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Old 09-21-2004, 04:49 PM   #16
ignatz
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Great quote from the Doctorow speech that hits on the Sony discussions we've been having lately:

Quote:
When Sony brought out the VCR, it made a record player that could
play Hollywood's records, even if Hollywood didn't like the idea.
The industries that grew up on the back of the VCR -- movie
rentals, home taping, camcorders, even Bar Mitzvah videographers
-- made billions for Sony and its cohort.

That was good business -- even if Sony lost the Betamax-VHS
format wars, the money on the world-with-VCRs table was enough to
make up for it.

But then Sony acquired a relatively tiny entertainment company
and it started to massively screw up. When MP3 rolled around and
Sony's walkman customers were clamoring for a solid-state MP3
player, Sony let its music business-unit run its show: instead of
making a high-capacity MP3 walkman, Sony shipped its Music Clips,
low-capacity devices that played brain-damaged DRM formats like
Real and OpenMG. They spent good money engineering "features"
into these devices that kept their customers from freely moving
their music back and forth between their devices. Customers
stayed away in droves.

Today, Sony is dead in the water when it comes to walkmen. The
market leaders are poky Singaporean outfits like Creative Labs --
the kind of company that Sony used to crush like a bug, back
before it got borged by its entertainment unit -- and PC
companies like Apple.

That's because Sony shipped a product that there was no market
demand for. No Sony customer woke up one morning and said, "Damn,
I wish Sony would devote some expensive engineering effort in
order that I may do less with my music." Presented with an
alternative, Sony's customers enthusiastically jumped ship.
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Old 09-23-2004, 05:35 AM   #17
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I just posted the news that Sony is going to support MP3 for the first time! Sony, perhaps the strongest DRM-supporter, has given up on its proprietary Atrac format. Isn't that best proof that DRM doesn't work in the long run?

I must agree that when I buy my e-books, I'd like to have the freedom to choose which e-book reader I am going to use on whatever platform.
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Old 09-23-2004, 06:59 AM   #18
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While they're adding support for MP3 starting on their flash memory based players, Sony will still use the ATRAC format for their Connect music download service.

Article at CNET News.com

Quote:
Still, the Sony move is unlikely to bring MP3 files to the recently launched Sony Connect online music download store, which sells songs encoded in Atrac.

"We want to push Atrac on our music download services and remain convinced that it is the best format on the market," the ZDNet France source said. "But it is clear that the industry benchmark is Apple's iPod, which is compatible with MP3."

This person added that Sony had found that users of its flash memory music players are not happy with the company's current system, which forces them to convert MP3 and other file formats into Atrac for use on their Sony devices.
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Old 09-23-2004, 07:38 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morpheus
I just posted the news that Sony is going to support MP3 for the first time! Sony, perhaps the strongest DRM-supporter, has given up on its proprietary Atrac format. Isn't that best proof that DRM doesn't work in the long run?

I must agree that when I buy my e-books, I'd like to have the freedom to choose which e-book reader I am going to use on whatever platform.
Maybe this means they will also reconsider the horrible DRM of their new e-ink reader too... but I'm not holding my breath!

Craig.
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Old 09-26-2004, 02:28 AM   #20
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Personally, I don't touch anything that's DRM-ed.

I do not use anything with DRMing on it, no music with DRM, no video with DRM, nothing like that. I want to be able to do what I want with it when I want to, no corporation locking me into anything. So it's Plucker for my Ebooks, non-DRM-ed M4As (Apple's AAC, ripped from CDs or converted from other formats; used because I'm a Mac user as my main computer) for music, and whatever video format I feel like for movies.
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Old 09-27-2004, 12:29 PM   #21
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A word from the fence-sitter:
DRM became something of a necessary evil when P2P file-sharing started. (The flamers are already cracking their knuckles). Look, a physical book was nice in that you could pass it to your friends, buy/sell at a used book store, or just archive it on a shelf for eternity. However, unless you wanted to spend a bundle at Kinkos, it was always ONE book! That's the key. Only ONE friend could borrow it at a time. Once you sold the ONE book to the store, you no longer had it. The store could only sell ONE book to ONE customer until more came in.

A text file is just a WEE bit different, no?

One person slaps down $6, sticks it on his hard-drive, and now 2 million other people can grab it at once and read it. The author made the world happy and he doesn't have much to show for it. Yes, there will always be people where if they can't get it for free, then they would never have bought it anyway. Point taken, but its certainly not an absolute. Many people would pay for an ebook if it wasn't so friggin easy to just download it.

The holy grail would be if one could somehow prevent the "branching out" of a shared ebook. For instance, if Bob gives Sue the ebook he just read, then Sue would not be able to transfer the ebook to any other device. Bob paid for it, so only Bob has the power to put the eBook onto a device in a readable state (by beaming or Bob's personal password after opening it for the first time).

The PalmReader (errr.....eBook Reader) is probably the closest you can get for a reasonable DRM. I can let any of my friends read the ebook by transferring it, and then typing in my code (no peeking!), and handing back their device. This is akin to iTunes, where anybody can plug in their iPod to my computer and download my purchased songs, but they can't transfer the songs anywhere else from there (auto-sync must be turned off, by the way). You eBooks should be backed up on CD-Rom anyway, so that you can pull up old books. I keep a password-protected filemaker database of my books where I track what VISA card number is attached to each book.

I can assure you with no doubt in my mind that eReader has become popular enough that if it were to die, there WOULD be a way to convert your ebooks. Either they would be transferred to a new service, or someone will have found a crack by then. Every mainstream encryption only needs one ingredient to be cracked: time.

So, if you want to purchase books but don't want to use eReader. Fine. Go ahead and buy .lit books and convert them. The author still gets paid, and I'm not the DRM police. Just please think before sharing them, because the sudden proliferation across the P2P networks does translate into lost money for the author.

Paperbacks don't require the Honor System. eText files do, and this world isn't exactly overflowing with honesty. This is akin to the mark-up we pay in grocery stores to cover the costs of all the shop-lifters. DRM is here because there are so many people who abused the system.
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Old 09-27-2004, 12:38 PM   #22
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I've posted something similar to this before, and was quickly rebuffed with an analogy about MP3s. A quick summary:
"MP3s were shared because Music industry forced us to by an overpriced album in order to get 1 or 2 good songs. Power to the people!"

I agreed, and I was definitely a "node" in the MP3 network. However, Apple finally got us into the 21st century. Most of my "shared" MP3s have been replaced with iTunes purchases. As for those artists and publishers who have shunned Apple and insist on my buying the whole album? Hello, eDonkey. You'll get my money when you get a clue.

Books are DIFFERENT, though. I don't buy a book to get 2 good chapters, and while I wish ebooks were cheaper than paperback, they do provide the same story in a more convenient format, so I'll let that slide. The only purpose I see in the P2P networks for ebooks are the scan-books. I'm out of shelf-space, so I need to replace some of these dead-trees with ebooks, and if you don't offer it commercially in digits, I'll find it.
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Old 09-27-2004, 09:55 PM   #23
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I agree with Alexander's original idea: DRM obstructs our rights. Well, I'm putting words into Alexander's mouth, I'm sorry.
Anyway, that's what I believe. And it's funny, but that made me feel like a renegado, until I read Doctorow's speech. Follow Ignatz' recommendation and read it, you've got nothing to lose: it's brief, it's really interesting and it's so funny... guaranteed.
In that speech I found that my position is not as extreme as I thought. I want my right to do whatever I want with my property -as long as I don't harm anyone- back. Right now I find that DRM-endorsers propangada is so strong that it's not only illegal, but immoral to get the contents (what you paid for) out of its technological/virtual package. I guess that's why DRM discussions divert into piracy discussions.
At this moment, circumvention is illegal and immoral... and EASY! Well, easy at least for the technologically somewhat-savvy (pirates included in the first place in this category). So, in the end, it happens that DRM protects digital contents publishers thoroughly against honest, moral and average users!
But now I'm stealing Doctorow's ideas, aren't we talking about copyrights, here?

So what's left? I think what we can do is to support "less closed" formats (as in Alexander's example), and wait to see how this ebooks business develops. After all, this is a very young business.
I was very worried about the future of ebooks, but Doctorow made me realise they far from disappearing. Just take a look at the Darknet, as he calls it.
Sony, MS, etc., might be very very powerful, but we are soooo many. They can't have the last word.

PS A correction. I said circumvention is illegal. Well, AFAIK, it's illegal only in some countries, like the USA, if any other. Wouldn't it be awkward to see the USA crawling back into stone age just because of megacorp lawyers? Alright, this is an exaggeration, but do you see my point? What will be the implications of this new policy?

Last edited by Francesco; 09-27-2004 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 09-27-2004, 11:59 PM   #24
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Francesco: "I think what we can do is to support "less closed" formats (as in Alexander's example)"

MS .lit format is only less-closed because it was successfully hacked. Until then, it was one of the most closed formats out there (true Microsoft style). Not sure if you want to keep giving them money so that they come up with another, stronger DRM-protection.

Look, I understand that we SHOULD have the right to do whatever we want with our purchase, as long as we are not blatantly "publishing" the content ourselves to the internet masses (is it "right" to make 200 paper copies of a novel and hand it out to everyone at school without a penny to the author?). The problem is that many, MANY people have abused such an Honor system to the point that the publishers ahd to put in some control measures. This is not a new concept. Remember the old games that asked you to put in a code from a certain page of the manual before the game would start? Now we have games that require the CD/DVD to be inserted (even if the whole game is on the hardrive). DVDs have protection in them (that has been hacked, so they are now working on a new format, not surprisingly). Shareware doesn't allow you to distribute keys, and they often have license limitations on how many systems you can install on. iTunes music store only permits you to play purchased songs on alternate MP3 players if you burn than rip the music.

Ever since the digital age made it possible to make EXACT copies, as many as you want, and at no cost, then the whole "owning" concept became twisted as the honor system broke down. You can fight, spit, moan, rampage, and whine all you want, but the fact is there has to be a minimal amount of "control" over how easy it is to redistribute purchased media for the market to stand on its feet. There is a place for P2P, but it went too far and now we are paying for it. The only other way around it, is to mark up the price to compensate for lost sales due to P2P, but that only makes the price unreasonable so that even MORE people will opt to fire up Limewire instead. It's a nasty cycle, and only a little DRM can stop it for now.

If you can code a DRM that is transparent to the original user, allows him to use the data on any of his/her devices, yet prevents that document from being posted and downloaded millions of times by people around the world, than call up the Copyright office, you're going to be a millionaire.

Sorry for the bitter tone, but as a software developer, I see the DRM as being the necessary, yet evil spawn of a greedy publisher mixed with millions of bandwidth-jockeys that lack the honor system. The publishers are not the only ones at fault here.
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Old 09-28-2004, 03:08 AM   #25
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macrotor, I love your example of why you prefer eReader DRM; eReader DRM allows you to share or "lend" (as you normally would do with paperbacks, perfectly legal btw.) your e-books with friends.

BUT.

What if you want to sell your purchased e-books again? I can do this with my paperbooks. I can put them on eBay and with 99% probability someone will buy them.

Or suppose you want to trade your used e-books for other used books? There are various places on the Net where people legally do that (German buchticket.de is one example).

How would either be be possible with DRM-protected e-books? I know that of all DRM protections, eReader is the least obstrusive. Yet, it would require me to give out my Credit Card number to the person who acquires my e-book (unless, like in your example, I could physically install it on their PDA, which is very unlikely when you just want to sell your e-book).

To me, an item's monetary value is the value I would get at any time for selling this item again. So obviously, DRM protection lessens the value of e-books, because it makes it harder - if not impossible - to resell them.

So instead of arguing about whether it is right or not to DRM-protect e-books, I would rather argue that prices for e-books are way too high and should be considerably lower for standard paper books. Not only are their cheaper to produce, but they are also worth less in montary value.

In my eyes, e-book publishers should stop crying about piracy and rethink their pricing model.
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Old 09-28-2004, 09:56 AM   #26
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So instead of arguing about whether it is right or not to DRM-protect e-books, I would rather argue that prices for e-books are way too high and should be considerably lower for standard paper books. Not only are their cheaper to produce, but they are also worth less in montary value.
I have to agree with this. While, intellectually, I understand most of the value of the book is in the writing, we also have to deal with the perception of value with the consumer. If a consumer is going to pay almost the same price for an ebook as a printed book, most will want something they can hold in their hands and feel they own it.

The way to overcome this is to heavily discount ebooks. This was the strategy with the first mass market paperback books, which had a heavy price discount over the hardcover book price. The traditional publishing industry seemed to understand this with paperbacks but I don't think they really understand it with ebooks.

If the price came down a lot fewer people would bother to fileshare books.
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Old 09-28-2004, 12:29 PM   #27
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I have to admit that the publishers are being blatant about wanting to stomp out re-sale of purchases. I can't sell my iTunes songs when I tire of them. Most shareware apps don't permit me to transfer my registration (tied to Hotsync name). I wish I could find the reference, but one compared the contents of a book to being like a chocolate cake. You are mainly purchasing the enjoyment of the food, not the plate it comes on. Once you have "digested" the story, it is unfair to the author to sell it to someone else so that they may enjoy it free of charge.

Tell you what, I'll "buy" that if the price comes down enough. iTunes works that way: I can't sell back my CD, but they are CHEAPER than buying CDs, so that buying used CDs and buying iTunes is about the same for me. As a bonus, some of my money goes to the artist instead of the just the bookstore, and less garbage is produced from creating the physical disk. Cool.

eBooks aren't like that. There is no paper, colorful cover, or anything that had to be physically produced, and it's not like the "store" has to pay for storage space to stock an eBook. Plus, I don't have the ability to recuperate a little of my costs by selling it back when done. Now, if you made it cheap enough that it was equal to the cost of a used book, or at least equal to buying new minus selling back, then I think the price would be about right.

Right now, I see some eBooks that cost MORE than paperback, and yet they have DRM! Granted, sometimes the cost is worth it to me because I have no space to store or carry the book, but it still feels like they are saying, "Please pay more to be restricted." If the markup is to cover lost sales for "sharing" (like markups due to shoplifters in markets), then there shouldn't be DRM.

Hey, there's a crazy idea. Offer DRMed for cheap, or textfile for an increased cost. At least then we'd have the option.

Just trying to find some sort of lesser-evil common ground here. In a perfect world, they'd sell text/html files at a fair price, and all the consumers would behave themselves and only share amongst close friends and family. I really wish it was like that.

But, I agree, the price has GOT to come down for more people to agree to buy instead of download. iTunes is successful due to price. If it cost more to download from iTunes then to purchase a CD, how do you think they would be doing right now? That's right, about as well as their "Business" machines.
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Old 09-28-2004, 05:42 PM   #28
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The price of an ebook should reflect the fact that there are no printing, binding, storage and shipping costs. Also, there should be a further reduction to compensate for the fact that it can't be resold or lent out. Obviously, the majority of copies of printed books are never lent out or resold, but enough of them are to be significant.
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Old 09-29-2004, 02:42 AM   #29
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My personal feeling on why I hate DRM is that it is too obtrusive. Sure, some are pretty loose on who can use it... But still, that's not foolproof. Passwords can be lost, other factors can also mess that sort of thing up, depending on how the Ebook DRM works... For example, buying a new computer or Palm or whatever may cause some types to stop working (excuse me if I'm a little naïve, but as I said, I don't touch DRM). If something stops working because of the DRM, I'd personally get real angry.

Also, I find it as evil as MS's software activation. People crack it, and yet they STILL put it in. It doesn't take too long to crack MS's activation or anything else, yet they still bother. Why, is really my question? Why bother with something that will probably be worked-around in a fairly short order if people are motivated?

Remember when Yahoo, AIM and MSN (all at different times) changed their IM protocols to lock out 3rd party clients? Well every time it took a matter of days for someone to reverse engineer the new protocol and patch the clients. If someone's motivated, they'll crack it.

Music on DRM is just annoying. Most of the big online music stores allow you to burn CDs, which you can just as easily turn around and rip back in a non-DRM'ed format. It just creates a little extra step to dodge the DRM, but the step is so simple, why bother having it at all? And if you can't burn to a CD, then that's just a corporation trying to control you more.

Hmm, seems I got a little far off the DRM in Ebooks...
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Old 09-29-2004, 02:05 PM   #30
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Absolute DRM is usually VERY obtrusive to the user. Casual DRM will at least limit the lazy ones who will find it easier to just purchase the product then to go through the trouble of cracking/pirating it.

Take iTunes for instance: when a person buys a song to put on their iPod, they don't really have any reason to go through the trouble of burning, ripping, then posting the song. In fact, it is easier to just spend the 99 cents and get it straight from iTunes Store than to search, filter, and acquire the song from P2P. While "Fair Play" is not absolute, it is good enough to greatly reduce the ratio of piracy vs sales.

I think Palm eBook Reader is the same way. It is easier for me to just buy the eBook and put it on my Palm or Mac and give to my close family then it is for me to try to find a clean copy on P2P. It is "good enough" to keep me honest while not really limiting my use, but not all people will be persuaded to pay instead of pirate.

This is mostly a free market. The only thing the industry will ever listen to is the bottom line ($). The first "Rocket Reader" saw what happens when you limit the user too much: nobody buys your books. So, PalmSource saw this and is playing a smarter game. However, the only way you are going to open the format any more is if you can show how to do it while maintaining or increasing profits. With a questionable honor system, that will be hard to do.

Hacking the protection is like breaking a person's house window: the person is not going to respond by leaving the doors open in the future. The person will probably just spend more money installing bars, alarm system etc. Will it stop all burglars? Of course not, but it might reduce the frequency of it occurring in the future. The point of this is that buying a format and then cracking it will only mean that format will get stronger encryption in the next version. You must STOP BUYING the format if you dislike it.

Buying lit books and cracking them gives MS the money and drive to make it tougher next round. Granted, knowing Microsoft's reputation for security, we will probably always have a solution for stripping DRM, but it will become exponentially more difficult each time. I think I would rather support the more "reasonable" standard (Palm eBook Reader) or keep my money out of the ebook loop and just buy 2nd hand paperbacks until a company puts out something I want. But, that may be a long wait as I see it.
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