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.
  2.  

  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 (http://HowToThinkSideways.com 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:
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html

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:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possession_of_stolen_goods

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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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.


283 comments… add one
  • Ginger May 30, 2012 @ 18:43

    I still subscribe to the belief that I pay for what I respect. If I obtain a product (music, book, game, what-have-you) and I enjoy it, then I give my money to the creator. If I don’t respect it, then I won’t give them the money. I will admit, sometimes my feelings towards the creator will determine if I actually give them money or not, but otherwise I try very hard to give money to those I think deserve it.

    But, I also am strongly against DRM. I find myself very much agreeing with the issues that the system has. Electronics have their problems, just like stores do (though they notably have even more issues in many ways).

    As an aspiring writer, I firmly believe that building a rapport with the audience (as well as being good at writing in the first place) is a major part of surviving in this new world of writing. DRM, to me, just makes me think that the writer doesn’t trust their audience.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 7:43

      My conclusion last night, which I came in here to announce:

      There actually is an easy solution, which I came up with last night while bouncing this back and forth with my husband:
      Logic.

      What matters to me in this equation?

      Simply that my readers not get screwed by a format that will in essence steal books for them that they have paid for and rightfully own? That would be DRM.

      If that’s what matters to me, then where’s the debate? My choice is indeed simple, and now made. I’ll go DRM-FREE, and trust my readers to watch my back when I can’t.

      • T.C. Rogers Jun 4, 2012 @ 4:27

        Holly, you are a brave and foolish author. I have been robbed by unscrupulous editors, have been held up at gunpoint twice, mugged by a gang once, assaulted on the street once, and harrassed by police on too many occaions to count. NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED. If you do not protect yourself, well then you will be unprotected.

        • Holly Jun 5, 2012 @ 7:39

          In this instance, however, “protecting” myself won’t protect me.

          When something better than DRM comes along, something that 1) stops thieves and 2) does NOT chance destroying my readers access to products they paid for, I’ll consider this again.

          For now, I’ve made the absolute best decision that can be made, given the circumstances I’m offered.

  • Zoe Cannon May 30, 2012 @ 18:29

    I read the comments on the previous post, and I don’t remember seeing any that talked about the price of an ebook being a justification for piracy. Did you remove them?

    As for this post, I do understand not wanting your books to be stolen. But DRM doesn’t stop that from happening. My understanding has been that DRM doesn’t work as a deterrent. A few more people will copy your books for friends if you don’t use DRM, and a few more people will download from file-sharing sites if you do use DRM; on the whole the outcome shouldn’t be much different either way. (If you have evidence suggesting that DRM does work as a deterrent, I’d like to see it; this is an issue I like to stay informed on.)

    If you’re considering using DRM to protest the fact that some people see DRM as a justification for theft, I understand the impulse, but it doesn’t seem like a good way to make a business decision.

    I’m also not sure how people saying they won’t buy your books/courses if they have DRM on them is economic blackmail. For some people, the drawbacks of DRM outweigh the benefits of being able to read whatever it is they were considering buying. I don’t buy books that are exclusive to Amazon; I like the reader I have (a Nook) and am not interested in switching to a Kindle, I don’t like reading on my phone, and I don’t like reading fiction on my computer. I’m open to reconsidering this in the future, but as of now, I don’t do it. (Just to clarify, I don’t pirate them either. If something is exclusive to Amazon, I just don’t read it.) But I’m not trying to coerce Amazon-exclusive authors into selling to me. Those books just have limitations on them that outweigh my desire to read the book, and some people feel the same about all books that have DRM.

    I agree that if people want to read your work, they should pay for it. I’m just not sure why you came to the conclusions you did from the comments you got.

    • Zoe Cannon May 30, 2012 @ 18:37

      I just realized the first part of my comment might have come across as saying you removed comments because they said things you disagreed with. That’s not at all what I meant, and I should have been clearer. I was just wondering, since I didn’t remember seeing these comments, whether the comments that said those things about price were comments that also broke the blog rules and were removed.

      (I also realized that I mentioned price in my OWN comment on the previous post – but in my case it was because it was mentioned in the original post.)

    • Charles May 30, 2012 @ 21:45

      You have expressed my own sentiments perfectly.

      My own comment is mysteriously still awaiting moderation, even though it was posted before yours.

      • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 7:24

        Nothing mysterious about it. People who have posted here before and have had their posts approved are automatically accepted. I’ve set the blog up that way. People who have not had a post approved here have to wait, and because I knocked off work early yesterday because of migraines, they had to wait a long time. I’m working my way through the list now, and just got to this one, and don’t know if I’ve found your earlier one yet, but as long as you haven’t lodged a personal attack against me or a visitor, I’ll approve it.

  • Charles May 30, 2012 @ 18:20

    When I buy a book — whether in a physical or a digital format — it is mine, period. I won’t make copies of it and distribute it to Family, friends, or strangers. However, if I want to read it on my Nook and you have only made it available for Kindle, I will circumvent that annoyance.

  • bob May 30, 2012 @ 18:01

    Regarding the idea of such a prominent extra “warning” on ebooks: how does that big, prominent FBI warning that comes on when you first start to watch a DVD make you feel? The ominous message that you can’t overlook? It’s not exactly a “relationship builder,” and it’s a really negative lead-in to what is supposed to be entertainment. It does inherently imply general mistrust.

    Furthermore, what percentage of people would it really apply to? Then, among that percentage, for how many would it even result in any impact?

    For everyone else, it’s just rain on the parade.

    • Brittany May 30, 2012 @ 21:48

      Bob, you make a good point. For me, I’m always more prepared to go and give my money to the author who tells me about their life, or how piracy has negatively affected them, than the author who threatens me, directly or indirectly, with jail time or a fine. If they take even a paragraph to remind me that my decision will impact them personally, I’m much more likely to hit my forehead and say, “How much of an a** can I be? They worked hard to make this!” before immediately purchasing the work or giving a donation. Legal threats these days are a dime a dozen, and my eyes just glaze over whenever they come up.

      • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 7:21

        One. More. Time.

        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.

        • David Masters May 31, 2012 @ 9:05

          I think the point is not what it’s called Warning or notice, the whole tone of it is defensive, verging on rude, and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

          It’s not a great way to begin a relationship with a new reader.

          My immediate response when reading it is: “Who are you to tell me what to do with my receipts?” And I don’t like the way you demonise sharing. If I buy a book and I like it, I will my friends about it. And if they want to borrow my copy, I will loan it to them, just like I’d loan them my lawnmower. If that makes them (and me) a criminal and a thief, then we have very different world views.

  • LKT May 30, 2012 @ 17:44

    There is a lot of great discussion on this site. If you want my vote, I say DRM free, but honestly, only because it makes my life easier. I pay for stuff – always have. Because my life is so busy, I don’t have time to hassle with trying search out a “free” copy of anything (plus, i like owning things). That being said, i also love convenience – the convenience to put “my” stuff where i need it (kindle/computer/etc). But, that’s my own selfishness :). In the end, you need to do what works best for you. I’ll probably still buy it anyway.

  • Amy M. Cochran May 30, 2012 @ 17:24

    I don’t know much about DRM, but my husband does. After he explained it to me, I asked him to extend his knowledge to you. Below is what he had to say on the topic of DRM from a computer programmer’s perspective.

    “Getting to the original question, “Should I market DRM free?” The answer is, absolutely. I’m not going to argue that your work should be free in a free society or that you are somehow pandering to the powers that be by buying into DRM. I fully believe that you ( meaning creative people at large ) should be payed for your thoughts, your work, and your time.

    The simple fact of the matter is that DRM is simple to hack, a headache for those who play by the rules, and a target to those who are irrationally offended by it. In a nutshell, once you have a piece of electronic data (video, audio, text, etc.) subject to your personal hardware (the computer on your desktop or lap), it is simple to copy. The data at it’s most basic level does not adhere to the security restrictions laid at higher levels. The ones and zeroes that tell your monitor to show you that page of your e-book know nothing about DRM. Neither does the card in your computer that sends those ones and zeroes. That data can therefore be copied at that level and DRM does not come into the picture. Any half-witted hacker or computer programmer (the source of my knowledge) knows that. Once the half-wit hacks your work for the first time it’s done. From then on, DRM is in no way related or attached to that data. Neither are any of the bells and whistles such as bookmarking, place memory, easy paging, and so on; but the pirate is willing to forgo those amenities to not have the headache that comes with DRM. You are more likely to set yourself up as a target to those who scream “No DRM!” than you are to protect your intellectual property.

    The bottom line is that those who wish to steal from you will. Those who wish to support easy but not free access to media will find it easier to support you should you go DRM free; and make up somewhat for the thieves out there. Being one of those who use a platform which don’t support DRM (linux), I prefer to buy DRM free media. That way I can port it to my various devices without having to wade through license movement and/or flat-out denial of service. There are many others like myself out there who believe the same way. DRM isn’t the devil, it’s simply a devil to deal with.

    Unfortunately, DRM will not protect you from piracy. The best way to protect yourself is to offer your property in such a way that it is dead-easy to pay for, acquire, use, and promote. People want the bells and whistles not available in the pirated copies and they will pay to get them; if you make it easy to do so.”

    I hope this helps you with your decision.

  • Troy May 30, 2012 @ 17:17

    Holly,

    You actually need to focus from a more rational point of view, and update yourself with more information. Actually, piracy probably helps your sales and just like advertising does.

    “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”

    Tim O’Reilly
    http://openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/piracy.htm

    You should be concentrating on building a platform like Scott Sigler does. His readers and listeners want to throw money at him, and do. He actually makes audio versions of his novels away for free, a chapter at a time for his books, for free. The idea is to create loyal customers, and they either buy the ebooks or physical books, or they buy his future stuff.

    http://www.scottsigler.com

    Also, you could learn from Cory Doctorow.
    http://craphound.com/overclocked/download/

    However, Joe Konrath has a lot of insight here:
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.jp/2010/05/piracy-again.html
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100601/0222219636.shtml
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.jp/2010/05/drm-free.html

    You can’t stop piracy, and it’s been proven that it actually helps in far more ways than it hurts. If you’re looking to stop piracy, your not only wasting your time, but you’re fighting a battle you can’t win. Period.

    Get rid of the crazy warning message you’re thinking about. People just will ignore it. It’s a waste of time.

    Just try to produce the best content you can, make the experience the best you can for the reader and make it as easy to buy as possible, in as many formats as possible.

    I also suggest watching/listening to Triangulation with Cory Doctorow and Scott Sigler as guests.

    Triangulation with Cory Doctorow:
    http://twit.tv/show/triangulation/10

    Triangulation with Scott Sigler:
    http://twit.tv/show/triangulation/32

    After reading and watching all the information I’ve posted here, hopefully you will see how silly and useless DRM is and that there is a much bigger and brighter picture, focusing on the benefits of the digital world and how it really works.

  • M. May 30, 2012 @ 17:04

    Have you ever borrowed a book?
    I’ve discovered Kenneth Oppel through borrowing a friend’s copy of Airborn from her computer. She owns several of his books.
    Sure, I’ve stolen a book, then, if that’s what you think. It counts as a lost sale, just like someone giving you the CD of a musician.

    But that’s narrow-minded.
    I’ve since bought Airborn, Skybreaker, Starclimber, Silverwing, Firewing, Sunwing, Darkwing, Half Brother, and This Dark Endevour.

    Who in their right mind would expect people to pay for something they have never heard of or read?
    Did you discover your favorite author by simply picking up their book at random through the entire bookstore, with prompt or suggestion? Very few do, if any.
    As a result of me “stealing” Ken’s book, I’ve become a huge fan, and I’ve bought all of his books.
    I’ve borrowed many books, and I’ve borrowed several books to others. The truth is that nobody can say every author who has a copy of their books on the shelves of a reader, or in their digital library, deserve to be there. Not every author is dear to everyone’s hearts.
    Sharing is the greatest piece of advertising one can have. It weasels your book into places it would have or never should have been.
    People want to buy things that are dear to them, but how will they find out that it is? Hearts are not limitless to fill with favorite authors and musicians and artists.
    If you are losing too much money because of piracy, it means that very few people really, really like your product, and they share it like crazy, but it very seldom catches on.
    I want people to read my stories more than I want to make money from them.
    Fiction writing is not a money making industry. It is a passionate industry, where if you can pay the bills and break even with it, you have talent. Little else matters.
    Nothing else matters.
    We write what we want to read.

  • Daniel May 30, 2012 @ 17:00

    The problem with DRM isn’t about protecting the rights of the author but, rather, that it is used primarily for the purpose of binding consumers to a particular supplier. In particular, binding the user to a specific platform (such as Kindle or Nook), including any and all technological upgrades that go with that.

    To people who plan on breaching copyright, DRM is no real hindrance. It is readily removed.

    To people who want to buy material from various sources and use them on a uniform device – DRM is a significant hinderance.

    The question is, who are your trying to frustrate when applying DRM to your works?

    Including the receipt in text is one option, as is personalising each copy of the text in some other minor way (for example introducing a change to the text in such a way that each copy of the book is identifiable and linked to a purchaser). When a copy is found the source is readily ascertained, and the number of copies found or degrees of separation from the original owner can demonstrate the nature of the infringement. For example, if they have passed on the material to a friend and deleted their own copy, would you consider that to be of the same nature of infringement as a person who had a website hosting the text of the books for all to see and copy freely?

  • Kerry May 30, 2012 @ 16:50

    Okay, now for something completely different and YET–the root of the problem: lack of money.

    Holly mentioned a writer who could have gotten 28k pirate downloads (of her book) @ $0.35 each or so equaling close to $10k. Same writer is in danger of losing their house.

    Here’s the deal: WHY oh WHY are people so financially POOR in today’s times–and how is this relevant to “getting paid” as an author?

    Is there an author on this website? I mean other than Holly?? Has anyone thought about writing WHY the economy of the USA and other countries is terminal and getting worse? Why not??

    Wouldn’t this be an interesting novel and educational to read? If nobody writes about the truth–then all we have to read about is fiction–just entertainment.

    Okay, you’re saying “Well smartypants–let’s have the truth then…you write about it!”

    Me: I plan to.

    However, there ARE people who write non-fiction material about the truth of what is going on that has you scraping to get by and actually giving a dam about DRM or not to DRM one’s books.

    The problem is that most of you are NOT OPEN to the truth. You’d be looking for it if you were. “The truth is out there”…whatever happened to that mantra? Oh yeah, that show was run into the ground and shut down. Now we have mindless TV shows to watch.

    Sorry, but your and my hard economical times are not due to “greed” and the greatly hyped “global economy”. There IS no global economy. What there IS is “yesterday’s” protection of local USA (for example) domestic manufacturing REMOVED so that YOU can BENEFIT.

    Yes, that’s how all of you were duped into being SILENT while rules, regulations (tariffs, etc) were removed in order that OFFSHORE entities (corporations, transnationals, etc) were allowed to DIRECTLY SELL to the USA consumer.

    Yes, over 80% of USA manufacturing is GONE and it ain’t coming back, Jack!

    People are “waiting for the economy to come back”. That’s ignorance of the specific cause of the economy: dead USA manufacturing base. There’s no jobs cause there’s nobody to work for–get it??

    But wait!! This was NOT an accident. This was planned over at least 20 years.

    Oh, I can hear you groan “Conspiracy Theory”! Sorry dude, but it ain’t no theory. And to conspire means TO PLAN. Big deal…you and I can plan LUNCH. Conspiracy is a way of getting things done.

    But in this case, YOU got done right between your feet while you were watching TV or whatever else it was that you felt was more important than dealing with the crooks up top.

    Back to writing: How come Hollywood’s conspiracy stories NEVER EVER go to multiple groups of people? Except for Ian Flemming’s original James Bond (SPECTRE Organization) where he spelled it out for you, the conspiracy today is by a crazy man or a mythical illuminati (disinformation).

    People want to rant about all the petty details instead of ranting about the important ones hidden in plain view.

    And writers–how about writing about this stuff instead of the usual fare (vampires again? More bored of the rings?)?

    The main problem with figuring out who’s been screwing you from the top is that it takes a lot of work to figure that out. It’s like story development theory. It takes effort and work. Anybody can write a story, but only a very good story is (should be) published.

    Stories like I’m talking about that are hidden in plain sight–they tell themselves. You just have to get out of the way of them.

    But your disbelief is what your opposition is counting on! They WANT you to disbelieve (remember the X-Files)!

    You’ve been conditioned from school to only listen to THE MAN, Authority–the OFFICIALS.

    What a lark. They’re laughing their butts off at you guys while you call me a nut and a theorist.

    Please. What’s it gonna take for you guys to grow a backbone and go look behind the curtain with some effort??

    Do the banks need to get bailed out AGAIN (they got bailed out with trillions–yes the Federal Reserve was recently audited for the first time EVER) with YOUR money and keep it for buying more banks? Does GM need to be bailed out again with your money? Have you seen photographs of Detroit lately (looks like a third world country)?

    You take your shoes off when you fly, you are guilty before proving yourself innocent, you can’t afford produce because it costs too much…

    What’s it gonna take? You guys are characters in your own STORY. Except that watching your story SUCKS, because you’re all STUCK arguing amongst yourselves over petty things.

    Websites of information (you MUST be intelligent and learn to figure out for yourself what’s going on–and don’t blow things off because they sound too different from what you’ve heard).
    http://www.michaeltsarion.com This is the best synthesis website out there for someone who really wants to know why things are the way they are.

    Otherwise–go back to watching TV, playing computer games, and arguing over Republicans and Democrats; who the president is; “we can’t go back”; “that’s the way it is”;

  • Christine May 30, 2012 @ 16:47

    I totally agree that stealing and piracy are morally wrong. I’ve never broken any DRM work, and until I started reading this, didn’t know that it was possible.

    However, I think you need to take a look at what exactly you are selling your readers in ebook format. And what their expectations are…

    When I buy a book at a bookstore, I expect that I am buying the content. The paperback will not disappear if the bookstore folds. There will not be some new type of paper for printing on that will suddenly make my paperback obsolete.

    As an honest purchaser of content on multiple devices (I read on an iPad & iPhone using iBooks, Kindle and B&N apps), I’d just like to know that the contact that I’ve paid willingly for is not going to disappear.

    I suppose that you could offer a license to access your courses that is dependent on you staying in business to upkeep it, but I thought that you were getting out of the DIY-managed site. I’d just really like to buy the CONTENT of your courses, which I think are outstanding and to which I refer people instead of sharing the material I already have. I’d like to feel secure that I won’t lose these incredible resources b/c someone goes out of business or decides that my license has expired. [In particular, I’m thinking about your much anticipated World-Building Clinic].

    Whatever you decide to do with DRM – I agree with you that it is disheartening that so many out there aren’t willing to support your work with an honest transaction. But there are those of us here who are upstanding consumers who just don’t want to lose something that they’ve paid money to acquire.

    I love ebooks b/c I don’t have the space to store my physical content. But what’s the point in building up an “e-library” if you’re always worried that it could vanish without a trace…

  • Kevin O. McLaughlin May 30, 2012 @ 16:08

    Holly,

    I share your concerns about piracy, and I know that we must find better legal remedies to preserve copyrighted works.

    I absolutely oppose piracy of ebooks or anything else. I don’t do it; I actively discourage those who do.

    That said, DRM has never been shown to reduce piracy. When music went DRM free, there was no evidence that piracy increased at all. Likewise, there is very little of even anecdotal data suggesting that ebook DRM reduces piracy.

    DRMis easy to remove. It is free to remove. It is legal (in most US cases) to remove for personal use. But it is annoying to customers. Therefore, it has no positive effects, only negative ones.

    There is evidence that the Harry Potter books are less pirated after their DRM free release than they were with the (scanned, illegal) copies floating around before Pottermore.

    Get rid of the idea that DRM is about piracy. It doesn’t stop or even slow piracy.

  • Kate May 30, 2012 @ 15:58

    Dear Holly,

    I realise that my reply is just one in what seems to be a sea of opinions and keyboard heroes, but I hope you stumble across it nonetheless.

    All I wanted to say to you, is to keep your chin up. If it was me reading all of these comments that to be honest, are really negative the majority of them whether they are for supporting DRM or against, I would be feeling unhappy to say the least.

    I have been a student of yours for quite some time, since the lovely Richelle Meade pointed me in your direction on her blog. I have always loved how approachable you have come across and straightforward. I have a lot of respect for you and the contribution you have made to the “writing world”. I am very thankful for your courses, books and contributions and am more than happy to continue purchasing your work or courses in whatever format they come in. I think you will find that a lot of people are always going to complain, it is the way society is. There will always be people who cheat and steal, and there will always be those who look out for other people and do the right thing.

    While every opinion is valued – keyboard heroes or not, I think ultimately this decision is yours. Choose the decision that sits right with yourself and your beliefs. Stay true to those. And heck, if it doesn’t work out try the opposite. You have a fan base who like me, will continue to by your stuff in whatever format you choose. Have faith in that.

    I apologise if this comment is borderline rant, but I hope it brings a message of support and positiveness, as opposed to so much negativity.

    xx

  • WandersNowhere May 30, 2012 @ 15:36

    sorry, hit enter prematurely…

    I strongly believe most of the creators of DRM software out there right now come at it with a wrongheaded attitude to begin with. I’m certain there must be a better alternative available to you that will limit IP theft whilst not hindering your legitimate readers.

  • BobW May 30, 2012 @ 15:33

    Holly, I have mixed feelings about DRM. In on sense it is a logical way to go to protect the author’s interest. I have several books of my own on Kindle all with DRM, Does it stop people sharing them? Probably no, but as stated above, people who pirate software, music, or ebooks more often or not wouldn’t pay 0.99 cents for them anyway.
    On the other hand, I’ve bought software online that required online activation which at first I thought wasn’t a bad idea. However three of those developers have since bitten the dust and if I want to upgrade my computer those 3 pieces of software can no longer be activated. As you can understand when one has invested several thousand dollars in the software being denied the use of it is damned annoying.
    So I’m considering removing DRM from my Kindle books and taking my chances with the honesty of the people who purchase the books with similar, but not as harsh warnings as you have suggested.
    I think the DRM will always be an issue for anything that can be downloaded. Personally as a consumer I don’t like the restrictions of DRM, but as an author I’m sure the suggestion of implanting the purchasers name inside a PDF is one way to go. But like all digital media even experienced pirates will be able to remove that. I guess being an author in the digital era is like being caught between a rock and a hard place; any solution will have its drawbacks.

  • Claudsy May 30, 2012 @ 15:33

    Holly, I have to admit that I’m the last person to advise anyone on this particular issue. Pro DRM seems to make it Pro-gov’t interference and monitoring. Anti PRM seems to promote pirating. Either side has potential for disaster. Or, so it seems to me.

    All I can say with surety is that what you choose to do must be as much to your best interest as to anyone else’s. No one is expecting you to be in it only for big bucks, just common courtesy and honesty.

  • WandersNowhere May 30, 2012 @ 15:33

    Holly, you are very right that there is no excuse for theft in a free society. And I can see and understand that you feel very strongly about the subject, I guess my best input would be that if you’re going to go ahead with DRM, PLEASE for the sake of your own sales and reader base, research DRM methods that are non-intrusive, reliable and cross platform (the watermarking several people have mentioned sounds pretty good). I have not personally looked for them, but surely there must be alternatives to the obnoxious methods many companies use now.

    My own experience with DRM has been almost entirely negative. There have been multiple instances where I’ve been forced to download a pirated copy, keygen, or hack for a piece of software I legitimately bought and paid for, because the company went out of business in one case, in other cases because the DRM came bundled with intrusive software/spyware, in other cases because I lost the physical copy of the CD key or password, and in still other cases because the DRM just plain broke the program and prevented me from getting into it. Hours of headaches later I was left extremely resentful of the DRM – not just for breaking and rendering my paid-for product inconvenient to use at best and totally useless at worst – but for forcing me to go to dubious websites and expose my computer to potential malware threats downloading all these torrents and cracks and keygens just to be able to use the damn thing I paid real money for! In most cases I’ve never gone near the (mainly software) companies or their products again. I have no idea if the DRM on ebooks is similar to this, but if it is, I would urge you to avoid using it. I have no problem at all with DRM in theory and concept, but the execution so far has been appalling to the point of being counterproductive.

    To use the analogy of physical books, imagine if every single book on your shelf came with a timelock that required you to either remember a complicated password or use a shoddy, easily-broken, easily-lost key just to open the book. If you lost your key or forgot your password, you’d never be able to read that book again without resorting to a pair of bolt cutters or a lockpick.

    Imagine some of your books required proof of identity to read them, and that information was silently passed on to the companies that produced the books, who then started spamming you with personalized advertising everywhere you went.

    Imagine some of those revered tomes in your bookcases required not one payment, but a monthly or annual subscription, not to read additional content or continuous issues like with a magazine, but to continue reading the SAME book.

    And imagine books that would not be permitted to take with you if you moved house. If you tried to move all your books would require being re-bought or lock up and refuse to be read if you tried to take them with you. Or burst into flames.

    I’ve run up against the digital equivalent of all of these with IP-protection on software I’ve bought in the past. I’ve heard the arguments from pro-piracy people that they were encouraged to take up torrenting everything they used, not because they did not want to pay for it, but because buying it meant having to jump through hoops just to use the software they paid for. I don’t agree with them, I think that is a pretty atrocious attitude, but it’s certainly one that exists.

  • Jacey Bedford May 30, 2012 @ 15:24

    Hi, Holly,

    I know what you mean about intellectual property. I’m a musician as well as a writer and I hate the idea of CDs being pirated, however if someone buys a CD and makes an mp3 to listen to on their ipod, that’s fine by me. I agree it’s not fine if they distribute it.

    I have a Kindle and I’ve bought a lot of ebooks for it. At the moment the kindle is my preferred reader, but if in several years time I buy a different e-reader I still want to be able to re-read all those books which I have legally purchased. If I buy a physical book, it’s mine and I can keep it forever or until the pages powder to dust. It’s as permanent as anything barring fire, flood or leaving it on the train accidentally. I still have books that I was given as a child, fifty years ago. In fifty years time (should I live that long) will Amazon still be supporting Kindle format? I doubt it. Will they even be supporting it in ten years time? We are so (relatively) new to this digital age and things are changing so fast that being able to change the format of my e-books, should I ever need to – is important to me. I never managed to afford to replace all my LPs and cassette tapes with CDs and already CDs are becoming obsolete. I don’t want to lose my favourite books as I lost some of my favourite music.

    Can I recommend you talk to Charlie Stross on the topic of DRM on ebooks. He has several quite compeling arguments against.

    Good luck in making up your mind.

  • RobH May 30, 2012 @ 15:17

    Wouldn’t it be worth checking with existing publishers to see how DRM free approaches have worked for them? I purchase the majority of my ebooks from the Black Library and Baen because they are easy to use on a range of devices and are DRM free (consistently getting all their monthly releases is a pretty serious sign I like both their content and approach), while I’ll rarely buy an odd book on amazon for a favored author. That’s just me – I imagine there are many people who’ll happily buy a DRM restricted amazon book without a qualm, and I’m lucky hat the sci-fi and fantasy field is pretty well catered for electronically.

    I genuinely believe people would rather pay a reasonable sum for a good product than steal something. People pirating something aren’t likely to buy it anyways. Having said that, you aren’t doing this because you love it (that’s a nice bonus though!) – you are doing it to make a living, so you need to take the approach that’ll reach the widest range of genuine potential customers, whether that’s DRM free or not. Can you talk with the team at Baen and get a feel for their levels of ebook sales? The bottom lines really your best answer.

  • Benjamin May 30, 2012 @ 15:14

    I would have commented on the DRM stuff the other day but I was busy with job interviews. I’ve DRM that does not cause many problems like kindles, but it still means if you back up your bought books sometimes that don’t work and you have to re-download them. That is not a problem if they are still available on the companies server but sometimes the rights change and books get pulled. I had books from 1950 before I moved to cali and didn’t have the space for my books. I know I would never have gotten into Heinlein if I had not come across the books in a used book store. Those books at the time where not even in print. In amazons case it may end up being a storage thing where books older than 20 years get deleted, who knows with DRM free books as long as you have back ups you can know your books will still be twenty years from now, with DRM you just don’t know. Maybe you don’t care about future but what makes a good story does not change it is the same pieces that you explain so well that I would like to think your courses will be there for the future generations, one way or another.

    There used to be a real good section on eric flints site about why BAEN chose not to go with DRM. This is part of it:
    http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2011/09/26/salvos-against-big-brother/#more-3264

    There stance has lost them authors I have books I can still download from them you can’t buy anymore from them because they don’t have the rights to sell it. I think it is the right approach because long after the author has been paid the reader can still read their books even after disasters like katrina where people lose all their physical things including hard drives. Now that does not apply so much to your lessons but who knows maybe someone is rebuilding their life and they remember that story as they tend to haunt you till you get them down on paper but they don’t remember is how to develop the ideas into something for other people.

    Any way you chose to go people will view it through their rose tinted glasses of life, and they will judge you for it deserved or not. The best thing to do is make the decision that you feel is right and lets you look in the mirror and feel good about your self.

    Last I’m in your full course and they have scary stuff written on the pdfs and I don’t even read that I just want to get to lesson to improve my writing so I can get my story out to people. So I would say don’t put to much effort into the disclaimer as many will not even read it.

    Keep up the good work 🙂
    Ben

    • John D M Myer May 31, 2012 @ 7:38

      Pirates aren’t prosecuted? Only if a large corporation gets involved.
      Perhaps now you finally understand that the backbone of America, we small business people/writers appear to be invisible to our government.
      How to get pirates prosecuted? Through author’s guilds or agents guilds or such seems to provide the clout we need. Surprise, those groups seem in lock step with legacy publishing not with authors.
      Another approach requires our schools to teach tough ethics courses instead of those wimpy “situational ethics”, rationalize and do it type courses now in vogue.
      Good luck on that one.
      When I am flush I buy lots of paper books. Now I borrow from the library or purchase those “under $5” ebooks.
      At 75, ereaders except maybe the ipad just don’t put enough text in view with the large fonts I need to see. I personally hate the DRM, but since I read on a PC app it doesn’t get in the way as much. I have apps for all the major ereaders.
      At least once a year I buy dozens of used books from a huge charity sale in Phoenix, Az. 50 cents a paperback allows me to buy about $25 worth which fills several large grocery bags. I’m not paying the author or publisher. I return them for free so they can be resold again the next year after I’ve read the book. Some I do keep. I’ve never considered this an ethical problem. Should I?
      Publish DRM free. DRM punishes the innocent and only amuses the pirates.
      First we need to find a friend in Congress. Second we need to start an email/letter campaign to get prosecution of pirates.
      john d m myer
      author of ebook “Grandpa Goes To Galveston”

      • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 7:42

        Hi, John,

        I don’t want to see people sharing books with their friends prosecuted. Any time you bring in the lawyers, everybody loses. And bringing in the fucking government is always the worst thing you can do. When has government regulation ever made anyone’s life better.

        What I’d like to see is people STOP GIVING THE DAMN GOVERNMENT AN EXCUSE to dig into their private lives, their private computers, and their personal actions so it can use those actions to create ever-more restrictive laws and steal more rights from the individual.

        If folks stop giving the pirates a market, they can prevent the government’s appalling attempts to put chains on their behavior.

  • Kia Zi Shiru May 30, 2012 @ 15:13

    Please don’t put up such a long warning. Around me more and more I hear of people actually stopping reading and not buying any more ebooks from an author because of a long “warning”. People who pirate the book don’t care about the warning, just like they don’t care about DRM.
    But quite a lot of readers feel that authors can be too protective of their work. Your message would quite possibly run over 5 pages on my kindle and I would put the book down because of it. I know I got the book legally but that doesn’t mean I don’t dislike threats made to me, cause that message looks really threatening.
    A short message to congratulate the buyer that they bought it legally and you are happy that they support you works better than a warning.
    People care less about DRM than about a message like this.
    I have put down multiple books where I had to go through multiple pages of warnings like this. If I buy a copy of a book I don’t want to feel threatened when I open it.
    I feel a message that thanks me for helping an author and then a standard copyright message will be enough.
    Pirates don’t care about the warning and people who have bought them legally get a bad feeling.

  • David Spiselman May 30, 2012 @ 15:10

    We write for readers, not for buyers. Most people are honest and will buy what they want to read. If you’re object is to keep dishonest people from stealing your work, then it appears you’ll have a huge fight on your hands. Hackers are smart enough to steal an eBook despite what you do, and DRM only keeps honest people honest. Really, I expect a bit of “sales shrinkage” due to theft no matter what I do. BUT, I wnat readers, and I’d be willing to accept some dishonest readers. Quite possibly, they might enjoy what I write and recommend it to their more honest friends…

  • PD Singer May 30, 2012 @ 15:08

    Holly, I’m sorry for your conflicted feelings here–the system itself is broken. Good luck on collecting from anyone you do sue–I hope you prevail but I’m also not going to hold my breath. We who don’t want to be pirated don’t have a lot of weapons to our arsenal. DRM isn’t really one, it’s like locks keeping honest people out, only flimsier.

    • Walter May 30, 2012 @ 15:43

      Never allow situations or circumstances you can`t control influence your emotions. The DRM issue is one of the major traps an author can be stuck in. Make a decision with the least emotions involved and stick to it. Come what may. Don`t loose your greatest capital: your peace of mind. After all, you are fighting monsters you have never seen, but only imagine.

  • Talith May 30, 2012 @ 15:04

    If I might ask, as you have been writing and selling books since before the internet and ‘pirating’ came into general use: has there been a significant drop in your sales since pirating became popular?

    I suspect it is not something writers had to worry about before the internet, but they now join the music and film industries in the condemnation of pirates.

    But in much the same way as tape recorders and video recorders did not destroy the music and film industries respectively, I doubt the internet and ease of copying will really make much of a difference… it’s not any easier than pressing ‘record’

    The fallacious belief that a copy pirated is a sale lost is foolish… most people who ‘want’ something will buy it… most people who pirate take it because it is there to be taken. If they couldn’t get it for free, they wouldn’t buy it.

    The Avengers movie that came out recently is a good example… it was available as a pirated copy at least a week before it came out in the US, and was pirated through the roof… and it broke all box office records with $200 million taken in the first weekend.

    Writers like Paulo Coelho actually encourage pirating, and he has seen huge sales because of it (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/01/paulo-coelho-readers-pirate-books).

    DRM can result in this: http://i.imgur.com/WzOKK.jpg

    Bear in mind, the person that bought this item is the one having problems… not the guy down the road who pirated it, who can play HIS copy on anything he sees fit.

    DRM is not the way forward. The people buying your product may become inconvenienced, and all it takes is one person to crack the DRM and then anyone can copy it… which will happen, assuming demand is enough… and means those inclined to pirate will do so anyway, and all you have done is increase your costs.

    Likewise the message you are planning to add… it will be an inconvenience to your real readers, and will be laughed at by pirates.

    No, piracy is not right… but it IS a fact of life now, no matter how much the various industries try to fight it – the technology makes it easy, and there is no going back, no matter what the big corporations try. Somehow, the sales model needs to catch up.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:23

      I’ve answered this elsewhere.

  • Tomas Rofkahr May 30, 2012 @ 14:51

    As a consumer – I’m not a fan of DRM. It tends to punish the honest consumers along with the thieves – which turns me off. I also don’t think it does all that much to protect the artist / creator either. It’s simply too easy to bypass the stuff to be worthwhile.

    Also – as a consumer I’d recommend you think hard about the boilerplate. In the corporate world I see it all the time. It’s wasted text. Every word might be true, but if random dude is gonna steal your stuffs – he’s gonna steal it boiler plate or not. Worse it can even offend your paying customers. I know I’m always vaguely ticked off when the first words I read of a book or game I’ve bought online are the legalese warning against piracy. Yes – I know it’s irrational – but there you go.

    Maybe a thank you note to your legitimate buyers is a better way forward.

    “Thank you for buying my book – without you – none of this is possible” goes a lot farther with me. Or – “thanks for buying my book – thanks to you, tonight I eat beans *and* rice! Huzzah!”

    I’ve seen a few authors that “play it positive” like this and it always makes me smile. Plus – for the folks that tend to “steal first” and “buy later” (and there are a lot of them) – you’ve hopefully just created the desire in them to “be someone Holly likes” – to “make sure Holly gets rice with her beans.”

    Which is more than they might do if they’re feeling all boilerplated. If you can *personalize* that thank you – it’s even better.

    I don’t think DRM or legalese ever made anyone come back to the table and pay for what they took. Or stopped a digital theft before it happened. So why use it? Both are trappings we’ve adopted because there just isn’t that much ENFORCEMENT of piracy laws. Until there is (and there may never be) – find new ways forward. I think the kind of relationship building you’re already doing is part of that. And it’s far more likely (in the short term) to help you recover lost sales than the boilerplate and DRM are.

    Just thoughts. Hope they help.

  • Andrew Vecchiarelli May 30, 2012 @ 14:49

    Generally, I find that if someone has the mindset that they are entitled to something for free, they will fit whatever facts, reasons, or excuses to justify it. In the end, they’re just jerks. Regardless if content is locked by DRM or unlocked, they will steal it because they can. In this case, DRM won’t prevent them from stealing a copy, but rather delay the process.

    So if DRM isn’t stopping pirates from pirating “things” – what is it doing? Essentially, making the experience more difficult for people who have legitimately paid for the content. DRM punishes the person who made the purchase! It’s backwards!

    People steal (I’ve seen someone steal from a library! Can you imagine? A place where they give you things for free) – and it sucks that people steal. But personally, I think it’s better to do right by your fans who support you and make sure their experience is the best possible one.

    <3
    A

  • CathWren May 30, 2012 @ 14:42

    As someone who has had her legally purchased ebooks “stolen” back by publishers who go out of business or simply no longer support ebooks, I am not fond of DRM. But I do still buy DRM books if that is the only way to get it. I just don’t purchase from the outlets that seem risky to me.

    You might consider talking to Baen or Tor, both of which provide their ebooks without DRM. I’m not sure how much the experiences of a big company would compare to that of a single individual but it could give you some insight.

  • Jim Brown May 30, 2012 @ 14:32

    I don’t understand why you thought that was depressing?
    I read all the posted comments and while nearly all were against DRM, almost NONE were in favor of “piracy”. DRM is bad for YOU, the author. Comments were merely pointing that out, and pointing out that it would happen anyway.
    Don’t worry about it. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on things you can’t fix.
    As almost everyone said, the people who ‘steal’ your work were never going to buy it anyway, so you lose no sales.
    Certainly don’t accuse your readers or threaten them with jail. A simple note in your book stating (as others have done) will make honest readers feel good and (some of) the dishonest feel bad: “Thank you for supporting my work by purchasing this book. I work hard to provide you with good writing and appreciate that you chose to spend your hard earned money on this effort. Love to you all.”
    Also, you should remember that what you want most of all is readership. Read this article on Techdirt that quotes Regina Spektor: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120527/12145919085/regina-spektor-im-lucky-that-people-can-get-all-my-music-free.shtml

    • Tim King May 30, 2012 @ 20:20

      I’d like to echo Jim’s comments here, Holly. And he said it so much more eloquently than I can right now. Because I actually became upset when reading your proposed warning.

      Now, I know you didn’t intend to suggest that anyone ought to be fined a half-million dollars and thrown in prison for 5 years, just for sharing a single ebook with a friend… I know you didn’t mean to imply that, because that’s way out of proportion with any concept of fairness that either of us has ever been familiar with. But when the average person reads language like that, what else is he supposed to think?

      You know me, Holly. And while we haven’t always agreed, I still see you as one of the most inspired and under-appreciated writers of this era, someone I still want to emulate. (And I’m not repeating anything here that I haven’t already repeated elsewhere.) But if a warning like this makes my blood boil over, followed by rage, tears, and a little bit of inappropriate language, what is it going to do to others who have not yet even discovered the magic of Talyn? (Little pun there.)

      And this is a great reason to avoid DRM, because DRM stakes out a position against your fans and potential fans, even if you don’t intend it to do so. Many fans won’t care, of course, whether you use DRM. Many others will want access to your work so much that they’ll deal with the DRM, even if they dislike it or find it annoying or if it doesn’t work right. (BTW, as I understand, stuff like that occasionally happens, and if you go with DRM, you might want to investigate whether you need to support problems when the DRM doesn’t work.) But even for these customers, many of them will sense that you don’t really trust them, because of the story you inadvertently told them by using DRM and then backing up that DRM with an angry warning.

      -TimK

    • Julianna May 30, 2012 @ 21:05

      I was also a little taken aback by what you interpreted as the general consensus of the discussion. I didn’t have time to read the entire thread thoroughly, but I read most of it, and it’s possible that I missed something. But I only recall ONE comment that suggested anything about people being entitled to pirate ebooks if they don’t like the price or the DRM protection or whatever. From my understanding of the discussion, the vast majority of people were saying:

      1.) DRM doesn’t do much (if anything) to deter pirates, but it CAN be a problem for legitimate customers.

      2.) It sucks that people are pirating your work. We don’t support this in any way. Many of us are authors or aspiring authors ourselves, and expect that we will be in the same boat someday. But if, as you have said, there are already DRM-free pirated versions of all of your works out there already, why continue to penalize your paying customers?

      I DO NOT believe that the general consensus of this conversation was that people are entitled to pirate ebooks. If there were one or two people who expressed that opinion, please do not take it as representational of your readership.

      I was also a little affronted by the warning you proposed to put in your books. It wasn’t friendly. Not at all. It seemed suspicious and draconian to me. I’m all in favor of putting a message in the book to the effect of “if you’ve downloaded this without paying for it, please be aware that this is theft and it’s harmful to the author, etc., here’s a link where you can purchase the book legally.” Most people will respond better to a friendly request than to threats of imprisonment and crippling fines.

      • David Masters May 31, 2012 @ 9:07

        I think the point is not what it’s called (as you’ve stated in other comments).

        Warning or notice, the whole tone of it is defensive, verging on rude, and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

        It’s not a great way to begin a relationship with a new reader.

        My immediate response when reading it is: “Who are you to tell me what to do with my receipts?” And I don’t like the way you demonise sharing. If I buy a book and I like it, I will my friends about it. And if they want to borrow my copy, I will loan it to them, just like I’d loan them my lawnmower. If that makes them (and me) a criminal and a thief, then we have very different world views.

    • David Masters May 30, 2012 @ 23:42

      Also echoing Jim’s and Tim’s comments. They both put it more eloquently than I could.

      • David Masters May 31, 2012 @ 0:01

        And Julianna’s, who must have been writing at the same time as me!

  • Kim May 30, 2012 @ 14:30

    I had a really witty comment I was going to post but this topic is close to home for me so I was being slow with my posting as I arguing this debate in my own head – until I remembered this incident.
    There is a couple I know very well who were robbed once about 6 or 7 years ago. They are very comfortable and can afford more than most. Not much was stolen in the robbery, no one was home and the robbers only got some pretty valueless goods. So little value the police almost wrote it off more as a prank than a robbery. Now their home has surveillance like a military compound and they will not let themselves feel safe. They could have bought a dog or hired a professional company but instead they ran almost 50 cameras around their property in the country.
    My point is simply that it is not as much the act but how we react to it. None of us should let one reckless person dictate how we respond to our lives. The industries that use DRM simply bust the bad guy after the fact and then sue and or prosecute.
    Should we, the little guy do any different? I think we should do what we can and let the rest go or only proceed with prudence until we can act with boldness.
    Personally I’m going to take the same route you’re currently discussing, the warning and if I figure out something better later, I will do that then.

  • JAPartridge May 30, 2012 @ 14:24

    Ok. I guess I should confess. I’ve read entire series of books by authors without paying them a dime. Granted, the public library at least bought 1 copy, but that copy has been read by literally hundreds of people. Our nation’s libraries are costing publishers millions of dollars in lost revenue! (according to pro-drm thinking)

    There is a happy ending. One of those books was Hunting the Corrigans Blood. Because I didn’t have to pay for it, I took a chance and invested my time in an author I didn’t know. Because of that, I will be standing in line to buy both it at the sequel when it comes out. (So I guess you came out ahead after all.)

    I understand and agree with the principals behind your sentiments. No one wants to see the cheaters “get away with it.” But never fear. They can’t really hurt you. (Now the bootleggers who sale fake copies are a different story.)

    • Elizabeth May 30, 2012 @ 15:33

      Sorry, but I have a rebuttal to the libraries ‘costing the author millions of dollars’.

      The libraries are buying PRINT books. Print books get lost, get stolen, don’t get returned, or have to be replaced through wear and tear. Also, multiple libraries are buying multiple copies of the book. Perhaps you’re losing sales — maybe — *but* you’re making SOME sales, plus the demand from the libraries may help keep a book in print. I also guarantee that no one library will circulate a single book to *28,000* people without having to replace it multiple times.

      A single copy of an e-book, however, never needs to be replaced. Further, because the book is not shown as being *sold*, it leads a publisher to believe that an author/book is NOT popular and is NOT selling, and may cost the author not only the income from that book, but future contracts as well! And THAT is where it hurts us both as authors AND as readers. And lest you claim that doesn’t happen — I know three authors to whom that HAS happened.

      Finally — and here’s a scary thought — the author who lost 28,000 sales lost 9,800.

      I don’t know about you, but if I did 9,800 worth of work and someone stole it from me, I’d be past irate. So would you. And I guarantee any of the thieves would be squealing louder than anyone. And so we should be irate. Honest work deserves an honest monetary reward.

      If an author chooses to provide a free copy of a book for promotional purposes, that’s the author’s privilege. The author can control the distribution and it’s certainly a valuable tool.

      However, thieves (sorry, cheaters is far too tame a term as far as I’m concerned) CAN hurt authors, and HAVE hurt authors. Let’s not let anyone salve their guilt by claiming they can’t.

  • Susan May 30, 2012 @ 14:21

    I’ve had some big problems with DRM before, particularly on video games. But so far it seems to be going well with books — I’ve stuck with Amazon, hoping they’ll be around at least as long as I am. I can certainly see both sides of the DRM argument, though I have no sympathy with people who think stealing is justified just because they hate DRM. They remind me of my brother-in-law who is against the idea of tipping and thinks that makes it okay to not tip waiters. But as is so often the case, it is the people who are trying to be honest who come out on the short end. Personally, I’d buy your courses on Kindle and not worry about the DRM.

    On the blurb you are thinking of including — you might want to consider making it shorter and more personal. I was just listening to a podcast about why people cheat and steal (http://www.npr.org/2012/04/27/150818706/why-do-we-cheat) and most people don’t like to think of themselves as thieves. I don’t think it’s the threat of prosecution that keep people from stealing from book stores — it’s more that it’s so obvious to everyone that one is stealing and there just aren’t any rationalizations to be made. You might want to aim your blurb more at peoples’ conscience than having it sound so legalistic. That kind of warning will more likely be ignored by everyone, but a personal appeal will at least keep decent people prone to rationalization from stealing (or at least make them feel bad about it!)

  • Crystal May 30, 2012 @ 14:21

    Oh, oops. Ha. 😉 You can tell I haven’t posted on here in a while, because I thought that the reply box appearing under a given reply meant replies here are threaded. Fail on my part. I was talking about Lexi Revellian’s reply when I said that “this reply” covered what I was thinking.

    Sorry about that. 😉

    • Crystal May 30, 2012 @ 14:26

      …and I just realized that replies ARE threaded. (Insert blush here.) I guess in my coffee-less state I need better visual cues … 😉

  • Kari May 30, 2012 @ 14:16

    Holly, I understand what you’re trying to do with that disclaimer. But if knowing the law was going to stop somebody from committing a crime, there’d be FAR less crime. Someone in the comments above said that your disclaimer would be akin to the blue FBI screen at the front of movies, VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray combined. I kinda agree with that. I can’t remember how many copies of videotapes I had that when we watched them, we simply fast-forwarded through the warnings.

    I also agree that your disclaimer needs to be more personal. Coming at it from a “well, here’s what the law says” standpoint is easily ignored. It’s all facts and numbers and figures that don’t touch us personally. Touch the reader personally and they’ll listen more.

    The issue here isn’t one of pure and simple copying or loaning the ebook to someone else to read, but that the ebook is so easily copied and then distributed to, well, anyone. And while I understand the purpose behind DRM, my biggest problem is that, as a consumer, I want to own what I purchase. If I own a copy of Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, then I can do anything I want with it. I can loan it, give it away, resell it, whatever.

    Because ebooks are so easily copied, well, as authors, we don’t want a zillion copies spread far and wide because of the fear that if everyone can get it for free, then why would anyone be willing to purchase it?

    Believe me, I understand your dilemma. I’m still writing my book and I’m tugged one way and then another regarding DRM.

    There are two people involved in the DRM issue who I respect: Seth Godin and Cory Doctorow. Cory’s politics and mine don’t line up, but he’s passionate about the problems with DRM. He’s also the guy who’s released all his books for free through his website (craphound.com) even though there are print copies out there — and has been successful with it.

    Seth on piracy: http://www.thedominoproject.com/2012/04/piracy-you-wish.html

    Here’s an interesting article by Cory from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/may/03/death-of-drm-good-news
    And another: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20120402/51292-cory-doctorow-a-whip-to-beat-us-with.html

    John Scalzi has an interesting point of view about TOR/FORGE going DRM-free: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/04/24/torforge-to-go-drm-free-by-july-immediate-thoughts/

    From gigaom.com on how they think “the ebook landscape is becoming a walled garden”: http://gigaom.com/2012/02/29/how-the-e-book-landscape-is-becoming-a-walled-garden/

    DRM makes that easily possible in a different direction: if I buy a Kindle, I buy from Amazon. If I have a Nook, I buy from Barnes & Noble. If I use iBooks, I buy from Apple. Personally, I don’t like to be locked into buying from one certain place. That’s why I purchased my Evo View (Android tablet).

    Something that it seems NOBODY realizes (or really thinks about) is that there ARE devices that read all ebook formats. The iPad does it — you can download a Kindle app, a Nook app, a Stanza app… and voila. My Evo View (Android tablet) does it — same thing: I use the apps of choice, which is a Kindle app and Mantano Reader for the rest of the books. The iPhone, all Android phones… I mean, any smartphone can do it, I’d assume, as long as it had access to the apps.

    For me, the issue of DRM really comes into effect when I consider whether I’ll always have that ebook I purchased for $9.99 through Amazon. Sure, I can say that I really don’t think Amazon’s ever going out of business, but hey, shit happens. And I really don’t like the idea of losing the work simply because the store who sold it to me went out of business. If I buy something from you, I really don’t want my use of it to be tied directly to you, you know? And that’s what DRM does.

    Or if I use a Nook, but Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the book I want, but Amazon does. I mean, that’s how we shop for everything, right? Before Borders closed, I could go to Borders and if they didn’t have the book I was looking for, I could go across the street to Barnes & Noble. DRM makes that impossible. Unless you have both a Kindle and a Nook or both apps on your phone/tablet. Then the consumer can get frustrated at everything being separate — “Why can’t I have just one app that reads all these books?” so on and so forth.

    My first self-published book will most likely go DRM-free. I WANT people to share it. I want to get my name out there and my writing and if people think I’m good enough, then they’ll come looking for more stuff to read. And hopefully at that point, I’ll be ready for them.

    BUT that’s me. 🙂 Good luck trying to sort through all this!

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:15

      My thinking with the notice was that most people don’t realize they’re committing a crime. It was laid out using the same format I used in patient teaching back when I was an RN, to let people know the dangers they faced from their own actions, and related not just to my ebooks, but to ALL copyrighted material.

      Those people who steal because they like to steal are not at issue. At issue are those genuinely decent people who do not realize what they’re doing is illegal, with potentially nasty consequences. And with a government just itching to curtail rights and and block people’s access to internet content, helping people understand that copying and distributing copyrighted material is a bad idea seemed to me like a GOOD idea.

      • Kari May 31, 2012 @ 10:25

        Then teach that to people through your blog. All of your books will have a link to your blog where you can (and do) talk to your readers. Take a stand in a post and link it prominently on your homepage. If you want, remove the ability to comment and direct people to another means to leave their feedback on it — I think, in the long run, that a comments section would just get too overblown with everyone ELSE’s ideas and thoughts, whereas you want in that post to express yourself, rather than to parry and defend against anyone else.

        Your gift in educating people and explaining your philosophy is much more eloquent that resorting to legalese to explain it 🙂 You cultivated a loving and supporting audience who care about you and now you’re creating the opportunity for others to see who you are and what you believe — beyond your books. 🙂

        It’s been said that the role of the author is changing, that authors can no longer hide behind their books and instead readers want that more intimate relationship with their favorite authors. Your blog provides a lot of that 🙂 By all means, educate people — just do it on your blog where the reader can understand that you’re not just putting another “FBI Notice” up, but that you care about them as well. 🙂

    • susan May 31, 2012 @ 8:57

      Technically, you can’t legally loan out, give away, or sell your books or videos or albums or painting prints, etc. wo first securing distribution rights from the publisher/owner. If you’ve ever done so, then you’ve broken the law. When you buy a book, etc, you own the physical book, but you don’t own the content. You’ve bought personal use rights, not distribution rights. But enforcing those laws is impossible, or would at least be astronomically expensive, so They aren’t enforced. Nonetheless, that’s the law.
      One reason ppl are more likely to steal from online sources is the anonymity, the lack of consequences, but also bc when we’re online we’re so removed from humanity that we forget that there’s a real person on the other end of this transaction who might be hurt by our actions. Remind ppl that someone put there heart and soul into creating this thing you’re thinking about taking, and that they will suffer bc you took it, and most ppl will do the right thing.

  • Deborah Teramis Christian May 30, 2012 @ 14:09

    Holly,

    I think there are really only two relevant issues here in the question of whether or not to use DRM (I’m an author and a publisher myself).

    1. If someone steals your book does that mean you have lost a sale?

    In the age of finite inventory this answer was obvious. In the day of an infinitely reproducable creative work, the answer is different.

    In fact, in this time of rampant file sharing the answer to that question appears to be a qualified “no”. The instance you site with 28,000 copies pirated: the real question is, would an individual teen have actually paid for the work in question if that was the only way to get it? Experience from the music industry and from the non-fiction ebook industry indicates the answer to this question is NO. A person may opportunistically take a file for free, but if the only alternative is to buy it: they will generally do without.

    Bottom line: While some sales are lost to piracy it is an error to assume a 1:1 relationship of books pirated to sales lost. The actual “lost sales” figure appears to be very low. In other words, the people taking your books are not the ones who would ever buy them in the first place. The presence of DRM as safeguard does not significantly boost sales.

    2. Does *lack* of DRM, and hence books more easily pirated, HELP sales?

    Again, based on music industry, non-fiction ebook industry, and even fiction track records (Konrath being case in point): the more people become exposed to your work through a freebie, the more inclined they are to pay for the next item that interests them. It is a question of being familiar with your work.

    Bottom line: lack of DRM can significantly boost sales, especially if you have a body of work people can browse past the initial item or two they may have acquired clandestinely.

    I agree with an earlier poster who suggested looking over Joe Konrath’s opinion pieces on this issue.

    I go DRM free for the above stated reasons. In the end these reasons are strictly economic, and stripped of moral judgments about if/when/how/why people are pirating (or stealing, or ignoring) IP. One can take umbrage about such issues til the cows come home, but what I and my bank account are interested in is, what real impact is the possibility of e-theft having on me economically? I think that would be a good tack to take on this whole issue. It strips out the moral outrage and reduces it to a practical consideration of how books are actually selling, and why.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:18

      No. There was only ONE issue:

      There actually is an easy solution, which I came up with last night while bouncing this back and forth with my husband:
      Logic.

      What matters to me in this equation?

      Simply that my readers not get screwed by a format that will in essence steal books for them that they have paid for and rightfully own? That would be DRM.

      If that’s what matters to me, then where’s the debate? My choice is indeed simple, and now made. I’ll go DRM-FREE, and trust my readers to watch my back when I can’t.

  • Orz May 30, 2012 @ 14:09

    Your belief in the moral “correctness” of purchasing books is old fashioned and outdated. Or when you take a wider view, a passing fad which is now coming to an end.
    Intellectual property, the idea that an author “owns” a story, is a product of three technologies: the printing press, large publishing businesses, and government intervention in the form of laws (lobbied into existence by the publishing businesses). Before these technologies the telling of stories was more akin to lecturing or performing, based the selling of tickets or receiving of donations to encourage the performer.
    Your anger at the so called “entitlement” you see in the comments is irrational, a reaction to how you have taken an arbitrary social construct created by technology and with no independent worth, intellectual property, and mistaken it for a basic moral law. It’s not. There’s nothing basically good or right about respecting your copyright. Social mores have changed.
    Intellectual property had a good run. It lasted for about a hundred years, starting when businesses became large and powerful enough to declare something their sole property and defend it (in the author’s name of course, never mind that he or she sees only pennies on the dollar), and supported by the scarcity and expense of printing which made it so that these business only had a few targets to defend against. It’s ending now, withering in the face of new technologies which remove this scarcity and expense. Things are going back to how it was before, when an author depended on donations and support from people who wanted that author to write more in the future.

    The notice you say you intend to include in your books is an abomination, attempting to terrify your readers with obsolete and unenforceable laws, laws become draconian in an attempt to prevent by fear what they cannot do by force.
    Do you really want to fine some kid that downloaded one of your books “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?” Really? Because according to my morality that would make you a terrible person.

    You want to include a notice? How about the this:
    “Dear Reader,
    This book is a product of much effort and time on my behalf. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you enjoyed it I hope you’ll considering giving me something so that I may continue to do this work. Thank you.”

    I suspect you’ll get much better results from this than from the other, which is the equivalent of sticking a gun in someone’s face and threatening to blow off they head. You may feel as though you’re defending your basic rights, but that’s not the way most people look at it. Things have changed.

    • Orz May 30, 2012 @ 16:07

      Another way of looking at it is that there has always been stealing in the book business. The only thing that’s changed is who’s doing the stealing. Before it was the publishing company, which kicked your book out the door with the minimum possible effort and then took almost all the profits.
      But now publishing is no longer limited to the companies. Now everyone can do it, pretty much for free, by copying. And now instead of the publisher doing the stealing, it’s the reader doing it.

      However, the net effect on the author is the same. In fact, things may have gotten better for the author, because people in general are more honest than companies, more likely to donate money to someone they enjoy reading.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:16

      I’ve repeated my comment about doing “patient teaching” on copyright law so many times I’m sick of it. But that’s what I was doing. It was NOT a threat.

  • Cassandra May 30, 2012 @ 14:06

    A person who copies another person’s work and conveys it to a third party is either a thief (I am totally with you, Holly) or a — publisher. A publisher pays royalties. Presumably, having sold a e-book, the seller has the buyer’s credit-card number, and above someone mentioned embedding the buyer’s name in their legal copy. Suppose that after allowing, say, 3 copies to be made (similar to the limited number of downloads you get when buying software on disks), any subsequent copying automatically charged a royalty (the price of the book) to the buyer’s card? Can this be done? Wouldn’t it be just a line in the program that creates the file? Knowing nothing about how these things work, I tend to believe anything is technologically possible …

    This kind of theft is maddening. People call it “sharing”, and think that because they can lend a physical book to a friend it’s okay to make permanent copies. I tell them, no, sharing would be handing someone your Kindle/nook/iPad for however long it took them to return a book. Suddenly they’re a lot less eager.

    DRM, as people have said, only stops the rankest amateurs. I fear for the future of books if this problem cannot be solved. Thanks very much for your efforts, Holly.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:17

      This not only cannot be done, but should not be done.

  • disorderlywords May 30, 2012 @ 14:02

    @MBFA and everyone else who wields a similar argument: In this new reality of which you speak, how are clothing, food, and shelter viewed? Should people who can’t afford or don’t want to pay for non-essential things in those categories not be held accountable for stealing them? What about whatever it is that you produce as your work product — the thing, whatever it is, for which you collect a salary or hourly wage? (The thing which, incidentally, allows you to give away your creative efforts for free, because you evidently have an income derived from some other pursuit.)

    At its heart, every commercial product is a creative endeavor. Farmers and ranchers employ all sorts of creativity (in addition to backbreaking physical labor) when they raise food. Clothing designers and manufacturers are creative; so are homebuilders. Everyone who works for a wage of any kind is involved in the alleged “prostitution” of creativity. Commercial items that are products of the mind are no less deserving of financial compensation than products of any other labor.

    Without a doubt, so-called digital pirates would be livid if they were expected to work for free so someone else could enjoy the fruit of their labor at will without compensating them.

    The “new reality” argument is bunk. While everyone has the right to vote about the marketworthiness of a particular product with their wallet, no one has the right to say “What I produce is worth money; what you produce is not.” If something is worth stealing, it’s got value; therefore, it’s worth buying.

    Anyone can make the decision to give away their work for free, but that decision should not be made for them by people who refuse to respect others the way they want others to respect them.

  • William Gaius May 30, 2012 @ 14:01

    Holly, DRM doesn’t always work, and it’s just plain insulting to honest customers and no hindrance to thieves. As they say, ‘Locks are only good for keeping out honest people.’

    The most convincing argument against DRM (and piracy in general) I heard recently was, where a person might take a free download of a protected work, they probably would never have bothered if they’d had to pay for it.

    • A. H. Browne May 30, 2012 @ 14:53

      I am going to have to agree with you William. Honestly, no matter the restrictions, if someone wants to break a code, a lock, a book’s DRM: they will.

      I feel bad for the people whose work has been stolen and hadn’t earned the money from it, but honestly? I quit believing in DRM for exactly the reason William stated.

      Do what works for you, Holly, but at the end of the day, if someone wants to steal the work, there is no stopping them. I read something by a major sci-fi (forgive me, I don’t remember his name) author a few months back. He said he no longer puts out books with DRM and decided to also include a Creative Commons license instead, and also offers his books on his site for free in the eBook version. As he puts it: he would rather allow a thousand people who may never have heard of his name, get a copy of his book, send it off to many friends, and potentially earn a life fan. That, is how I do it now, and see my books I put out. I want fans of my work. There was once a time when work was able to be photocopied, sent out to friends, on and on. The point being that I believe like him, that DRM doesn’t really stop the bad guys.

    • Linda Rodriguez May 30, 2012 @ 15:46

      I notice lots of people comparing the DRM issue to locks on doors, stating that locks only keep honest people out. However, I’ll bet all those people have locks on their doors that they use, don’t they? Maybe locks are no deterrent to truly motivated thieves, but we all lock those doors anyway.

  • wednesday May 30, 2012 @ 13:55

    After re-reading your post, Holly, maybe the answer is this: follow your heart, do what you feel is right. DRMing your workshops/lessons/non-fiction may be the way to go, because that may be what gives you peace of mind. And let the whiners whine.

  • Harald May 30, 2012 @ 13:55

    After more reading, Here’s another comment for you.

    You’re leading with the premise that every download is stealing, and That’s Just Wrong. And you’re right, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t stop people from stealing digital content – you can’t even slow them down. Every company that has tried DRM has learned this lesson.

    But the only thing that will hurt your revenue _more_ is not releasing digital content at all. Because then you also lose all of the revenue you’d get from those of us willing to pay.

  • Patrick May 30, 2012 @ 13:52

    Hi Holly,

    This is a really interesting question. I really do not think you should be viewing it as a negative, but rather an opportunity to embrace trust.

    Digital products cannot be compared to books anymore (as in the quote in your email). Downloading a free e-book is simply not the same as stealing it from a bookstore. The digital book still exists for others once it is copied, whereas the paper book is now no longer available for someone else and represents a clear physical loss for the vendor. There is the critical factor that any digital book can be reproduced infinitely for free. There is *no* cost to scaling up distribution. I know this is belabouring the obvious, but it represents a massive shift in the psychology of marketing, selling, and making a profit from your work.

    When your product costs a fixed amount to produce per unit (in addition to your one-time investment in time, energy, living costs, and commitment), then there is a understandably a need to set a price for a certain quantity of goods produced, with an expectation that sales (at least from the percentage of sold products) will cover the cost of producing in the first place and allow you to live.

    The new context however is quite different. Rather than doing a run of 10,000 books and having to gamble on how many will sell, setting a relatively high price to ensure a minimum return, you can make available 100,000 copies of the book (at no extra cost to you) at 1/10 of the price. Or 1,000,000 at 1/100.

    It goes another step further. What reason is there to set a fixed price for your book? Someone who makes a good living may be delighted to encourage and support you by paying double what you think the book was worth (yes, they will, you know it from experience!), while someone living on very little may still desperately want to read and experience it (and you may want to share it with them very much).

    The whole discussion around DRM and IP seems to miss a critical fact that when it comes to cultural products (books, music, film), our economy has shifted from the classical steps of 1) make a product 2) set a price 3) sell it.

    Instead many people are now 1) making a product 2) making it available for free or very little 3) soliciting support and donation in support of the work as a show of support.

    If they really need to consolidate their profit, they may go further and offer products for sale along more traditional lines that are simply fancier versions of what is available for free (e.g. box sets, special editions, signed copies, commentaires, illustrations, merchandising). These are things that fans and supporters with means will gladly invest in, but that those who just want the basic works do not need so badly that they will pirate them (or in fact, cannot pirate due to their nature).

    Even further, when they request support, the donations need not be attached to any particular work or product. They simply reflect the fact that people out there really wants to support *you*, to encourage the work that you do.

    This model of economy is very difficult to understand and embrace because it works on a principle of positive faith in people’s willingness to contribute their money to people, activities or causes about which they are passionate, *despite* not being obliged to in any way by traditional market laws.

    If you want to test this out, you could try the following thought experiment: imagine posting on your website or to your mail list a message indicating that you are embarking on a new novel. Ask them whether to donate an amount of their choice to allow you to pursue your creative project (e.g. give them a PayPal ‘Donate’ button or link to a Kickstart site). Realistically, what do you think will happen? There are thousands of people who love and support you, who trust you and simply want to see you do more of what you do, whatever it may be. They will send you the money you need, and in fact you may be surprised that it is much more than you need.

    I do hope you will see a more positive side to this. I have lived all over the planet and have seen that DRM always as more than a nuisance than anything else, because it assumes that everyone stays put and that every country uses the same formats. Copyrights and IP limitations usually just prevent me from enjoying products I have bought (my DVD bought in North America will not play on my Indian-bought DVD player, etc, etc). On the other hand, I contribute hundreds of dollars a year online to webcomic artists musicians, novelists, small NGOs and any others who do stuff I think is great and who are brave enough to simply ask the world to help support them in what they do, not by buying a particular product, but just on principle and on the basis of their past work. Think of it as an royalties advance directly from your public. As a matter of fact, I have bought several of your books not because I thought I would get around to working through them and using them, but just because I loved reading your articles so much (which are free) and wanted to show my thanks.

    Anyway, something to think about.

    Wishing you all the best in making your decision.

    • Holly May 31, 2012 @ 8:22

      The difference is between begging and trading; between having a stated understanding between yourself and those who love what you do that you create works of value and set what you consider a fair market value for your time and creative capacity, and those who find value in your work exchange your set value for it…

      AND…

      Sitting on a street corner begging for alms.

      I don’t download books offered for free. I won’t read them. If the creator values his creation and his talents, he can set the price he thinks is fair, and I will, if I am interested in what he offers, pay it.

  • JSmith May 30, 2012 @ 13:50

    I didn’t read all the comments before, but I read a few. I may be the only person that actually doesn’t really care about the DRM. I’m a purist when it comes to tech. I only read Kindle available books (unless they are free eBooks online which I load into iBooks). I have an iPad, iPhone and a Kindle. I only use the Kindle app on my iOS devices because I hate the Nook app and, quite frankly, don’t care for the Nook device either. So DRM isn’t an issue for me. Anything I buy for kindle, I get automatically through the cloud on all my “Kindle” devices (so my Kindle Fire, iPhone and iPad). So I don’t even have to buy the item twice.

    So I’m wondering, how many people out there REALLY have a Nook AND a Kindle? If you have an iDevice and you buy both iBooks and Kindle/Nook books, yeah, you have to switch apps…but big deal. Maybe it’s just my purist attitude, but even if I can get a book cheaper from B&N, I still buy it from Amazon because I have a Kindle. Am I alone in this mindset? For the average consumer, as long as it is available in multiple formats (Kindle, Nook, iBook, etc), does the DRM really matter to them?

  • Patrick May 30, 2012 @ 13:48

    Hi Holly,

    This is a really interesting question. Maybe rather than viewing these responses as a negative, it can be an opportunity to embrace and trust.

    Digital products cannot be compared to books anymore (as in the quote in your email). Downloading a free e-book is simply not the same as stealing it from a bookstore. The digital book still exists for others once it is copied, whereas the paper book is now no longer available for someone else and represents a clear physical loss for the vendor. There is the critical factor that any digital book can be reproduced infinitely for free. There is *no* cost to scaling up distribution. I know this is belabouring the obvious, but it represents a massive shift in the psychology of marketing, selling, and making a profit from your work.

    When your product costs a fixed amount to produce per unit (in addition to your one-time investment in time, energy, living costs, and commitment), then there is a understandably a need to set a price for a certain quantity of goods produced, with an expectation that sales (at least from the percentage of sold products) will cover the cost of producing in the first place and allow you to live.

    The new context however is quite different. Rather than doing a run of 10,000 books and having to gamble on how many will sell, setting a relatively high price to ensure a minimum return, you can make available 100,000 copies of the book (at no extra cost to you) at 1/10 of the price. Or 1,000,000 at 1/100.

    It goes another step further. What reason is there to set a fixed price for your book? Someone who makes a good living may be delighted to encourage and support you by paying double what you think the book was worth (yes, they will, you know it from experience!), while someone living on very little may still desperately want to read and experience it (and you may want to share it with them very much).

    The whole discussion around DRM and IP seems to miss a critical fact that when it comes to cultural products (books, music, film), our economy has shifted from the classical steps of 1) make a product 2) set a price 3) sell it.

    Instead many people are now 1) making a product 2) making it available for free or very little 3) soliciting support and donation in support of the work as a show of support.

    If they really need to consolidate their profit, they may go further and offer products for sale along more traditional lines that are simply fancier versions of what is available for free (e.g. box sets, special editions, signed copies, commentaires, illustrations, merchandising). These are things that fans and supporters with means will gladly invest in, but that those who just want the basic works do not need so badly that they will pirate them (or in fact, cannot pirate due to their nature).

    Even further, when they request support, the donations need not be attached to any particular work or product. They simply reflect the fact that people out there really wants to support *you*, to encourage the work that you do.

    This model of economy is very difficult to understand and embrace because it works on a principle of positive faith in people’s willingness to contribute their money to people, activities or causes about which they are passionate, *despite* not being obliged to in any way by traditional market laws.

    If you want to test this out, you could try the following thought experiment: imagine posting on your website or to your mail list a message indicating that you are embarking on a new novel. Ask them whether to donate an amount of their choice to allow you to pursue your creative project (e.g. give them a PayPal ‘Donate’ button or link to a Kickstart site). Realistically, what do you think will happen? There are thousands of people who love and support you, who trust you and simply want to see you do more of what you do, whatever it may be. They will send you the money you need, and in fact you may be surprised that it is much more than you need.

    I do hope you will see a more positive side to this. I have lived all over the planet and have seen that DRM always as more than a nuisance than anything else, because it assumes that everyone stays put and that every country uses the same formats. Copyrights and IP limitations usually just prevent me from enjoying products I have bought (my DVD bought in North America will not play on my Indian-bought DVD player, etc, etc). On the other hand, I contribute hundreds of dollars a year online to webcomic artists musicians, novelists, small NGOs and any others who do stuff I think is great and who are brave enough to simply ask the world to help support them in what they do, not by buying a particular product, but just on principle and on the basis of their past work. Think of it as an royalties advance directly from your public. As a matter of fact, I have bought several of your books not because I thought I would get around to working through them and using them, but just because I loved reading your articles so much (which are free) and wanted to show my thanks.

    Anyway, something to think about.

    Wishing you all the best in making your decision.

  • Bob Cohn May 30, 2012 @ 13:44

    It’s probably never been easy, but I think it’s tougher than ever to be an author – digital revoluiton and all that, and I might add, no end in sight. Revolution is now the status quo.

    Do what’s right, Holly. Protect yourself and help your readers and consign those who don’t do what’s right to whichever circle of whatever comes next they belong in. This dilemma was here before you asked yourslef these questions, and it won’t be resolved by the weekend. You are a person of principle. I think your warning is a step in the right direction. If nothing else it brings the issue into focus for those who care to focus. Thank you for taking this stand and for your efoorts on behalf of all of us; you have struck a blow for what is right.

  • wednesday May 30, 2012 @ 13:44

    Hmm…for a more experienced opinion regarding the realities of DRM and a very successful ebook writer, you might go over to JA Konrath’s blog at
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com
    and do a simple search on the blog (there’s a window) for DRM. He’s always seemed to make a lot of sense on DRM, and a lot of other ebook subjects as well. (Konrath’s bottom line: he thinks DRM is futile, and not using it hasn’t hurt his sales–and he has a LOT of sales.)

    My personal philosophy is this: anyone can go online or into any used bookstore, or into any second-hand store, and buy a used book. The authors of those a books have never received any royalties from these sales. So are those books “stolen” from the authors?

    I figure if my writing is good enough, someone will want to support me to continue writing. Yes, they may get their book(s) for free. On the other hand, if I list my book with Kindle Select, I am offered the opportunity to promote my titles free every so often per their contract, to help promote the work). It’s my job to make a reader love my characters and stories so much that they will want to pay a few dollars for them.

    There are writers and musicians out there whose CDs and books I will buy without reviewing what’s on or in them first. They’ve gotten my business no matter what they do, because they’ve proven themselves that good.

    Also, in the end, I can only control my own actions: I can’t control anyone else’s, not even through DRM. I have so much more to worry about than whether someone is going to read my books for free. I worry more about whether they’ll want to read my books at all.

    I’d rather immerse in the fantasy world I’m writing and focus on the characters I love, than worry if some reader, somewhere, at some time, is going to rip me off.

    I think of my readers as friends. I don’t think friends steal from friends. The rest of ’em…if I write well enough, maybe they’ll become my friends. If not, hey, at least they’re reading my stuff. 🙂

    • Violet May 30, 2012 @ 15:10

      The way I see it is that no matter how many times a print copy of a book is resold, it’s still only one copy.

      Whereas a digital copy can be passed on to many people before the original buyer has even read it themselves.

  • Rita May 30, 2012 @ 13:43

    Not to stir the hornet’s nest, but after reading your post, Holly, a question came to mind.

    How is this:
    “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.”

    different from this:

    “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… […]…please be aware that you are in possession of stolen goods.”

    Clearly, from the first statement you don’t take issue with the concept of loaning out books, just with the treatment of said works. Is loaning out copies of an electronic work any different that loaning out a physical copy? Do you feel that I should be required to purchase two copies of an electronic book if I feel that both my partner and I would like it? Would the same apply if I was talking about a printed, physical work?

    I think, when it comes down to it, I’m asking for some clarification. Where, in your mind does loaning end and stealing begin?

    And on a side note for my own curiosity as an aspiring author, do you receive monetary reimbursement for the lost sales caused by libraries? My father receives those royalties, but things may be vastly different for non-fiction writers than they are for those who write fiction.

    • Violet May 30, 2012 @ 15:08

      The thing is that when you loan a physical copy of a book, you’re literally handing over that copy. You can’t hand over your electronic copy of the book. You would be making a copy instead, which is not your right.

    • PD Singer May 30, 2012 @ 15:23

      Rita, I”m going to jump in here to point out something missing from your suggestion. The term “buying an ebook” is deceptive, because that’s familiar shorthand for what you are actually doing, which is purchasing a very restricted license to view that ebook. Offering it to other readers except under certain limitations, like the Kindle lending program, is a violation of that license. You can’t lend it because it isn’t yours to lend, you have only purchased rights to use it. This distinction gets lost because we conflate the use of data with the physical object of a paperback. It’s actually a lot more like purchasing software than a paper book. No one misses this distinction when buying Microsoft Word,say, because there is no corresponding physical object. People may still rip off a copy, but they understand exactly what they’re doing.

      • Rita May 30, 2012 @ 16:00

        I have to say, I was honestly surprised by this. I have a Sony E-Reader and that unit allows me to copy other people’s books. I cannot then take those copies and put them on my own computer and I cannot, in turn, loan the book out to anyone else, but the Sony system works more like a public library than like a licensing system. I have also spoken with people who have the Kobo and the Kindle (as sold by Amazon.ca) and their units work in the same way. I hadn’t realized that Amazon.com was running things so very differently.

        Thank you for the clarification of the licensing issues.

  • Maestro May 30, 2012 @ 13:40

    Dear Holly,
    First, I would like to thank you for diving into the apparent frigid waters of the DRM issue, and not only staying afloat, but perfecting your forward and backstroke in the process. You have provided me with a remarkable amount of information through these posts. And have given me quite a bit to digest as I move into my first self-published ebook of my first self-published printed book.
    I read some of the comments of your previous post and was in the process of pinging some of my inner circle in order to give you an honest reply and more than just my one opinion…thinking it would be helpful to you. As the responses have come through today, most folks on my radar, and myself included, like the flexibility of being able to read an ebook on more than one platform…a reader, their desktop and/or laptop computer or a pad.
    These same folks [again, myself included] are professionals who are plugged into their devices throughout the course of the day. So when it comes to reading for relaxation or a job-related situation, it is a no-brainer to stay on course. We have no problem paying a software company an extended license to be able to use a preferred software across multiple platforms. That being said, we sure find it handy if we can pay one flat fee [even if it is a little more expensive] and not have to remember how many devices we can use it on.
    As many of us move into the “cloud”, if not in this nano-second, but in the future, we will have one location for all our data to live…professional and personal, including purchased software and documents. When we arrive at that destination, perhaps DRM will have also evolved to a higher and more sophisticated level.
    I have been plugged into techie world for more years than I will disclose here. I have seen it change, and most times for the better. However during the times of flux, as I believe we are in now, it can be a bitter pill.
    I think your opinions on the DRM issue are sound. You have done your research, solicited other opinions in an open forum, and are swimming with your tide. Whatever your final decision is, I would recommend [as I have no doubt you will do] to keep tabs on the issue with each e-publication you do.
    One thing I have learned when it comes to keeping up with the latest and greatest techie matters…what is true today may be the wrong answer tomorrow.
    Just one more voice which I sincerely hope you will find helpful.

  • Tom Benedict May 30, 2012 @ 13:40

    I think the warning you wrote is fine. Run with it. It’s not substantially different from the warning you find in many paperback books: “If you bought this book without a cover…” Copying and distributing a copyrighted text file is no different from dumspter-diving behind a bookstore to pull out the books that were stripped: the author loses either way.

    I’m a photographer, and yeah, my work has been stolen, too. But for now the only alternative I have is to hoard it and never let it see light of day. That’s an awful way to work, and certainly doesn’t get me any exposure. So for now I grit my teeth and hang my work out in the wind. It’s not ideal, but it’s where we are.

    I would like to think that we as a global culture will eventually sort out this DRM issue in a way that actually works. For now the idea is still in its infancy. Rather than let the debate depress you, know that it’s open debates of this sort that will eventually lead to a better solution.

    • Deirdre May 30, 2012 @ 18:11

      Actually the warning she wrote here is significantly different–it’s much longer it is also nastier in tone.

      I have read books without covers–and the ones I liked enough to finish led to me buying that writer’s books for years into the future.

      I agree with other commenters here that the real problem is that the system is broken, but it won’t be fixed with nasty words. It will be fixed, I think, by convincing the reader: “If you want good books, the writer must be paid a living wage.”

      I think in the long run we’ll get better results if we choose not to say “Hey–you–you’re a disgusting thief!” and instead say something like, “No matter how you found my book, welcome. I hope you enjoy it. If you want me to stay in this business, here’s how to find my work. [insert link] If you haven’t paid yet, you can pay me there. And if you paid me up front, thank you. I appreciate the business.”

      Sure, some people are rotten through and through–but I’ve found that if you make it clear you trust and respect people, most of them try to be worthy of that trust and respect.

      Besides, the rotten ones won’t pay attention to the nastiest warning anyway.

  • Harald May 30, 2012 @ 13:38

    We live in a world where vast quantities of entertainment content has been free for multiple generations (well, television and music, anyway) – is it any wonder some people feel entitled? But here’s the thing. Those people wouldn’t pay anyway. They’d borrow copies from friends, or the library, or just skip your content altogether. They’re irrelevant.

    Sure, there’s a lot of evidence out there that piracy is Evil and Must Be Stopped. Most of it is sponsored by the giant publishers, who are terrified. Some of that evidence is being debunked.

    And again, here’s the thing. There’s a growing body of evidence that People Will Pay For Stuff They Like. Look at Diane Duane’s ebook store. Look at Kit Murphy’s phenomenal success with kickstarter. Look at Jonathan Coulton. All that we purchasers ask is that you actually make your stuff available for sale, (which is my biggest beef with the movie studios right now ;).

    And, as others have said, don’t _start_ from the premise that we’re all criminals.

  • Danyelle Leafty May 30, 2012 @ 13:37

    Sadly, there are a lot of people out there that feel entitled to get whatever they want for free. I’m trying to make peace with the fact that I can’t control that, and that I’m wasting energy I could spend on creating new stories or just enjoying life.

    There are two reasons why I decided not to use DRM in my e-books. 1) The people I should be concerned about, my readers, don’t like DRM. I have no problem with them purchasing one copy and reading it on multiple devices. 2) When I googled DRM, there are a ton of resources on the Internet that show a person how to break it. I don’t believe that using DRM is a hindrance for those that want something for nothing or to profit from someone else’s work. The only people DRM really stops are those honest readers who refuse to break the law.

    Honestly, I don’t know that there’s a way to convince people *not* to do this. Feelings of entitlement in our society are deeply entrenched right now. In order to change behaviors like this, we’ll have to change the way people think and live. That change is going to take time.

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