prison term of up to five years for criminal infringement for a first offense. Other countries have other penalties.

Distributing a copy of this work also makes your friend a recipient of stolen goods, and in many states puts him at risk of felony charges even if he does not know the goods he has received are stolen.

If you have not paid for the copy in your possession, or if you have purchased it from a site not listed on the following page…

[link pending]

…please be aware that you are in possession of stolen goods. Being knowingly in possession of stolen goods puts you at risk of prosecution with criminal penalties varying based on the state or country in which you live, but which in many cases include being charged with a felony, financial punishment, and imprisonment.

To protect yourself, you can either delete this copy or purchase a legal version at:

[link pending]

With your legal purchase, you will receive a receipt as proof of purchase.

For more on US copyright infringement, go here:

For penalties and punishments in your country other than the US, use your favorite search engine to find penalties for copyright infringement [your country].

For more on possession of stolen goods, go here:

I hope you find this information helpful.
Holly Lisle

I had the first five lessons of HTTS set up unpublished on Amazon and B&N with DRM disabled. This discussion has increased my uncertainty regarding abandoning DRM, but whichever way I finally decide, this notice is, I think, going to be part of my eventual solution.

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283 responses to “More lost than before on the DRM issue”

  1. R.C. Mann Avatar
    R.C. Mann

    Regretfully, I am one of those who will not knowingly purchase digital products that encumbered by DRM. If you seriously do not wish me to purchase your ebooks because of this, I suppose I will be limited to buying only hard copies. I prefer hard copies anyway.

    In fariness, it’s not a case of either/or. Merely because someone does not like being regarded as guilty by intent when they haven’t even done anything, does not necessarily equate to having a sense of entitlement. I was introduced to your work through Baen. Which led to my checking out some of your books from the public library. Which led me to buy a few from the local book store. When google searching your books, I have seen several of them listed on warez sites. However I have not downloaded any pirated copies of any of your books, despite my distaste for DRM. It’s true that I dislike DRM, but that doesn’t automatically make me a thief.

    However, I will refrain from buying your ebooks if you prefer. I will simply read your work from the public library and/or buy it if I can find a book store somewhere that is still in business. We only have one left in town, and its not doing so well. Or Amazon of course.

    I am sorry you took offense.

  2. Mike Sharpe Avatar

    This is “old” argument in the gaming world. I’ve had games effectively stopped working as I’ve lost internet connection. However that often used mode with the current systems for multi player games. Steam regularly allows games that only need to be run once to “activate” the game, for your system need to be registered and have a valid log in code. Steam in this case acts as both DRM Manager and Provides Player id for game.

    I know many online Game stores actually do the work so it’s generally hassle free for the end user.

    I know of a few “fun” way they suggest you buy the game. Serious Sam 3, instead of being locked out, You get an invincible Monster from late game, running around after you, in addition to your usual enemies.

    Mind you I’m more of the person who give his stuff away for free..

  3. Eddie Louise Avatar

    Too often, we elders confuse the younger generation’s idea of ownership/content rights. Many young people have developed a “Why should I care – the big corporations want to rip me off so why shouldn’t I do the same” attitude. It is reactionary politics at it’s best.

    At the heart though, there are some legitimate complaints that have led to the rise of the bad attitudes. My son, who is 30 helps me to keep it straight.

    DRM is considered evil by the majority of young people because:

    1) It actually RESTRICTS ownership. If you buy a paper book or a DVD, you may loan it to as many (sequential) friends as you wish over the life of the object. You can (prior to DRM locked DVDs) burn it onto your laptop and ALSO watch it on your TV because you OWN it. Most DRM today is functionally a LEASE agreement – you are paying money to lease the USE of the item in a limited way. This is why the majority of young people (even those who would never pirate) believe DRM sucks.

    2) It is used for regionalization and release control for marketing reasons. It stops them from seeing British TV or buying Danish books when they are released. Basically it is used for market control that the Web is making more and more irrelevant. Young people today live globally at a level we could not have conceived 20 years ago. When an on-line friend raves about a book or a film in their country, young people wish to buy it and are enormously frustrated that it is unavailable so they turn to piracy. Once that line is crossed, it becomes justification. Being told to ‘Do without’ is simply old folks talking.

    Because of these factors, many young people have a cavalier attitude towards DRM.

    BUT, my son assures me, that doesn’t mean they also are dismissive of content providers. In fact, it is often the opposite – see Kickstarter which is enthusiastically embraced by the younger set as a method to support artists and content providers. Dozens of games, albums and even books get funded this way every week. This is good faith, up-front money to pay for content they want. Because of this, I don’t believe the ‘entitlement’ is towards ‘free’ content, but towards the ability to get OWN the content they wish.

    What I would suggest is DRM that mimics what JK Rowling did via Pottermore. Unique ‘pin codes’ that allow the user to install on multiple devices, create a backup on a home device, and loan for short periods of time (automatic deletion after a 15 day loan period for example.) This would allow your users to OWN and USE your products in a respectful manner AND acknowledges that the current ‘leasing’ standard of DRM is untenable.

    Lastly, as much as I abhor the stealing of books such as the example you provide above I do not believe that DRM as it exists now is the answer to that. DRM as it is now is disrespectful of the buyer. Pirating is disrespectful of the content provider. We have created an us VS them atmosphere on the entire discussion rather than looking into what it would take to solve the complaints on both sides.

    We need to find a third way that is respectful of both. When you buy something you should have FULL use of it. When you are selling something, you should be paid for each item. Current DRM standards do not accommodate either side of the debate. Can we come up with a Kickstarter model for DRM that supports both the provider and the consumer?

    I bet we can if we put our minds to it!

    1. Angie Avatar

      Well said!

    2. Marla Schultz Avatar
      Marla Schultz

      Great argument and well thought out!

    3. Shelia H. Avatar
      Shelia H.

      Yes! Said so much better than I could. Thank you.

  4. Sarah Avatar


    Thought you might be interested in another professional author’s perspective on DRM for ebooks.

    Charlie Stross reckons, as someone who makes his living from selling his books, that DRM is dead.

    For the interesting details of his argument, see:

    (apologies if someone else has already posted these links)

  5. James Palmer Avatar

    Don’t DRM. DRM is bad. It treats those who would never steal from you–or who lack the technical skills needed to do so–like criminals.

    It also doesn’t stop those with the knowledge and no-how from doing it. Plus, studies have shown that most people, given the choice of either grabbing a pdf of a work online or purchasing the Amazon version, will purchase the Amazon version most of the time. It’s just easier. If all I can find is an html or pdf of something that I can grab for free, but there’s a version for a few bucks I can read on the go on my Kindle, I’ll take the Kindle version every time. Write for these people instead of the two or three who will steal from you no matter what you do.

  6. Janet B Avatar
    Janet B

    I read a story about how the website uses a “electronic watermark” for the Harry Potter series. Is this just a different name for the same thing as DRM or are they using else”

  7. Kelly Avatar

    I prefer owning print copies of books so I haven’t had a lot of experience with ebooks and DRM. I’m also a gamer, though, and if ebook DRM is anything like video game DRM… well, basically the pirates are getting a better version of a game than the paying customers, because the website hosting the game or whatnot will go down and suddenly paying customers cannot access the game they paid for. Meanwhile, pirates have their own private version of the same game and get to play it with no worries whatsoever. Even while I hate pirates I can’t help but think I’d prefer to own a pirated copy of a DRM game. I’d still be willing to pay money, I just want to own the pirate version since it’s less faulty. I’m guessing that’s not the message most creators want to get across.

    My point is that if you do go with DRM, please put an effort into making sure the paying customers don’t get screwed over while the thieves get the more convenient product. Video games have given such a negative spin to DRM, that my knee jerk reaction is that DRM is a horrible thing. On the other hand, I love the people who create games and stories for me to enjoy, and I want them to be able to protect their stuff (and earn a living from it, if that’s what they want).

    On that note, will you be getting your books a print release or will it be all digital?

  8. Frederick Gonzalez Avatar
    Frederick Gonzalez


    I admire the authenticity and integrity you’re facing this issue with. Frankly, your issue is that you’re dealing with people who have neither. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I intend to buy your work regardless of your ultimate decision.

    I’ve been playing through the dilemma in my head, and the way I see it, you have several values you can try to achieve:
    – Making life easier for your readers
    – Making a statement against pirates / entitlement
    – Making life harder for pirates
    – Ensuring (or at least maximizing) you’re being paid what your work is worth

    As one article pointed out, anyone can type in “Remove DRM” on Google. Making life harder for pirates can’t be achieved. If you want to make a statement, your legal disclaimer works just fine. So let’s consider those values solved either way.

    This person ( interviewed major figures in the industry about DRM. Their consensus was that the main use for DRM is in preventing casual sharing. That ties back into the fourth value on the above list: people reading your books from a friend without paying for them. The thing is, we did that with paperbacks, too. You could even try to limit the casual sharing by adding a paragraph to your legal disclaimer.

    Which brings us down to two questions:
    1. Will more people pay for the book if it’s protected?
    2. Is that worth the risk of inconveniencing customers?

    That’s going to come down to personal opinion. Personally, once I know that I can’t achieve absolute justice, my concern is to ensure things turn out as well as they can. In this situation, I would prioritize the paying customers as long as I was confident enough people would buy the book for it to be sustainable–which, as you have a quality product, is a reasonable expectation. If that decision strikes you as unacceptable, then you know you value justice more highly and perhaps you should look into DRM.

    But if you don’t like either decision, then you’re reacting against the injustice of piracy in general. We all support you on that, but it’s a moot point whichever way you choose and so those feelings will only prevent you from reaching a decision.

    I hope this outside perspective helps. We wish you the best of luck.

  9. Charlotte Avatar

    This is just shockingly awful to behold. Holly, I’m sorry that this discussion has made you feel so depressed, but I share the feeling. Personally, as a PC gamer, I detest DRM but let me state why: PC game publishers/distributors/whoever handles this stuff have seriously abused DRM. I have refused to purchase games from these companies until they clean up their act, and actually implement logical, well-reasoned, functional DRM that doesn’t screw over the very individual who paid for the game. Badly-implemented DRM has ruined a number of games, made many of them unplayable (UbiSoft comes to mind), or somehow punished purchasers of the game who were making every attempt to pay the company for their IP–all without actually stopping the pirates. I’m not saying it’s necessarily right for people who purchased the game to crack the game simply so they can PLAY what they BOUGHT, but I do understand some of the frustration involved.

    I wonder if some of this angst has spilled over into other realms, such as ebooks? I don’t know. That’s pure speculation on my part. However, even though I prefer to buy DRM-free content (I like to think I use this material responsibly for my own personal enjoyment, and I’m always happy to support fellow writers/artists/creative minds), I will also happily purchase DRM content as long as the DRM makes sense and prevents pirating without punishing the purchaser or leaving readers stranded with “dead” or inaccessible content.

    Does this seem like a sensible stance to take on this? I do hope the depression passes, and I do want to let you know I support your decision no matter which you choose.

  10. Margaret Avatar

    While depressing, I don’t think those answers (and no, I didn’t read everything) would have surprised me at all. I’m a student of human nature, and this is why the idealistic political, economic, and social schools of thought appeal at the same time as I know they’ll fail in practice. However, I didn’t come to depress further. I wanted to say you’re going the right direction with the forum accounts. Stealing has been proven easy as long as the victim doesn’t have a face. To take full advantage, they should at least create the free account for the worksheets, which means getting a face. Also, you are making a moral appeal in the “I am a person and this is what keeps a house over my head” statement at the front of the book. Personally, I’d say be upfront about it. Then even if a pirate steals it, the recipient may read the combo of “by registering you get extras” and “this is my sole income” and decide to get a legit copy. The other thing is to stamp the copies sold on your site at least, so that direct pirates can be discovered.

    Whoever said that ePublishing is still new is right. By making it look like companies are taking unfair advantage of readers because DRM is tied to devices (a closer analogy would be saying I had to buy a copy to read at work, another to read at home, and a third to read in the car), and because I know of a handful of video games, music sites, etc. where the DRM system did fail, it made rationalizing DRM cracking easier (no more right, just easier). So the trick for the long term survivability of ePublishing is to connect the crime with a face, and throw away the concept of “victimless crime.” Heck, maybe even instead of a warning just do a “thank you to everyone who bought my books legitimately. You’re helping to keep a roof over my head and food on my table.”

  11. ed jones Avatar
    ed jones

    I’m sorry but I am really getting tired of all the people who justify stealing ranging from those doing file trading to groups like Monsanto, ADM, Tyson Foods,… you know, crony capitalists.

    Here’s my approach. I will not buy anything with DRM. End of statement. I won’t pirate anything except maybe Dr. who episodes but even those I’m giving up in order to be in line with my philosophy.

    I don’t even accept financial stress as a reason to pirate. It’s a reason to do without, to simplify your life and as a result, I’ve had to miss out on your courses. This is sad for me because even though things are getting a little better, they won’t be better for at least six months to a year (need to cough up a few divorce lawyer BMW payments).

    When I first got involved in this arena, it was clear that DRM was economic dead loss. Instead, piracy should be treated as a marketing opportunity, giving people an opportunity to come clean and pay for a legit copy. I’m not suggesting any sort of a discount for the Pirates, just an easy method to become legit. Some of the suggestions of watermarking through personal naming are good ideas.

    One idea some of us toyed with was a Associates mechanism. The the other route and encourage people to pirate and a person that puts out the original copy gets a commission which gives them the incentive to get others to become legit. Not sure how it work but it is worth examining.

    To DRM or not DRM is a real problem. I wish you the best of luck with whatever solution you choose.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Everything else has been said, and answered, but the whole friggin’ point of this is that you WON’T have to miss out on the courses.

      I’m bringing out the e-book versions of the HTTS lessons at $4.99 per lesson (29 lessons total). This version does not include the many, many bells and whistles of the full version, but it includes the full lesson, the full Technique, Q&As where they were available while I was writing the lessons, and downloadable, printable worksheets.

      At that price, you can get a lesson as you have time to do it and can spare the cost of that lesson—there’s no monthly payment to finance the course.

      1. ed jones Avatar
        ed jones

        urk. sorry. I was trying to say something different. Notice I said “had” meaning I passed up on any opportunity to pirate your courses.

        yes, I was aware that the whole discussion was around how to make your courses available so people like me could buy them in the future.

        I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to make those courses available.

  12. David Bolton Avatar
    David Bolton

    Holly. A lot of the FUD comes from those entrenched in the publishing world who rightly or wrongly fear change. There are several issues here but the way I view DRM is the “crippled by design”, the same that Cory Doctorow, (novellist) does. He writes in many places including the (UK) Guardian newspaper on e-books and publishing and there are lots of links and articles on his website as well as which he contributes to.

    The people who tend to download books for free are usually not those who would pay but amazingly and possibly counter intuitively, the evidence from several sources appears to be (certainly in music) that downloaders are amongst the highest payers. This is a subject that Mike Masnick on ( a major legal/tech blog) has also gone into in considerable depth. Forgive me if you know these already. Mike’s pieces often showcase musicians who have found different ways to make money through connecting with fans.

    A slight digression if I may. lets people crowd source funding for projects. Have you considered funding a book in this way? The more successful projects seem to be by those who are better known so it may be worth trying this.

    Although there are people who won’t pay a penny for anything I think the majority of people are decent and when given the option of paying a reasonable price for an e-book they will. Once that e-book has been produced (writing, editing, conversion to epub/mobi etc), the cost of copying it is nothing. People know this and rightly or wrongly value e-books much less than printed even though it’s the content that really matters not the presentation.

    What I’m trying to say is don’t think of the world as full of thieving so and sos who will rip you off by going to non DRM. Think of those free copies as not lost sales but marketing for the Holly Isle brand.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’ve considered it. I don’t like it because it can waste a lot of time: I would find myself holding off writing the book, thinking that it might not reach sufficient funding.

      I’d rather be paid for previous books to fund myself writing new ones, and hope to do that, as I have for the last six years while creating the writing courses, by simply making them available and having people buy them.

      1. irrevenant Avatar

        Wouldn’t it be nice to be paid for previous books AND be paid in advance to write new ones?

        I strongly suspect you have more than enough fans who would pre-order a novel from you so you could write it. How many preorders would you need in order to fund you penning a novel (remembering that you retain the rights etc.)?

        What do you lose by giving Kickstarter a try once, as an experiment? What could you gain?

        1. irrevenant Avatar

          P.S. An interesting option might be to do fundraising for a book you’re planning to write anyway, such as Redbird – that way you don’t have to worry about holding off writing while you wait for funding. You’re essentially just taking pre-orders. If the Kickstarter project is successful then you start getting paid for the book sooner and if it isn’t, then no harm done – we’ll just buy it when it comes out.

          Just a thought…

  13. Stephen B. Bagley Avatar


    I will buy your works DRM or not no matter what. I’m hoping everything will also be available in print, because I like books. And someday I’m going to be at one of your book signings, and you’re going to sign a copy to me! WOOHOO!

    You do make your living at writing, and I will never understand how people can think you should give away your hard work and creativity for free. I can’t fit my mind around it.

    Always in your corner,


  14. Krista Avatar

    First, let me say that I really like the message you intend to include in your e-books. I think every content creator, regardless of what type of media they create, has the right to protect their work. While you may not be able to prevent piracy, any attempt to educate the masses on copyright violation is commendable.

    As I read through your post, I wondered if you had listened to Neil Gaiman’s experiences with piracy? I realize his success despite the theft of his intellectual property is not the standard, but does add another perspective.

    1. Charlotte Avatar

      That is an excellent link–thank you for sharing.

  15. David Zurek Avatar
    David Zurek

    Dear Holly,

    I understand your difficulty with the comments you’ve received. I would like to believe that most people would be honest and purchase regardless of DRM or no DRM. I know for myself that I would purchase either way. As for the “issue” of price I’d say that an argument can be made for ebooks being priced lower than the paper version but it shouldn’t be unreasonably cheap either (i.e. $0.99 or free). I know that for myself that if the price of an ebook is the price of a hardcover book that I’ll hold off buying. There are lots of novels out there and I’m sure I can occupy my reading time until the price drops. If ebook prices are driven by sales and profits than the price will eventually fall into place where sales and profits are maximized.

    So I would say that to me I don’t care one way or the other if I purchase something with DRM or not. I don’t get irate. I just think that it is unfortunate that we may need such things.


  16. Susan Kelly Avatar
    Susan Kelly

    Just watched Niall Fergusen on tv last night, talking about “killer apps” that have made western civilization the success it has been. The killer apps are: competition, democracy, medicine, science, consumerism, and (the Protestant) work ethic. We’ve lost that last one, the one that includes *thou shalt not steal.* People used to know this, now we don’t, as a society.

    You figure out an answer to this problem, you’ve figured out a lot more than just DRM or not-DRM.

  17. Ray Johnson Avatar
    Ray Johnson

    Holly, I can certainly understand that you’re depressed. I consider the fact that so many people can’t even understand what’s wrong with stealing other people’s work depressing myself. And I would say there is never justification for doing so.

    I’m afraid, though, that my own comments on the other post weren’t clear in several respects. First, if I wanted two copies, I’d gladly pay for them. (And I don’t “loan” e-books, unless they are works in the public domain.) What I personally hate about works in a device specific format is the fact that if the device becomes obsolete, or I replace it, I lose that copy altogether. I no longer have it. It isn’t like a hardcover vs. paperback, where I have both copies I paid for. It is like a book that will ‘self-destruct’ under certain circumstances.

    And, as one of the people who mentioned I would have to think about buying your work if it was released with DRM, I want to apologise. I did not intend that remark as a threat. You asked for opinions, and I thought the fact that I find DRM such a hindrance it would strongly and negatively affect my thinking when considering a purchase was a detail that was relevant to explaining that opinion. I guess my concept of the free market is such that I take for granted the idea that, if a seller makes something less desirable in my opinion, I am much less likely to buy it. In your case, I chose to mention it because these works are ones I’d normally very much want to own, so I thought the fact that I consider DRM such an impediment it would discourage me might be a relevant illustration. This was apparently poor judgment on my part; all I can say in mitigation is that I have Aspergers or “High Functioning” Autism (self-diagnosed, as I grew up in the 1960s and only figured this out in 2010, since several other factors complicated the situation) and am not always aware of how my remarks might come across to others. I am sorry.

    1. Ray Johnson Avatar
      Ray Johnson

      And now I feel doubly like a fool, but I was so embarrassed I completely forgot to add the point I most wanted to make.

      I’ve been thinking over the issue again since I first read your survey. For several years, I’ve been depressed over the situation, because on the one hand, the idea of people who consider themselves “fans” of someone’s work being willing to steal it is absurd. And depressing. Since my own work was stolen in 2008, that has depressed me even more. But on the other hand, I’m honestly convinced DRM primarily punishes the people who legally buy the work.

      Your idea is a valid one. You have every right to include just such a statement. But those who would steal the work will know that, as a small publisher, you don’t have the resources to go after them all. And the government neither investigates or prosecutes theft of Copyrighted works unless the owner pursues the matter, or the case involves a huge corporation with significant sums at stake. (I’m not saying the sum involved isn’t significant to you, or that it does not make it wrong, just that the FBI isn’t likely to investigate this type of thing.) So the result is still depressing.

      But what occurred to me is that there might be one way to change this. What’s the problem? We live in a culture that accepts stealing digital works. What if writers and musicians and filmmakers and others made an effort to convince people of the harm they’re doing, to change that culture? Make the thieves ashamed.

      1. Holly Avatar

        You can’t make intentional thieves ashamed. They have already justified who and what they are in their own minds.

        You can make accidental thieves (people who genuinely don’t realize copying and disseminating copyrighted material is a criminal action) aware.

        Which is what my statement was intended to do: to say “Gee, did you know that people who do these things can face criminal charges?”

        Because of my background as an RN used to presenting information that, if people did not listen to me, would cause them to die, I tend to default to clinical “this information will save your life” mode, and don’t realize I’ve done it until people recoil in shock.

        But consider—you can never guilt the guilty, but you can protect the innocent. I’m operating from that perspective.

  18. Dyre Avatar

    I didn’t chime in before, because I was confident you’d go with what is best for both you and your readers. You always do, and we love you for it.

    This makes me wonder, however, just what sort of response you were getting.

    I would first like to let you know that, just for this situation, I searched for your name on popular pirating sites. It’s impressive how little I found, if any at all, that even have them up. The details on those torrents are mostly of the “Buy this if you like it” variety. If you can ignore that they put it up in the first place, they are encouraging others to do as they did and pay -you- for those books.

    You offer fantastic content at reasonable prices. You have a connection to your readers, you even keep yourself available for questions. They know if they e-mail you, it is you who will respond. That means a lot to fans.

    If they’ve read any of your work, they know that it is worth their time and money.

    DRM will scare away readers. It will force them to use only one method of reading your books. I wasn’t aware of the businesses failing and leaving readers out of luck, but there’s that as well.

    Don’t let the entitled little brats force your hand here. They want to fight the big business fight by claiming they are only stealing from people who have too much already. But you’re not bis business. That money will not be split so many ways that it’s basically pennies when it gets to you (I’ve seen this argument). It’s just you.

    They are keeping money out of the hands of an author whose work they enjoy reading. I don’t see how that is not theft.

    DRM is just another excuse they will use for stealing it anyway.

    Know that there are plenty of people who -do- buy books, who will tell their friends to buy your books. You can’t stop people from pirating, just as many stores can’t truly stop shoplifters. People are going to steal, but that is no reason to punish the ones who didn’t.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m delighted to have readers who care about me, and who let me know when they find my work on pirate sites. I go in as soon as I’m notified, and in most cases am successful in having the work pulled down.

      If I did not do this, sadly, you would find a lot more available.

  19. Michael Winiberg Avatar
    Michael Winiberg


    I agree that the overall negative impression is depressing – I only wish it weren’t so, but the failure of all the digital media issuers to realistically address the issue of protecting IP whilst at the same time allowing the genuine user the same freedoms they would expect with a physical object has left us with the current hodge-podge of incompatible and sometimes unreliable DRM systems that tend to inconvenience only the genuine reader. (Indeed there are an increasing number of laws – here in the UK – that are like that as well.) It seems to me that the intent behind DRM has always been more about protecting the rights (and hence profits) of the individual media publishers than the authors, which is why there is as yet no industry-wide standard for DRM.

    As a developer and producer of digital media myself, I wish I could offer an easy solution, but the idea already mentioned of customised PDFs (also used by BookBoon amongst others) seems a reasonable compromise in the circumstances.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, I shall continue to buy and read your books in whatever format you decide to publish them.


  20. RNFrancis Avatar

    Wow, I read some of the first replies yesterday, most of them anti-DRM. The more objectionable ones must have been posted after I read. Holly, you’re totally right. Pirating is an uncomfortable truth in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it. I respect copyrighted work more than my own convenience.

    Comparing print to digital content is a wash<–They aren't the same thing! You can't do with your printed book what you can do with your e-book, simple as that and vice versa. I think that the buyer should be responsible for purchasing which version suits them best, and that includes which digital format they can live with.

  21. John McMullen Avatar
    John McMullen

    I’m weakly on the anti-DRM sde. I think the way it has been implemented is atrocious, and it isn’t particularly a deterrent for those who definitely want to steal.

    I am of the opinion that the deterrent for a crime–pretty much any crime–lies largely in the likelihood that you’ll get caught. (The degree of punishment also counts, but less than I was lead to believe, as a child.) With most electronic forms, you are unlikely to get caught. DRM does help with this, a little, but it also makes many legitimate uses of a purchased atifact impossible. So DRM as it currently is, well, not a good solution.

    Yes, I’m familiar with that sense of entitlement. I fight it regularly, both with my wife and my children. I think I’ve got my wife convinced, though II don’t know about my kids.

    1. John McMullen Avatar
      John McMullen

      II should be I. Oy.

      Anyway: I agree about ownership and buying multiple copies of things.

  22. Keith Smith Avatar

    I am still only buying physical books, many of which I have bought several times, because if they are good I foist them off on people on the grounds that it is good for them, so the whole DRM for books business is a bit left field for me. But . . . it really hacks when I can’t listen to digital music on anything but the laptop it was acquired on because of DRM. Hmm. And there is something about DRM that I find intrusive in an inimical way.
    Cassettes could be played at home, on a walkman, taken around to a friend’s house (and if they were inspired they might well but it too) in the car . . . Like a paperback book that fits handily in the pocket, music was accessible, transportable, sociable. Being restricted to one particular device might be a pain with ebooks, I don’t know, I have resisted the temptation so far, as easy access to so many books would only detract from my writing time . . .
    But yeah, the light-fingered will find ways, the hollow-minded will find justifications, guilting the innocent reader at the start of the book isn’t going to change that and the little toe-rags will snicker smugly and raise the (in)appropriate digit.
    It really hacks me off when I watch a DVD and there is all this rigmarole at the start of my legitimately acquired copy about theft. Does this appear on pirated copies? I doubt it . . . but that is where it should be. What good is preaching to the choir gonna do? I have watched a few DVDs recently which have thanked me for acquiring a legitimate copy and stressing the benefits to all concerned for my being an uptanding citizen and parting with my folding, much better than a hectoring that seems to imply I am some sort of criminal.
    I bet I haven’t helped.
    But a thorny topic, and one which needs to be addressed.
    Thank you.
    I’ll shut up now.

  23. Christopher Walker Avatar

    For people intent on stealing a copy, DRM doesn’t seem to offer any obstacle whatsoever, because it’s fairly easy to crack. All it represents is a time delay, and may indeed punish those readers who only want to read it on more than one device. At least, that’s how people are conditioned to think. Just based on that alone, I’m very hesitant to DRM my own books.

    I like your statement, but I worry it will turn off readers of your fiction books. My gut reaction, anyway. In a way this is similar to the FBI warning on the front of DVDs and Blu-rays. No offense there, but everyone is used to seeing it on those media. This is new for this medium. Maybe people just have to get used to it.

    When you do get around to implementing the statement, I’d love to hear about what feedback you’ve received regarding it.


    1. Holly Avatar

      That was me in RN patient-teaching mode.

      I’m going to have to force myself to sit down in “no, people will not die if you don’t convince them of the importance of this” mode, and come up with something better.

      More along the lines of,

      “I hope you’ve enjoyed this book. This book and others like it are how I feed my family and keep a roof over my head. If you received a copy you did not pay for, you can help me out by going to: [pending website link] and purchasing this book.

      Holly Lisle

      Something like that, anyway.

      1. Crystal Avatar

        I think that’s pretty close to perfect. This is the kind of statement I like to see on the digital stuff I buy. It gives the impression that the person issuing it wants others to treat him or her like a real live human being … and also recognizes the reader as a real live human being, too.

      2. Nandini Avatar

        That sounds a whole lot better, whew! As someone who really likes your books and loved HTTS, I was afraid for the impact your statement as written above would have had on readers and buyers. It came across as if you were yelling at all of us, probably enough to turn off a new reader/buyer from your books… which would be such a pity.

  24. Jason Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    First, I want to say that I haven’t read all the comments on the previous post. I know, I’m that guy, and I apologize. I saw your post, and figured that anything I had to say on the matter would probably be said (and said better) by someone smarter than me. I’m really sorry that it became a stress for you instead of the intelligent debate on an important and complex issue that I expected it would be.

    Anyway, I won’t even try to say everything that needs be said on the issue. I just wanted to make a couple comments on what you’ve said here, and I apologize again if these points already been raised.

    First, in most discussions of DRM and piracy, there’s the unspoken assumption that each download equates to one lost sale. The story related in the quote above seems to take this as a given, as do most of the figures put out by DRM supporters. The problem, though, is that there appears to be increasing evidence that this is not the case. Unfortunately, I don’t have the links handy, but recent studies have shown that a very large portion of people who download illegally either would not ever have paid for it anyway, have already paid for it in another form, or pay for it at some later time. Some people download a file simply because it is there, and never even open it. Some people use it as a form of preview, or simply to have the opportunity to enjoy works that their budget otherwise wouldn’t allow. Many of them later do buy the works in question when money allows–something which has often been brought up anecdotally, but which studies are now showing is a not uncommon trend. We can (and probably should!) collectively discuss whether or not this is acceptable ethically and legally, and the same for format shifting for personal use, but I mention it here to show that it’s not always the case that a download is a lost sale.

    Relatedly, there’s also evidence that illegal downloading can result in increased sales over time. Several studies in recent years (and again, I apologize for not having links) in the music industry have shown that for all but the top-tier artists, increases in downloads can be correlated with increased sales. It’s thought that this is a result of raised awareness of the artist; that is, it’s a way for the artist’s work to reach an audience who might not have otherwise found it. I don’t know if any similar studies have been done for the publishing industry, but I would be very curious to see them.

    Again, I’m so very sorry that this has been a stressful situation for you. It seems to me that you’re doing exactly what you should: you’re looking calmly at the pros and cons, and evaluating which option is best for you based on the evidence at hand. I for one can respect that, and will respect and support whatever decision you reach regardless of whether or not I personally agree with it. I agree that there is a lot of entitlement rhetoric and fiery emotion around this issue; I could speculate about why this is, but I think that’s veering away from topic, and in any event is unlikely to help you reach a decision.

    Instead, I wish you good luck, and I look forward to having another way to support you in your endeavors!

    1. David Masters Avatar
      David Masters

      Jason, you’ve said what I wanted to say with more gentleness, eloquence and, most importantly, evidence. Thank you.

      1. David Masters Avatar
        David Masters

        And if you ever find links to the studies, I’d love to see them!

    2. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Jason,

      You weren’t that guy. We’re good. And everything you say makes perfect sense. I already decided last night that I’m going DRM-FREE and with a vastly different notice than my “patient-teaching mode” one, but you did not cause me any pain.


  25. Tracy Avatar


    I agree with the reader who states that you should make a personal appeal. I think that the legal stuff is important too except perhaps for the keep a receipt part, as I have purchased all your big and short courses and frankly don’t have the receipts from any of them. I think keeping a receipt wouldn’t even cross the mind of an honest person and if they do purchase through Amazon, the site keeps a receipt of all books you buy, even those you get special promotional ‘freebies’ on. I know Smashwords does the same, although I don’t know about B & N.

    I think if people realize they are literally taking food off your table and clothes off your back they will be less likely to steal. It puts it in personal terms they can identify with. I’ve never been tempted to steal someone’s work, but I think that if they said something along the lines of ‘This is my hard work, the result of countless hours spent developing a story that you the reader would love. Equally importantly this is how I pay my bills, buy my clothes and keep food on the table. If you have obtained an illegal copy of this material please consider this as well as the possible legal ramifications listed elsewhere and purchase your own, legitimate copy. I’ll thank you, your conscience will thank you and you’ll sleep much better at night knowing you did the right thing. I have faith in you. Live up to the high expectations I know you’re worthy of.” This way it makes any reader feel proud that they did the right thing and bought your book, without making those who purchase it legally feel as though they are being lumped in with the criminals who steal because before they even read your book they get hit with the legal “mumbo-jumbo”. Put the mumbo-jumbo in their if you feel compelled to, but remember the vast majority of your readers will be legal ones and don’t want or need to feel intimidated because they probably deleted their electronic receipt (I always do to save room on my hard drive).

  26. Martyn V. Halm Avatar

    Believe me, Holly, I get your point. The reason I’m still anti-DRM is simple: DRM is not deterrent to those who want to pirate a book, it might even encourage them as a challenge. And the readers who pay for the DRM e-book are hindered in reading their books on other devices.
    In the previous thread I compared it to the DRM on CDs – I just bought four CDs and imported them in iTunes, so I can use them on my iPods. If they had been protected, I would be hindered in what I consider normal use of the music. And I know people who will look for a DRM-free version of the music they want because they cannot import the CD into their iPods. A way to circumvent this is to offer the CD together with a digital MP3 version, like what happens with a lot of DVD/BlueRays now.

    Another consideration for the friend who had 28,000 ebooks stolen – people like ‘free’ stuff, but that doesn’t mean they would have bought the ‘free book’, even at 99c. I’m not saying it’s not wrong, I’m saying that:
    a) the 28,000 stolen ebooks do not constitute a loss of 28,000 sales,
    b) those who received the ‘stolen’ book might become a fan of the writer and look for other books by the writer.

    I don’t think the note you composed to include in your work will raise the conscience of readers, more likely the honest customers will be offended and the dishonest people will laugh and pirate your ebook just for the hell of it.

    If you want to encourage readers to act responsibly, appeal to their conscience and point out to readers that, in order for you to write and share your stories with them, you need the royalties from your books. The money you earn from your books will free up time you can use to write, but if your book gets pirated, you might need to supplement your income with work that will diminish the time you can spend on writing your stories.

  27. Lazette Gifford Avatar

    People who still e-books are just going to do so, no matter what. They’re as apt to steal picturs, articles and anything else they can find on the Internet. For some of them, DRM is nothing more than a challenge. If they have morals in real life against stealing, they turn them off the moment they turn the Internet on.

    There’s also the ‘It’s just words’ attitude. Not real work, you know, creating those stories. Any one of them could do the same if they bothered to sit down and put their mind to it, right?

    DRM was a good idea that didn’t work. For too many it’s a rallying call and an excuse to attack and a growing problem for the people who play by the rules.

    I would say the only way to keep your books from being pirated is not to have anything on-line, but that’s not true, either. I remember when the later Harry Potter books were coming out, and how the day after the release people would have already scanned and published the pirated versions.

    What would be nice is for people to take the rights of authors, and their hard work, more seriously. Maybe we should start a campaign.

  28. Forz Avatar

    You might find some of the essays in Cory Doctorow’s book “Content” interesting as you consider this further. Not all of the essays are devoted to DRM/copyright/etc., but many are. And it’s generally an interesting read from a science fiction author who seems to do well despite (because of?) giving away all of his books.

    “Content” is free in various electronic formats from his website, here:

    Also available on Amazon, etc., if you like it enough to buy it.

  29. Maggy Avatar

    The entitled attitude of the public nowadays is disgusting. They would steal everything if they could. Do what you have to do to protect your work. These same people who steal the intellectual work of others would certainly be screaming if anything of theirs was stolen.

  30. Stijn Hommes Avatar
    Stijn Hommes

    Jason Messina (@surfthegasp on twitter) appears to have pirating of his work sorted. You might want to talk to him. Please drop me an email too. After your previous post, I started surfing to see if I could dig up pirate copies of your work. There are some around that I wish to make you aware of (in private without driving traffic to it). Unfortunately, people don’t respond well if you’re not the owner of the content in question.

  31. Chris Avatar

    Holly, I am not a fan of e-books yet, so I can’t say I have a lot of experience there. When I do check out an ebook from the library, I read it on my laptop. But I do have experience with DRM’s on music I have purchased online.

    I purchased some of my favorite music tracks, and then had a hard drive error and needed to reformat, etc. Yes, I had backed up the new music files. Well, the license files were lost, and my computer would not play the music tracks because it couldn’t find the license files. Silly me, I didn’t realize that music licenses were stored in a totally different place than the mp3. When I went back to the online store I’d purchased them from, they would not send me a duplicate license. I paid for the songs a second time because i liked them so much. But still. It was a pain in the butt. Now, I understand why the music industry does that. And I would probably still purchase a DRM e-book, but it would be with that sinking feeling of, “well, here’s hoping nothing glitches and I’m unable to access it.”

    A friend of mine has a nook that she got for Christmas, and was dismayed to find that e-books are not globally formatted. Her husband “jail-broke” her nook so she could purchase and read kindle formatted books. (Another reason I’m not sold on the e-readers. A book is a book is a book. I don’t have to have it translated unless I’m in another country.)

    I believe in purchasing works that other people make that I want. I know that there are a lot of people who think if they can get it for free, they are entitled to it for free. I don’t subscribe to that. I just wanted to let you know why I prefer drm-free.

  32. Sawyer Grey Avatar

    This is a business decision. The goal is to maximize your profits while keeping your readers happy. I strongly urge you to read Joe Konrath’s blog posts on piracy over at Newbie’s Guide ( before you make up your mind. He addresses every issue you’ve mentioned.

    The fact that Apple has dropped DRM from iTunes should be a big red flag to anyone who thinks DRM is a good idea. The four major music labels have already done this. Tor/Forge is dropping DRM from all their eBooks. These businesses are doing this for a reason.

  33. Timothy Avatar

    Holly, it’s too bad the software can’t embed a digital signature for the ebook purchaser. Seeing their name around the Web might be a deterrent to giving away ‘free’ copies, and would alert the seller to avoid future dealings with this free-loader.

  34. Stijn Hommes Avatar
    Stijn Hommes

    I didn’t way in on the issue before because I believed the other people had it covered. I believe that marking each copy of your ebook with some sort of code or number that tracks back to the purchaser is the best idea. It doesn’t limit the use for legitimate consumers, but it helps you track down the perpetrator if you need to.

    Not sure how easy it is to implement, though.

  35. chanoch Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    Couple of points, though I’ll start with laying out my position on DRM. I’m against it, only because current systems make it easy for me to lose my copies.

    I’ve always paid for everything I’ve got but I know that’s not the usual case.

    On the other hand, prices are coming down to the point where not having a copy doesn’t bother me any more. If I had spent a year or two creating a novel I would be gutted if that time was wasted by my work being stolen.

    I’m not sure the above text will work for you though. It’s too long, it will upset those of us who care, and will be water of a duck’s back for thieves.

    I wonder whether you would be better appealing to people’s good nature. The reality is that the very people who would steal from you are not motivated by avoidance of consequences (they don’t really believe in consequences, especially if they are ya) and they don’t really understand property or ownership (hence the youtube videos of tv episodes which have a line about how they poster of the video claims no ownership – it’s not theft if you didn;t mean it, is it?)

    Considering the attention span of your average internet user, I would suggest something that is short and to the point:

    “This novel took me xx months to write. I hope you enjoy it. If you paid for it, thank you – the money pays my bills so I can write.

    If you didn’t pay for this, please buy the novel so I can continue to write more fiction for your enjoyment.”

  36. George Avatar

    It is a sad thing, the dark side of wonderful technology. I use to pirate music as a teenager and then I graduated high school and got interested in writing and started researching all sorts of things including rights and laws and realized how much of an ass I was to have stolen so much music. I got rid of it and started buying the songs I had pirated. Still working on that as it’s easier to pirate music than to buy it and I had stolen a lot. I didn’t give my opinion on the DRM thing because I’m sorta like you in that I just don’t know. I would want my creations to be protected, but when people can rip right through that protection anyways is it worth inconveniencing the honest readers? I dunno. Maybe I’ll just decide what you do, lol.

    Also would you be OK with other people using that same notice in their work? I buy a lot of ebooks and self-published e-books and have been trying to decide what sort of notice I should use because there are quite a few different ones out there. The one you have is the best I’ve seen by far and would like to use it when I publish my own stuff.

  37. Lexi Revellian Avatar

    I’m no expert, but Kindle apps are available free from Amazon so people can read their Kindle copy on any device, surely?

    I think you are fretting way too much about this, Holly. The young and poor do things they won’t be doing later in life when they are older and richer and respectable. I send Cease and Desist notices to pirate sites when I become aware they are offering my books, but I don’t worry too much about it. The downloaders would probably not have bought my books in any case, so I’m not losing income.

    Re DRM, I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not. I know it annoys a minority of readers. I have it enabled, as it sends out a small signal that actually, I don’t want my work ripped off. I think such a long threatening notice as you are contemplating is a bad thing – your legit buyers will have to scroll past it, and readers who’ve pirated the book are not going to read it and think, “Dear me, I shouldn’t be doing this. I’ll go and buy a copy, now.” I always resent signs in shops telling me not to shoplift because I will be prosecuted. I do not steal, so it puts me off the shop.

    1. Anne Lyle Avatar

      That assumes you want to tie your ebook reading to Amazon – OK they’re probably not going to disappear, but they’ve been known to delete books from your Kindle library. Books you paid for.

      Me, I’ll stick to ePubs, DRM-free where possible – I only buy Kindle editions when the author offers no other option.

      1. Keith Glass Avatar
        Keith Glass

        . . . .and once I have the Kindle edition, I import it to my Calibre library, and convert it to DRM-free ePub format. I’ve switched ebook readers twice now, and dislike having to buy half my library all over again. . .

      2. althea Avatar

        As a side note here, unless you root your Kindle or Nook, no, you cannot download a Nook reading app to a Kindle or vice-versa. So you’re limited to that eBook reader that you have if you buy from Amazon or Kindle.

        Can I read any Amazon or Kindle on my Android phone? Yup, but my eyes aren’t what they used to be and that printing is just way to small. If I make it big enough to read comfortably, I get maybe 10 words at a time on the screen.

        So, to those of us who have multiple devices, (Kindle, Nook, PC, iPod) DRM only hurts. Do I have a solution short of rooting all of my proprietary devices? No. And that just sucks for the author and consumer.

      3. Texanne Avatar

        Anne–I know of only two times Amazon deleted content from Kindles. One was over some child porn or bestiality that was contained in a book. The other was when the author himself withdrew the book–but Amazon offered the updated/corrected book for free to those (like me) who had purchased the defective book.

        Holly–DRM is not something I’m familiar with on a tech level. I suppose that most, if not all, of the e-books and software I own are DRM protected. Hasn’t caused me a moment’s trouble.

        WHAT I DON’T GET is the idea that DRM keeps folks from reading Kindle content on their Sony readers or vice versa. Look, I can leave the doors open on my house and not say a word when you come in and raid my CD collection. But no matter how many CDs you steal, you’ll still be out of luck if the only music player you have is an 8-track tape deck.

        Meaning: DRM isn’t what keeps you from reading your Amazon content on your other reader–format is what keeps you from doing that. DRM has nothing to do with it.

        I have a Nook, which I love, but also run iBooks and Kindle App on my iPad and my computer. Most of the books are NOT stored on my devices. The books and music are stored on “the Cloud,” which means that when this Nook or iPad gives out, I can get a new one and pick up right where I left off, reading and playing content from the Cloud.

        All movies have dire warnings about the FBI or InterPol or Green Berets coming to get you–but the reason more movies aren’t copied is that it’s cheaper and better to buy legit copies from legit dealers.

        Like some others here, I’d prefer a “Thank you for buying my book. This is how I feed my family.” kind of notice. It makes us into allies.

        The overall degeneration of morals in the world–well, that’s the depressing part. All I can say to you personally, Holly, is that your books always support the highest morals, and I think a thief would suffer from reading them–like a vampire exposed to the light.

        As for the guys who claim that piracy helps their bottom line–that’s hard to believe. I do believe that not every pirated copy is read, and I think piracy probably varies by genre.

        And no, borrowing a book from the library is NOT the same, morally or financially, as stealing an e-book. :)TX

        1. EliseInAZ Avatar

          A small correction, Texanne. DRM does prevent you from reading Amazon content on a Nook and vice versa. Without DRM, it’s possible to easily convert from one format to another. With DRM it’s not possible unless, as others have pointed out, you have the knowledge and technical expertise to go hunt down how to remove the DRM so you can convert it.

          I think you’re overly optimistic in your scenario of just replacing your Nook if it “gives out.” What if Barnes and Noble goes out of business and no one is manufacturing Nooks anymore? What if Amazon fails and your Kindle becomes a paperweight? And don’t say it can’t happen. Look at Kodak. Look at Xerox. Does anyone have a Xerox copy machine any more?

          I can’t afford to repurchase the hundreds of books on my ereader should I need to replace it with another one that uses a different format. I shouldn’t have to buy them again. While I know that ebooks are technically a license to read them and not an outright purchase, in my mind I still bought them and feel I should be able to read them on any device I might own.

          I’ve already been through this with music (vinyl to tape to CDs to MP3s) and movies (VHS to DVD and, possibly someday, Blueray). Each time my collection has shrunk. I don’t want to need to do this with my books.

          1. Texanne Avatar

            Thanks, Elise. I do worry a bit about B&N’s long-term viability, but I also figure that they will find a way not to cheat buyers if/when they do fold. Amazon–nope, not worried. iBooks–Apple itself is good for a long time, but they do change up their on-cloud model every two or three years. Again, they always give plenty of warning and do what’s right by the customers. :)TX

            1. Kari Avatar

              Apple do what’s right by the customers? Well, um, locking their customers into one app market and telling their customers that any modifications to their device they don’t approve of are a criminal act (which is what they wanted the court to say that jailbreaking your iDevices was)… Not so sure that they’re always looking out for the little guy here.

              Don’t get me wrong — they make FABULOUS devices. I loved my iPhone and my daughter’s iPad and have drooled over the MacBooks for a while now.

              But again, I’m not so sure that I want to be locked into only purchasing everything from one company.

              I’m not a 100% supporter of the cloud idea — which means I use it, but not without having my own backups on a separate drive at home. Convenience is nice — but I don’t necessarily trust the cloud for everything.

              Sorry for the digression here — I agree that Apple and Amazon are probably in this for the long haul. Barnes & Noble is struggling and I would hate to see them fail, but there’s probably a greater possibility of that for them than Apple and Amazon. 🙂

        2. Kari Avatar

          Um, TX, I hate to say this, but I don’t think child porn or bestiality is grounds for anyone to remove a book that I had purchased from my reader, even if they refunded me. That’s just a bad stance to take, in my opinion. If I buy a book, then the book is mine. I don’t want it removed from my Kindle (or any reader) unless I choose to remove it. Does that make sense?

          To me, that starts to smack of censorship — not to mention that it underscores what we’ve purchased is a license to view the content that can be taken away.

          Not that I approve of child porn and bestiality, but that goes without saying, right?

    2. Crystal Avatar

      The above reply covers a lot of my opinion on this topic, too, but apparently it’s hard for me to be succinct about this. I think that’s because to me, this IS an issue of human nature, and while I think human behavior CAN be generalized for practical purposes, I think one needs to be responsible when doing it, because it isn’t always simple. 😉

      Basically, though, my take is that people are people. Some are obnoxious, some are thoughtful. Some are selfish, some are respectful.

      If you want to teach people to behave rationally, thoughtfully and compassionately, the most effective way is NOT to try to educate them through fear or negativity. Fear and negativity just encourage people to behave more irrationally, not more rationally.

      I think that with this and many persistent issues, people’s sense of entitlement or self-righteousness comes from ignorance. They don’t believe in their own power to cause significant harm to real people.

      Some people just don’t believe stealing can cause harm. Some people don’t believe their own actions amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Some people have trouble believing there’s a real live person on the receiving end of their actions. All of these are quite ignorant beliefs, but IMO, no matter what reason one has for disbelieving, the underlying issue is that people don’t really believe stealing ebooks does lasting harm to anyone.

      Even those who steal from a company because they dislike the company or its choices, IMO, are dehumanizing the company into an icon of the Selfish Corporate World in order to do it, so that they feel they’re actually doing something *good,* not something bad, when they act out. (Because everyone knows that corporations don’t employ real people with real feelings. Everyone involved in corporations is a horribly selfish person who doesn’t care about anything but money, right? Meh.) If a casual DRM-breaker saw convincing proof that as a direct consequence of thumbing their nose at a company they disliked, an innocent and kindly old lady lost her home and ended up dying friendless and starving in the street, well, they would probably lose their sense of entitlement pretty quickly. It’s a small minority of extremely screwed-up people who will weigh their own minor sense of offended entitlement against *that* kind of suffering and still choose to be selfish.

      So that’s why I think this is an issue of education and communication, but it’s not a simple one. That brings me back to what I said earlier: that fear is not a good tool for teaching reason. Fear can get quick and visible results, but in the end, it encourages people to let their own emotions drive their behavior, rather than to think about how others feel.

      For the record, there have been times in my life when I’ve been extremely disillusioned and disappointed by selfish human behavior. I’ve gone through long periods where I felt that controlling people rather than educating them was a viable option. It’s taken me a lot of thought and observation to get to my current opinion. I say this lest anyone believe I was born a kind-hearted optimist who’s never questioned her own opinion. 😉

      And BTW, there are some studies on honesty and dishonesty summarized in the book _Predictably Irrational_ that might be thought-provoking in relation to this issue.

      1. Crystal Avatar

        Oh, and … I don’t really feel strongly either way on DRM vs. no DRM. Honestly, I think whether to use it and how to use it is an individual choice, and the choice should be made based on the specific circumstances. From the comments here, it looks like there are many honest people both for and against DRM in various contexts.

        As a consumer, I’ve never avoided buying anything because of its DRM or non-DRM status. I regularly buy digital products and indie e-books, although I still prefer to buy most mainstream-published books in print form for various reasons. However, I do sometimes avoid buying digital products as gifts because of DRM, because not everyone I know has or wants to get a specific device or download a specific app just to access their gift. 😉

    3. Kit Russell Avatar
      Kit Russell

      Sure, there’s an app that will let me read Kindle books on my PC, but I almost never use it. My Kobo is much more comfortable to read, and much more portable.

  38. MBFA Avatar

    Perhaps it is entitlement, and I don’t necessarily agree with pirating myself, even though I use it to download content, because I can and I really enjoy the music, movies and books that I download, even if I don’t pay for them up front (If I like them enough, I usually end up supporting them in other ways, such as buying merchandise or making donations after the fact).

    But since this a free world, as you stated, it’s why I’ve decided to post all my creative works (2 novels and a webcomic series, all in progress) online for free as a beloved hobby, rather than an income source.

    It’s irresponsible and unrealistic to think anyone can make a reliable income from creative works, unless they specifically cater to a certain person or organization, or they’ve become a run-away success after years of plugging away at it while earning zilch or working another type of job.

    It sucks, but it’s the truth, and I think most creators who whine about how they should have their rights respected need to wake up and realize it’s not going to happen and figure out alternative means of generating income using their creative works. If one sticks to the old notion of Content=$$$$, it’s going to backfire in the long run, because that’s not how most people think of it any more. It’s an old-fashioned notion.

    It’s not right, by the old sense, but it’s the new reality and I’ve accepted that’s how the world works now, so I share it all for free, because I love creating it, rather than because I need it for an income, and I don’t want to be beholden to a company or editor. If I was doing it for money, I wouldn’t be able to do it exactly the way I wanted it from square one.

    1. Holly Avatar



      You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

      1. Maggy Avatar

        Really? I need the income.

      2. Jack of Hearts Avatar
        Jack of Hearts

        Well said, Holly. Beware of people who ask you to sacrifice, they are speaking of masters and slaves, and intend to be the masters.

      3. althea Avatar

        And the above post is the perfect example of the sense of entitlement that is so prevalent now. “I’m going to take what I want, when I want it and if I feel like donating (are you seriously kidding me? Donating to WHAT?) later on, then I might do that, but in the meantime, why should I let you own any part of what you’ve worked so hard to produce?”

        And people wonder why the socialist protestors on wall street have such a good following. But, let them want to get paid for something and you’ll see a huge outcry! This commenter says he/she posts things for free as a hobby? Must not depend on it for an income because heaven help us all if he/she did and found something of his/hers pirated.

        DRM doesn’t stop the pirates. That’s a given. Education sometimes does, but even that doesn’t always help. Putting your disclaimer in the front of each eBook is a great idea, but you’re invariably going to have those who read it and think, “Well, I don’t have to worry about it. I’m one person. They’re not going to come after me. I don’t do this enough to make a big impression.”

        Entitlement. That’s the thing that has to be changed first and if anyone has an idea on how, sign me up to help, because I sure don’t.

        1. JSmith Avatar

          This guy is either really young with no sense of the world or delusional. People are paid for their creativity all the time and it’s not just the Blockbusters.

          I have to say, I don’t know that a long disclaimer is going to change anything. I read a lot of eBooks and I know to skip until I see either Chapter 1, Prologue, Introduction, etc. because the first bits are all legal jargon. How many people REALLY read that stuff. It’s nice if you want piece of mind as an author or to feel like you’ve “done something” to stop the piracy of your work. But a strongly worded message isn’t really that much of a deterrent. People who are going to steal are going to steal regardless of any protections you put on the work. I work in an office where we have to act as copyright police for video content.

          Where I work (a university), we have instructors that want to post videos and other copyrighted content they get from textbooks in our online course delivery system. We have to tell them we can’t post that content because 1) it would require us breaking the copyright by changing it from an analogue format to a digital format and 2) they don’t have permission from the publisher to post this content online for mass consumption. And they get mad at us. But what can we do? We’re not going to break the law because they feel entitled because they “bought the book”. It seems like a similar situation with you. Sure, you could open it up…but, as someone mentioned above, it becomes a feeding frenzy. With no protection, it takes one person to distribute it and that’s it. At least with the DRM, you’re given a little bit better protection….similar to having a DVD and whoever wants to steal it has to “rip” the content to distribute it.

          The way we explain it to faculty is this. Let say you don’t protect it. Then it gets distributed. Well, as the distributor…all I have to say is “I didn’t know” and I can claim no malicious intent because it wasn’t protected. I could claim I got it from somewhere for free and thus thought I was free to distribute it. Yeah, the copyright helps poke a whole in that case…unless that hack it and remove that page. At least with the DRM, if it is distributed….you can prove that someone went out of their way to break the encryption and distribute this content.

        2. Robert Avatar

          If this sense of entitlement is so prevalent, why did I have to scroll so far to find an example of it?

          I think there are far more honest people who will pay for books than there are thieves who might have bought a copy.

          1. Holly Avatar

            I agree. I believe most people are mostly honest, and those who copy and distribute ebooks to share with friends don’t realize they’re doing something illegal.

            And there are NO thieves who will buy a copy. They’re a total loss, so write them out of the equation immediately. Some folks are simply scum.

        3. Crystal Avatar

          Well, I have some ideas on how to at least reduce the amount of entitlement people carry around, but they require patience and acceptance, and they’re not very flashy, so I doubt they’ll catch on. 😉

      4. Laraine Avatar

        When I saw you’d written the f word, Holly, I did a real back-take. Whatever, I wondered, happened to your instruction that we should “be nice”? But, having read what you replied to with that word, I can appreciate your volcanic feelings. My head also exploded. The fact of the matter is that if people are going to insist “content” should be free–that it’s all right to download a book or a movie or a piece of music without paying for it–in other words, that writers, actors, musicians, singers, composers, movie makers, publishers, etc, should all be expected work for nothing, which is what free content amounts to–then what is going to happen? People will stop writing, recording music, making movies, etc. Musicians will be heard “live” only, by people who have PAID to enter the concert hall. That’s not nice for people like myself. I haven’t been able to afford a concert for decades. Soon there will be nothing for us to watch on our TVs, cinemas will have to close down. Need I go on? Why is it SO DIFFICULT to get people to realise that downloading movies, music, books, etc, without paying is virtually dipping your hand into other people’s pay-packets.

      5. MBFA Avatar

        Ah, no, I’m not.

        Business models for creative work are changing. They always have. If you don’t want to change with it, fine. But if you’re going to post stuff like the above, where you’re all Boohoo cry cry about people viewing content differently from you, then you’re going to hear things that make you pull your hair out. Life’s tough. Deal.

        I work hard on my own creative stuff, and I know it’s good, but still has a long way to grow and develop. When I get really good, I still won’t ask for money. If people want to donate or buy adspace from me, then that would be fantastic. But I’m not going to charge for the content itself. Most good comics don’t.

        1. MBFA Avatar

          Neil Gaiman says it perfectly.

          Some examples of creators who keep their content free, but still make a living through other means:

          None of the artists on that list charge for direct content.

          1. Holly Avatar

            Sorry, but no. I’m not working forty to seventy hours a week (as I do now) to be told that I should not expect to be paid for my work. Creation is work, intellectual property ownership is the right of the person who created it, and I do expect to be paid for my content.

        2. Holly Avatar

          I choose not to be a beggar holding out my hand for alms. If that’s the future you want, have fun with it.

          I believe that people who create something I love deserve to be paid, and so I pay them willingly. I expect those who love what I create to value it enough to pay for it. We are in this way traders, each of us offering something we offer in fair exchange for something others offer.

        3. Mark Avatar

          MBFA you have a day job do you? What if your boss decided you do the job because you love it and he/she doesn’t need to pay you anymore?

          We live in a world driven by money. Creativity is no exception, just underated. Which is ironic considering the amount of time AND money given over to personal entertainment.

          Yes, the exceptional few can make some cash by other means. But take a look on these comic webistes you enjoy. How many of the artists and writers make their living from these comics? Sure, they do it because they love it. But i bet if you offered to pay them for the work they wouldn’t turn you away.

          I think you’ve watched too many Star Trek TNG episodes. You ever seen Picard cleaning his toilet? No, i bet someone gets paid to do it. It’s not a job you do because you love it.

    2. Christopher Walker Avatar

      Now there’s someone who needs to read Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. *grin*

    3. Tracy Avatar

      I agree with Holly. Everyone everywhere expects a day’s wages for a day’s work; Why should creative people be exempted from earning their living doing what they love? You have the right to give away what you create, that’s your choice, but others are equally entitled to earn a living from what they create. There is no new reality, that’s just an excuse for poor behavior.

    4. Chris Avatar

      uh… wow. No. Artists are entitled to copyright and monetary compensation for their works. And just because youthful society thinks it’s “the norm” to take and not pay does NOT make it right or legal. It is not old-fashioned, it’s dishonest. You can feel pride in your attitude all you want, but… no.

      If you don’t create for a living, you may not be beholden to a publisher as company, but you’re beholden to something or someone for your income. Any illustrator, graphic designer, fine artist, musician, writer, or street-painter WORKS for their living and deserves to be compensated for that work. If you do it for fun and do not charge for it, that’s great for you and whatever fans you may have, but obviously you have some other full-time job or a fabulous trust-fund. And by not charging for your work, your setting the value of your work as zero.

    5. Amanda Avatar

      This is the problem. YOU are the problem. Creative works go on the internet in a digital format and somehow that leads you to think creative works are free and artists should just put up with their work being stolen?

      While piracy is destroying the “gatekeepers” (look at the recording industry and the current discussion on how authors can make a living off their books without big publishers) and giving a greater reach for artists who self-publish, this idea that artists/writers don’t deserve to make a living off of their work because “it’s just the way it is now” is a bullshit, immature, narrow-minded, deluded, arrogant, self-entitled perspective. If you make art, draw comics, or whatever as a hobby and want to give away your work, that’s great. But your wanting to do that does not automatically mean that ALL creative work should be given away at the cost of the creator.

      If you valued creative work at all you would respect other peoples’ work and not steal it. But since you only see creative work as a “hobby” you’ve somehow deluded yourself into thinking that stealing is okay. Theft is theft. You’re a thief. That’s really not something to be proud of.

    6. Ray Johnson Avatar
      Ray Johnson

      My first reaction to your comment was to want to go smash my head into a wall. My second was to realise that you don’t seem to have understood a number of very important points. I hope I’m not wasting my time here, but I’ll try to explain them.

      If you create works in order to make money, you don’t have to give in to anyone else’s demands any more. There is no need to let a publisher dictate that you must add or remove sex scenes or violent scenes because those sell or offend audiences. You can create what you want and publish it yourself.

      And, by refusing to profit, you’re cheating yourself and everyone else. The only way you can learn to be better than you are is by doing. If you don’t get paid, you have to do something else to make money. That leaves you less time to create, which means you don’t learn to be as good as quickly as you could if you got paid. So you’re not “giving back” anything of much value, because you don’t have the experience to enable you to do that.

      Why do you think Holly is as good as she is? Yes, she has talent. I’m certainly not trying to say she doesn’t. But she’s been paid to write, for years. That let her practice, over and over, how to write a good book. Do you really think she’d have been able to write some of the books she has if she’d never had time to do more than write one or two?

      Oh, and by the way, if you give your work away, other people will often make money on it, anyway. I assume you aren’t familiar with the term “content farm” – which is only one of the most common ways used to exploit creators who think they’re being noble by giving their stuff away. I am not saying no one should ever give anything away – that’s a decision for the individual to make. But know why you are, think it through, and have a good reason, don’t just buy into the “information should be free” lunacy. Have you ever heard the saying “You get what you pay for?” In almost every case, that is how things work. And information is too important to cheapen that way. Reading is too important to cheapen that way.

      1. JC Avatar

        Thank you for replying with thought and reason, and explaining your P.O.V. I wish Holly had done the same.

        1. Holly Avatar

          Holly ran out of time, and could not deal with all the comments before being clobbered by the migraine.

          Please talk to me, not around me.

    7. Liana Mir Avatar

      I cannot believe you actually said that.

      And all those working writers who are earning a living from their fiction or nonfiction would be laughing.

    8. Texanne Avatar

      No. Too easy.

    9. Cindy C Bennett Avatar

      Wow. Really? You must not think you’re very good if you feel you can’t make a living from the works you create. I don’t have a problem making a living from mine. I was able to make a living off ONE book. Oh, and I only published it a year-and-a-half ago.

      If you create your works for the love of it, more power to you. I prefer to work to get creations out there–and I do, 10-12 hours a day. Why? Because I love it. I love writing, I love interacting with readers and potential readers. And guess what? I do it EXACTLY how I want–from square one. This is my JOB. I’m just lucky enough to love what I do.

      So what I understand from you is that if you’ve spent hundreds of hours WORKING at something, you may as well give it away free because our world is full of immoral, dishonest, low-life’s who won’t pay for the things they want, so why bother asking them to pay a fair and honest amount of money for your work? Is your employer aware of your willingness to work for free?

      1. Holly Avatar

        WAY TO GO, CINDY! That’s awesome. Congratulations.

    10. Stephanie Avatar

      What? Seriously, you have got to be kidding me.

      My time is valuable. When I work, I get paid for the time I spend working, and the quality of the work I produce. My work is my “content”. (No I am not currently publishing. I fix airplanes for a living. If I fix said plane incorrectly, I don’t get paid anymore….cause I won’t have a job).

      An author has the right to be paid for their work. Period. End of story. I cannot create the same content Holly creates, or you create. It takes that author time to create that content, make sure it up to their standards, and publish it on amazon(or have it published by a publishing house). If content did not=$$$, we would see way less advertising campaings/slogans etc. for specific content (Pepsi vs Coke, American Eagle vs Levis…each individual content/product in their own way.) And if your JOB is to produce content (as Holly’s is, and JK Rowling, and Danielle Steele, and Robert Jordan, and Stephen King, and ANY other author who puts their books out for sale) they DESERVE to be paid for their work.

  39. Carradee Avatar

    On my own books, I have a little notice on the page with “All things fictitious” disclaimer and other fine print:

    “This work is licensed in electronic format for your personal enjoyment only. That means no, you may not share this e-book by e-mail or on file-sharing sites, nor may you resell this story without authorization. Buy your friends their own copies, please. If the copy you’re reading wasn’t bought for your use specifically, please respect the author and delete or pay for the e-book. Thanks!”

    Seems to be working so far. 🙂

    1. Raven Avatar

      I like that. Can I use it?

        1. Raven Avatar

          Thank you!

  40. Lisa Avatar

    I work in the software field and I’m also extremely depressed about the attitudes toward piracy. I know a lot of it goes on and our company takes that as a fact of life we have to deal with. The part that makes my blood boil is indeed the entitlement mentality. What right does anyone have to take for free the labor of anyone? (And in our case it’s not just stealing electrons, there are substantial ongoing infrastructure costs for us to support our products.) So while I personally hate DRM, I completely understand the need to use it. Content providers should just try to make it as easy as they can for the legit users and call it a day.

    1. Keith Glass Avatar
      Keith Glass

      Funny, I ask the same question every April 15th. . .

      Mind you, there are publishing houses that REFUSE to use DRM and do not assume their customers are thieves, and they’re doing quite well, thank you. Yes, I’m talking about Baen. But they’re not the only example: Jonathan Coulton has become a millionaire with the same treatment of his music.

      Now, if DRM locked an item to your person, I’d have no problem with it. But it’s not, and not likely to happen, so in the meantime, I don’t support DRM any more than absolutely necessary. . .

      1. Holly Avatar

        On April 15th… yeah. Same here.

    2. Lisa Avatar

      Sigh, I was kinda pissed about “entitlement” to pirate when I wrote the above. As a consumer I’m not fond of DRM, I think of it as a… well, not exactly a necessary evil, but something that can be practical to keep many people honest. When companies overreach with DRM and treat every consumer as if they are a pirate, try to lock down devices to an extreme, etc. – that’s counterproductive and turns off people who would otherwise be willing to pay (Sony DRM rootkit). I alternately scoff and snarl when rights enforcement and suing consumers becomes the substitute for facing the realities of changing business models – but that’s certainly not Holly’s issue.

  41. Brenton Avatar

    Just wanted to mention one alternative, which is being used by Pragmatic Programmers (a publisher of educational books for software development), and which maybe gets the best of both worlds.

    When you buy a book from this publisher, it generates a custom PDF (or ePub etc.) of the book *with your name inscribed in the footer of each page*. e.g. “Prepared exclusively for Jane Doe”. Normally, it takes a few extra minutes to prepare the PDF, and then you are emailed with a link to download.

    There is no other DRM in the file. You can copy it to all your devices. You can even send it to friends. But it carries your name on it wherever it goes — a subtle dissuasion against making it too public.

    The technology is obviously more complex, but I think it holds a nice balance in the otherwise quite polarized debate between DRM and DRM-free.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’ll already be doing this for the PDF versions I’ll be offering through my own shop.

      1. Lisa Avatar

        I’ve bought software that embedded the credit card number in the user key that enables the software. Not saying you should do that, but I’m certainly not sharing that key.

        1. Kari Avatar

          Lisa, I think that’s a great idea — however, how does it work if you’re buying an ebook for someone else?

        2. Richard Howes Avatar

          I love that idea. Put the buyer’s personal credit card info into the text – drawbacks: You can probably be held liable if the CC number gets stolen and people like me would never buy your book if I knew my credit card number was treated so carelessly. And three… your credit card servicing company would probably prohibit you from “mishandling” the information…

          1. Lisa Avatar

            I think there are too many practical and security issues for Holly to actually consider this. Was just throwing it out as a point of interest. As a content provider I would look at this one way, as a consumer I have a completely different opinion – that companies had damn well better be careful with my information. And not make my life more complicated if I am willing to pay to consume their goods.

            1. Holly Avatar

              I don’t want to TOUCH people’s credit cards. This is one reason I don’t have a genuine credit card processor, where credit card numbers would pass through my hands.

              No. Bad. Very bad. And not even to stop thieves would I consider buying something from someone who took that number and branded it into a book.

              People could have their lives destroyed that way. Say their idiot teenager uses dad’s credit card, keeps a copy of the book, but sends the book to his friend.

              His friend posts it to the internet, and credit card thieves hit the card.

              Yes, the card company will stop payment and cancel the card, and Dad won’t owe what was stolen… but what about late payments tied to that card? What about his credit rating?

              I’m willing to do a “This copy belongs to Bob Smith, 123 Fourth Avenue, Town City, Iowa Phone number: 12345678” brand.

              But not credit card numbers.

              1. Margaret Avatar

                Actually, the best branding of this type is the customer name and the order number :). That way you can track them down through their PayPal account when appropriate, which has consequences.

        3. Liana Mir Avatar

          Be cautious of this if it automatically regenerates the key at any time. B&N’s credit card key disables access to purchased books if the credit card expires.

      2. Zoe Cannon Avatar

        I think that’s a great idea. That kind of DRM is the best kind, and a kind I can actually support – discouraging wide dissemination of the file while doing nothing to keep readers who have paid for the book from reading it.

  42. Maisha Avatar

    I have mixed feelings about DRM, but at the end of the day, it’s your work. You absolutely have every right to protect it. Just because one or a few authors choose to distribute their works for free, doesn’t mean you have to. and people who say they won’t buy your books with DRM were probably making excuses because they weren’t going to buy them anyway.

  43. Megan Avatar

    Here are my main problems with ebooks (including DRM):
    1. Ebooks are notoriously badly formatted, with multiple typos and/or misspellings, missing words, etc. If I am going to pay the same (or a comparable) price for an ebook that I would for a physical book, I expect similar quality. If I am going to get crappy quality, I expect to pay less. (I do however, expect to pay!)

    2. While the convenience of being able to read my ebook on my portable device is considerable, the truth is my portable device is limited. If the battery dies, I can’t read my ebook, whereas as long as I don’t drop my physical copy into the ocean or a vat of acid, I can read it any time. 🙂

    3. I don’t like the idea of having my ebooks, something I paid for, in “the cloud” and not on my own computer. If I pay for something, I expect to have some kind of artifact that I can point to for my purchase. I don’t care if it’s digital, I want to be able to point to it on my computer and say “I paid for that, it’s MINE”. Unfortunately, there have been cases of readers who paid for a copy of an ebook and it was deleted from their account/device accidently. And what if something happens to the company’s cloud? What if their server farm gets hit by lightning or a huge natural disaster? Hopefully they have multiple redundancy, but I know enough about technology to know its limitations, and not being able to actually have a copy of my own in my possession seems wrong to me.

    That said, I agree with your outrage over people’s lack of respect for IP. The problem with DRM is that it often causes more problems than it solves. If you can come up with a DRM technique or tool that does what it is supposed to do, without any negative impact to the user, then more power to you.

  44. Ruthanne Reid Avatar

    *hugs* So sorry this was so rough. In the end, there will always be evil people, but if we focus on then too much, we end up missing the good.

    Your work has done so much more good than you know. I have a book coming out in less than a month because of your influence, so thank you.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Congrats. Be sure to list it in I’M PUBLISHED. I need to do another promo for my writers there, too.

      Good luck with it, too. I’m cheering for you.

      1. Ruthanne Reid Avatar

        Have done so! Thanks again for your decision on this.

  45. Leota M. Abel Avatar

    I have to admit, if I saw a really long thing like that, as a paying customer, I’d be kind of offended. Especially with a ‘please save the receipt’, it would turn me off.

    A possible alternative would be a more personal reminder, about YOU and that this is how you make your living. I’m less likely to share with a friend if I feel a connection to you, personally, than if I see legal mumbojumbo that I’m just gonna skim anyways.

    I think I might be a happy shiny optimist, though. I honestly believe that the majority of people, given easy ways to purchase, will not resort to stealing.

    1. Lisa Avatar

      I agree about long legalese being off-putting. Plus I think folks would be likely to ignore it, we’ve all seen similar stuff a million times. I would go with a short, to the point statement about the legalities, then a short personal plea for honesty and putting food in your mouth.

      1. MaryN Avatar

        I agree with both of the above. A long statement is off-putting and the only ones who are likely to read it are the honest paying customers. J.R.R. Tolkien used to have a statement on every copy of his books sold by Ballantine (his authorized paperback publisher, at least in the US) to the effect that “readers who respect the rights of living authors (at least) will purchase my books published by Ballantine and no one else.” I’m sure I didn’t quote him exactly, but you get the idea–short and sweet.

        1. Holly Avatar

          This is actually pretty good. I was thinking of the patient teaching model, (I am an ex-RN and that model gets into your head—if you don’t tell people about the dangers they face by their own actions, you are remiss in having done your job, so I crafted a notice that informed people about the dangers of their actions regarding copying and distributing unauthorized copies of ebooks. Not just mine. ALL ebooks.)

          But this particular statement is rather nicely done.

    2. Tamar Avatar

      I agree with the idea that a more personal note would be more likely to be read at all–and I think it would be more effective in preventing theft, as well.

      Very few people get punished for piracy, and pirates know that. They’re going to be no more afraid of prosecution than they are of being struck by lightning. But I think the reason a lot of casual pirates end up stealing at all is that it’s easy, especially for younger people, to lose track of the fact that they’re directly hurting someone when they’re not looking them in the eye. Human nature and human psychology are such that stealing $3,000 worth of media online doesn’t feel the same as, say, a home burglary where you steal even $100 in valuables–it’s demonstrably damaging and that’s obvious if you take time to think, but it *feels* like some harmless little naughty vice, not the crime that it is. The victim doesn’t seem personal or real, so the guilt doesn’t register. A shorter note explaining your views on the value of all creative work and reminding readers that yes, real people are taking real losses when piracy occurs would at least discourage those who aren’t flat-out sociopaths, convinced they’re “fighting the man” by selfishly taking whatever catches their eye.

      This is also why I don’t think DRM works: it’s not an issue of security, it’s an issue about people and their attitudes. To the hardcore pirates who have convinced themselves they’re either blameless or even somehow heroic for it, it’s just another challenge from those evil, nasty capitalists who *gasp* want money. More casual pirates would probably just look up how to get around it, thanks to the first group–but they, at least, can sometimes be convinced to stop by having the facts on just how damaging their actions are, and to who, brought to their attention. (Speaking of my own selfish and thoughtless teenage years, here.)

      1. Crystal Avatar

        Yeah, this is pretty much what I meant, too, although I think I said it in a longer-winded way. 😉

    3. David Masters Avatar
      David Masters

      I agree with Leota’s point.

  46. Al Lustie Avatar

    I fully agree with you, Holly, that people should pay for what they receive. Always. Forever. Unless they receive a gift from someone who paid for the gift.

    That said, I look forward to the day when DRM works better. Amazon lets me share an electronic book with my wife. I would do the same with a hardcopy I purchased (we’ve done it for years). If I have a piece of sheet music, I don’t copy it. But I can loan it to my granddaughter to learn. If she is using it, I can buy another if it is still in print.

    What I am looking for is a way to share what I have purchased with someone else, usually a family member, without running afoul of the law. Apple will let me share an ebook . . . well, if my wife’s iPad uses the same account I use. Otherwise, it’s a NoNo. Thus I buy from Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and seldom from Apple.

    1. Holly Avatar

      For folks who purchase through my site, I include a Family License.

      I have no control over what Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Apple do in this regard, but I consider sharing of work with the folks you live with (who are related to you or are significant others) as genuine and acceptable sharing.

      1. Robin Avatar

        Shouldn’t the same go for friends, though? And I mean actual, direct friends. Not somebody you added on facebook to pad the numbers.

        1. Holly Avatar

          I don’t think so. Family is the people you live with. Friends are wonderful, and a joy to have…but if they’re friends, you buy them a copy of the book you love.

          That’s what I do. That way my friends get the cool book, and I don’t take bread from the creator’s table.

  47. Hilton Jones Avatar

    I’m a composer. Because I believe in karma, I don’t make mp3s of other people’s DVD recordings other than mp3s for myself, which is allowed according to the fair use doctrine. I definitely do not pass those on to anyone else. As you say, that would be stealing.

    I’m not a fan of DRM free. My own stuff (both sheet music and recordings) is DRM free, but in my field (contemporary classical) there is so little demand, I’m happy to give it away.

    So…I hope you stick with DRM. It’s only fair.

  48. anon Avatar

    Whoa. I can understand the shock at seeing some of the opinions in that discussion, but the downsides of DRM aren’t just practical ones.

    The main problem I have is that DRM *assumes* you’re a pirate. That it’s okay to limit use if it can stop the most innocent of pirates (because any pirate worth its ‘salt’ either gets through DRM like butter, or knows where to get a DRM free copy).

    It’s the wrong solution. Fair pricing, respectful treatment towards the customer, and an understanding that the price for an ebook cannot be close to a paperback’s.

    But this disclaimer you’re talking about. That’s just fearmongering. IF YOU DIDN’T BUY THIS, HERE’S ALL THE HORRIBLE PUNISHMENTS WE GOT.

    Talk about zero respect. Talk about not even wanting to critically look at the state of DRM, but rather default to WE WILL GET YOU.

    Felony charges for an illegally downloaded ebook. Complete NONSENSE.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Okay, then. Stealing copyrighted material is a criminal action. What would an appropriate response be? I’m open to any suggestion that makes sense and will help people understand that making copies for their friends is both illegal and morally wrong, and that convinces them not to do it.

      1. Shelbi Avatar

        I think Leota may have hit on something. A personal reminder that will help the reader connect with you on an emotional level. Most people are decent human beings, but it’s far too easy to forget that even on the Internet, there is a living, breathing person sitting in front of their computer, reading whatever you have to say. Words are powerful. If you can get someone to feel that you are a real person, with real feelings and bills that only get paid if your work sells in legitimate venues, they are far more likely to act with integrity.

        I’ve bought just about every non-fiction book and class you’ve published because I value your amazing teaching ability. I’ve bought most of your novels because I know this is how you make your living and I want to support you in any way I can. Even though I don’t know you in real life, you still matter to me as a person, and that’s because I know enough about you personally that you’re a real human being to me. I would never steal from someone in real life, so I won’t steal from you.

        Anyway, I’m not sure how that translates into a disclaimer, but I really think if you can cause a positive emotional response in people, they might be less likely to take advantage. [here’s MY disclaimer: I may have chronic Pollyanna disorder and be completely wrong, off-base, and out to lunch. 🙂 ]

      2. John Dye Avatar

        In terms of dissuasion, I really like the custom-made PDF name-engraving method mentioned elsewhere.

        As far as convincing people not to illegally distribute, it’s been demonstrated that simple personal appeals are pretty effective at not only reducing piracy, but also increasing your popularity in the online community.

        Check out Louis CK’s experiment here:

        and here’s a prominent video game developer whose product Minecraft has been pirated a gazillion times:

        Anon is being needlessly aggressive, in my opinion, but he’s voicing an opinion that is widely held in cyberspace. Not a love of piracy, per se, but a frustration with “fear mongering” and threats. When people feel like they’re being treated as a reliable friend and not as a untrustworthy inferior, the ‘morally flexible’ folks among them are more likely to fork over the green rather than hit up

        It’s frustrating when people are evil, and it might feel like you’re implicitly condoning piracy unless you draw a hard line, but the stark, practical approach seems to indicate that walking softly WITHOUT a big stick has been effective in this matter. Maybe not all cases, but at least some.

        1. Holly Avatar

          I’ve replied to this ad nauseum elswhere, but:

          It isn’t a WARNING.

          It is the inclusion of information, similar to the patient teaching I did for years as an RN, letting people who have copies of the book realize that there is no legal way to give a copy to a friend short of buying one for him.

          This NOTICE, not WARNING, isn’t for the goddamned thieves. It is for the genuinely innocent, who think that by duplicating a copy of their book and giving it to a friend, they are performing some service to the author, like helping him advertise his book, and who do not realize in doing this they have both committed a crime and implicated their friend in the crime.

          I truly believe that most people who make copies of their ebooks and spread them around have no clue that they’re distributing stolen merchandise when they do this. (And if you’re thinking, “If someone paid for the book, so it isn’t stolen,” consider this: How many copies did he pay for? If he pays for one, but keeps one and gives one to a friend, the second one is stolen.

          I’m not used to being gentle in situations like this. If you tell a patient, “Please don’t talk alcohol with your medicine,” he will not hear you, and you will see him next when you’re pumping out his stomach in the ER, or when they wheel his corpse past you to the morgue.

          If you tell a patient, “If you take this medication with alcohol, even ONE GLASS can put you into a coma, cause you to stop breathing, and kill you,” sometimes he’ll hear you.

          I was very, very good at patient teaching. My skills, however, may be a bit too direct for the not-life-or-death atmosphere of publishing.

          1. Holly Avatar

            And as an added note, I have pumped way to many Dilantin-and-booze cocktails out of way too many folks’ stomachs to think ANYTHING can make everyone listen.

            If I can get SOME folks to listen, I’ll be content.

            1. John Dye Avatar

              Fair enough. And I definitely agree that there’s now way to make EVERYONE listen.

          2. Crystal Avatar

            I think you may be right about the appropriateness of your established skills, Holly. 😉 I’m sure you are very good at dealing with the situations you’re talking about, and I have faith in you that you can learn to deal effectively with this one. But you’re right on track, IMHO, when you say this isn’t really the same.

            Because this isn’t a case of direct, face-to-face intervention with people whose own lives could be directly, clearly impacted by getting educated about the issue (or by continuing to act ignorantly). It’s much more like, oh … trying to teach a whole population that, despite many people’s strong feelings to the contrary, having a widespread policy of not counting some people’s opinions based solely on which set of chromosomes they have is not *actually* in line with the morals that the general population claims to follow.

            Meaning that change can be made, but it’s not easy or simple. 😉

      3. Liana Mir Avatar

        Maybe go DRM and add a notice that if they want a copy for another device, they can provide their purchase receipt and receive one?

        Don’t know, but that part of the issue is thorny. I skip the copyright page myself, just because I’m a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t steal and who has read it all before. You could also make the copyright page interesting to read and make a personal connection. Though making boring stuff interesting is not my forté, so no suggestions on how to manage that.

        1. Zelda Avatar

          I agree, I also don’t know how you would word it, but I would rather read a personal appeal not to share than a threat. I totally get why you may want to tell them what the legal implications are, since those who steal with the intention to share (i.e create a torrent file or other illegal download)simply don’t care about your personal plea, but then again DVDs, music, books all come with a copyright warning, warnings about what would happen if you copy or record the movie etc, and they STILL DON’T CARE. What you’re looking for, is a way to stop the more innocent kind of sharing, the type where a writer friend would love to see the new course you’re doing and you ‘loan’ it to them like you would one of your other books.

          I would make it clear that this is your hard work, that if your friend (not family member) would like to do the course, they should pay for it, and explain why. I really don’t think any appeal would prevent the pirates from making a copy, not even if you threaten to come to their homes and personally see to it that they get arrested. BUT I also don’t think that most people who end up downloading the pirated stuff really use it or would have bought it anyway.

          Another thing, I buy just about all of my books as Kindle books, and if I want to read them on my iPad, I read them through the app that Amazon made for the iPad. I’m pretty sure there should be apps for other devices too. Heck, you can read it on your PC through the Amazon website! How many more devices do people need? I also think going the Kindle way would naturally reduce the tendency to pirate (they’re a lazy bunch and prefer good old PDF format :))

        2. Cindy C Bennett Avatar

          I have never downloaded anything illegally, so this might seem a silly question but when someone takes your digital book and uploads it to a torrent site, wouldn’t they then be able to manipulate the words, and therefore remove any warnings pasted at the beginning anyway?

          1. Robin Avatar

            Given the right circumstances, most likely yes. But it’d be unlikely. Usually the goal would be just to remove any copyright protection and then throw it online. Removing a warning that they don’t care for anyway seems like too much effort for no gain.

            Removing the warning doesn’t change the law, and neither does it change that paying for goods is the ethical choice.

          2. R.C. Mann Avatar
            R.C. Mann

            Yes. They can. Easily.

      4. Robin Avatar

        Posting as anonymous was cowardly, but I got cold feet just before posting. I was completely ready to be blasted out of the water by not just you but, well, a lot of people. I am extremely glad to get this kind of response! 🙂

        Legal consequences won’t really help much. The generations who pay attention to that aren’t the ones pirating.

        The moral side of the story does, however. Liana Mir makes a massively important point: Make a personal connection. This is what Harvey Danger did with their ‘Little by Little’ album (free for download, buy if you want the album). They approached it as ‘This is for you, and we want to share it with you, but this stuff isn’t free so if you can spare something, please donate. If you donate more than X, you get some goodies’.

        I’m not saying that’s what you should go for (after all, that’s more like a Kickstarter setup) but I went back after downloading that album and donated 20 bucks. Because they seemed so friendly, earnest and I felt they deserved it because I liked the album well enough.

        But most of all I liked their attitude.

        Give it a good price and explain, in some way, how important it is to support the arts, the artists, you. How important it is that if they like what you do, that you would be helped immensely with every bit of support. Put focus on the human side of the argument, not the criminal one.

        Your books, DRM or not, will be pirated. Removing DRM from an ebook is super easy. And once that’s done, it’s gone DRM free. So it’s an arbitrary turnstyle that will get hopped.

        What you need to cultivate is a sense that it’s just not cool, and that if it’s stolen, they’re doing something that they wouldn’t want to have to deal with themselves.

        Another thing that is immensely important. Many artists have said that while they’d prefer that their material was pirated a little less and bought a little more, they do realize it does serve a purpose for promotion.

        Books can be lent. By borrowing books, I’ve become a fan of many authors and of the 200+ books I now own (legally, in wood pulp form, since I’m not an ebook fan just yet) I would say at least a quarter were bought due to a friend throwing me a book and saying ‘read this.’

        DRM free, you can share it. Yes, there’s the possibility for no revenue if they just share. But again. Cultivate a personal connection with the reader, make them understand that you need their help to help them (or entertain, if it’s fiction), and you’ll get some of that revenue anyway.

        If all else fails, release something DRM free. Totally, completely DRM free, and see how it does.

        Cory Doctorow gave his writings away for free, under a share alike license (CC BY-ND-NC 1.0) and he’s doing well for himself. Maybe he’s someone to chat with, come to think of it. He also writes for BoingBoing, and is very much a techy kinda guy, who’s spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs epublishing (and DRM vs no DRM, obviously siding with no DRM).

        I by no means meant to simply admonish and then depart, cackling insanely to myself of how I ‘stuck it’ to anyone. This is a rambling attempt at explaining how this issue sits in my head.

        PS, allow people to donate. I can’t afford your longer courses but I’ve enjoyed the free ones. I’d like to give something back. If I’ve simply missed where I could donate, then my apologies 🙂

      5. Daniel Avatar


        While I agree with your sentiment. As an author, I am certain that you are aware of the importance of using the correct word for the circumstances. Perhaps more importantly, it is important to use the correct words. Breach of copyright is a crime, but it’s not stealing. Stealing requires certain elements that are not applicable to intellectual property – in particular, an intent to permanently deprive a person of said the stolen property. The is no such intent, or even an ability, to do such a thing in respect of intellectual property.

        The rights continue to exist as stealing a copy does not deprive you of your rights, it breaches them. Intellectual property breaches have more in common with censorship than property theft from a legal perspective. That’s part of the issue from a social perspective, the emotive overstating of the position of ‘victims’.

        You also, somewhat ironically, give persons who breach copyright an ‘out’ with your disclaimer. You tell them that deleting the file is satisfactory compliance with your rights as the holder of the copyright. Not being an expert in the field, I would suggest that this could raise some interesting considerations for the Court if the person were to deal with such material in accordance with your wishes. (i.e to delete the file after having read the contents).

        I think that the short answer is that people know that copyright infringement is wrong – the point is that they know the chances of getting caught are fairly remote, their chances of being able to pay damages as ordered are even lower – they seek bankruptcy orders, and go about their merry way. (I posted a possible approach elsewhere in this thread).

        1. Holly Avatar

          Honestly, I don’t think most people DO realize that copying their ebook to give to a friend is wrong. Or in any way criminal. I think they simply don’t THINK about it.

          But that’s moot at this point. I’m going DRM-FREE, and will not be including my “patient teaching for ebook readers” notice in my work.

          1. Jason Avatar

            I think you’re right that they realize it’s wrong or illegal in some sense. But I think for most people, it’s in the same way that they realize speeding or jaywalking is wrong, but feel like it’s not hurting anyone. I guess it’s important not just to let people know it’s a crime, but that it’s actually hurting someone.

  49. Kathy Crouch Avatar
    Kathy Crouch

    I have currently only Kindle, Nook and whatever ereader on my laptop. I’m still old fashioned enough I prefer a print book, but if it is only available in ebook I will buy it that way. A friend has been very generous and given me a copy of each of her books. She and I know each other. I would never however share those books with anyone else. I will go to Amazon etc leave a great review because I loved the book. I think her books are really good she’s published through Carina press. If I had the dollars I would buy copies of her books to give to friends but I don’t so I keep the books on my computer and reread them and treasure them.
    Speaking of space since I am now a widow one half of my walk-in pantry is now a library. I figure I will never have that much food to fill it so I used one side to shelve books. 🙂 Holly I can’t say but I think it would be wrong for someone to take your information and share it and not pay for it. Hugs and hope you figure it out.

  50. JAnne Avatar

    Don’t do it Holly – some people want to steal and the DRM gives them the excuse to do it. The fact that people can openly admit that they want to steal from you is just pathetic. I am like you – I buy multiple copies of books, music, whatever – if I think it’s that important to me. How many times have you purchased the same CD over the years? This “free society” stuff is getting out of hand. I mean, it’s one thing to intend to give something away for free (I do this all the time) but it’s quite another to say I trust you, reader, to be honest and pay me, and then have them spit in your face and steal your stuff anyway.

    1. Liana Mir Avatar

      I’ll purchase music I love over and over, though once ripping became possible, I made backup files so the sound wouldn’t run out when the music could no longer be purchased. Most of it is “out of print” now.

      1. Robin Avatar

        I did exactly the same. I made MP3 backups of all of my albums, since I listen music through my computer. Fair use, media transfer, etc. Then, years later, I gave half of my CDs away to a kid I knew who couldn’t afford, well, anything, really. That box of music made her so happy 🙂

        Once, though, an extremely rare CD of mine broke and I didn’t have an MP3 backup. Looked for 2 years, found a single one in Germany for 50 euro. I bought it. Now I’ve got backups on my computer and in the cloud. I’m not losing that again :p

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