On the internet, you can find a safe place to talk about pretty much anything…religion, politics, sex…Lawrence Welk fandom.
However, I think you’d have a very tough time finding a place to talk positively about DRM (Digital Rights Management).
As a publisher, you have to decide about using DRM or not…so it’s good to understand the implications of using it or not using it.
First, what is DRM?
Digital Rights Management, loosely, is the use of electronic means put into a digital file to control its use.
That could be a password, it could be copy protection, it could be something that blocks text-to-speech access…there are a lot of possibilities.
While it is hypothetically there to protect copyright, I have a problem with it when it is used to prevent non-infringing uses. I’ve jokingly suggested that it should actually be called “Digital Use Management”…but I don’t think publishers would like the acronym.
For example, a publisher could hypothetically insert code that prevents a book from being read in landscape mode…or when you are holding the reader upside down. Those aren’t infringing uses (violating the rights granted under copyright), but if the publisher did do that, you’d be stuck with it.
Now, there are people who could tell you how to strip the DRM, but that in and of itself can be illegal.
I have, however, argued in favor of DRM (when it’s really for rights and not just use).
Why is that?
When you are looking at unintentional infringement (when someone isn’t deliberately stealing your material, but just doesn’t understand that what they are doing is wrong), there are two strategies.
The non-DRM strategy is prosecution. After somebody takes your short story and posts it on a website where it is download by a hundred people, you seek a legal remedy. If you’ve registered the copyright, you could be going after criminal charges…if not, you could still go after them.
That’ s messy for everybody. You have to pay to file and conduct the case, and if it’s somebody who seems innocent to many people, you look like the bad guy.
The person who posted it has to pay to defend, or has to pony up your royalties…or both.
The DRM strategy is to prevent the accidental infringement.
Let’s say somebody buys a Kindle book on Amazon.
They like the book, make a copy of the file they downloaded, and send it to a friend.
The friend tries to open it on their Kindle, and gets a message that it can’t be opened.
At that point, most people just say, “Oh, well.” It stops right there.
No prosecution, no expenses, no bad public relations.
Which one seems like it works better?
Now, I see people say that DRM is not going to stop a pirate.
That’s right, it’s not…pirates will figure out how to get around DRM.
Of course, pirates can be prosecuted…and since they are deliberately violating your rights, you don’t have that same PR thing.
I remember asking my kid, “Why do we lock the car when we park?” The answer given was, “So somebody can’t steal it.” Well, that’s not true…somebody can still steal it. It’s just harder. When you lock your car, it’s really so the thief will steal someone else’s car. They try yours: locked. They rapidly look around the parking lot for an unlocked car, and if there is that one, they take it.
Most infringement without DRM, though, is going to be unintentional, I think.
The argument in favor of releasing your books without DRM?
They are more valuable to the customer. Your customer can convert the book into an appropriate format for whatever EBR (E-Book Reader) they have. Nothing stops them from printing out your e-book, if they want (many e-books limit copying ((which you may have to do to print)) to five or ten percent). There are people who say they won’t buy e-books which have DRM.
It also suggests to your customers that you trust them…and that can help bond them to you.
What do you think, WG2Ers? Do you DRM a little dream? Or do you leave your car unlocked?
Recent posts in the I Love My Kindle blog which may be of particular interest to WG2E readers:
- High fly the 1-click, oh!
- Ewan Morrison: “…epublishing is another tech bubble”
- Snapshot: August 1 2012
- 1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?
- Round up #97: Amazon Yesterday, “romanticized” classics
The image in this post is from Samantha at the World’s Fair, by Marietta Holley and illustrated by Baron C. De Grimm. It was originally published in 1893.
Bufo Calvin is the author of the popular I Love My Kindle blog and six titles in the Kindle store, including the #1 bestseller Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet. Bufo is proud to be a part of the WG2E family.