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Old 07-14-2009, 06:47 PM   #1
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Pan Macmillan: DRM Is Not Evil

From the blog of Pan Macmillan's digital team, an interesting take on DRM:

http://thedigitalist.net/?p=624

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At Pan Macmillan we are no great fans of DRM. For a while now we have been selling a limited range of titles DRM free from our website; these are titles where the authors have requested that we retail sans DRM. Many writers are in favour of this, and so we see as it as an important service. Recently we have added the novels of David Hewson to the non DRM stable and they can be found on the website.

Lets face it. DRM can be a nightmare - confusing, fiddly, prohibitively sensitive to basic uses of media. A couple of weeks ago I was setting up a friends Sony Reader and forgot quite how dis-orientating an experience setting up an Adobe ID can be. Ok, so most of us used to the web will not struggle. But what about all those other readers who get by without Twitter and Adobe IDs? No doubt, DRM isn’t perfect and makes life difficult for people legitimately using files they have paid good money for. Worse, it can lead to those files becoming unusable (a situation which is inexcusable).

However the anti-DRM lobby, as vocal as it is appealing, makes DRM sound like some cultural apocalypse. Culture, the argument goes, thrives on being shared and the modern mass media is a recent aberration that cuts against the grain of creativity and the natural flow of cultural production. Advocates like Cory Doctorow and Larry Lessig make a case that is compelling, persuasive and important. Yet in the hands of many acolytes this is converted to a simple outright denunciation of any DRM and the assumption that the presence of DRM provides a moral carte blanche for piracy. Google might not be evil, but DRM sure is.

The whole DRM debate is hardly a new one but it’s time someone in publishing said something positive for DRM. Yes, it often sucks, but it’s not evil. Why?
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:00 PM   #2
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this guy makes some interesting points, but at heart he seems still to be clinging to the same old flawed premise, that drm is the only way to prevent people copying massively. arg !! drm-free != automatic copyright infringement. and moreover, drm != protection from copying ! on the contrary ! sheesh !

thanks for posting the link, it's interesting to see what publishers are thinking, particularly those who actually are going the drm-free route (at least partially).

the comments are very interesting so far.
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:24 PM   #3
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Firstly because paper is a form of DRM. If you buy a book you can lend it out to a few of your friends. Can you send it to all of them? No.
Very bad analogy. The photocopier has been around a long time.
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:24 PM   #4
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I've been using the internet for 15 years - the first two or three without a web browser at all, and before that I used and ran BBS's. If people want to copy something, they'll find a way, and DRM will only serve to stop legitimate customers from using the product sold to them legitimately.

Amazon is the only company that seems to have gotten things (almost) right in regards to drm'd ebooks, but they've also managed to dissuade people already invested in ebooks by being exclusive instead of inclusive to what's already out on the market and has already been sold to consumers.
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:53 PM   #5
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Firstly because paper is a form of DRM.
I'm assuming he means that paper is digital in that it's manipulated with our fingers?
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:54 PM   #6
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I'm assuming he means that paper is digital in that it's manipulated with our fingers?
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:58 PM   #7
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Very bad analogy. The photocopier has been around a long time.
And yet how many people do you know who would sit there and photocopy entire books to pass around to their friends? I'm sure it occasionally happened, but it was far from the norm.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:05 PM   #8
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And yet how many people do you know who would sit there and photocopy entire books to pass around to their friends? I'm sure it occasionally happened, but it was far from the norm.
Had a reading assignment in middle school where the book was either too expensive or out of print, so the teacher photocopied off 29 copies. This was in a rather affluent community too.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:10 PM   #9
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And yet how many people do you know who would sit there and photocopy entire books to pass around to their friends? I'm sure it occasionally happened, but it was far from the norm.
Students did it all the time at least at University level. Now I think they just scan the book (if it is very expensive) and distribute the pdf.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:14 PM   #10
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There is a whole culture of people who digitize books now, either via scanner or via digital photo. It's become quite sophisticated, with groups of people splitting a book up. I am willing to wager just about any book with any readership at all is available somewhere on the darknet in ebook format. So using DRM or not publishing a book as an ebook doesn't effect piracy in the slightest.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:35 PM   #11
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DRM is the red rag to the bull. You put DRM on your media product it will attract hackers, not out of any desire for your product, but the desire to circumnvent your locks. It's at that level where DRM is most flawed. The one thing its supposed to do; protect the product from reproduction, it can never do. Hence it is as useless as pair of spectacles made from chocolate.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:50 PM   #12
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Hence it is as useless as pair of spectacles made from chocolate.
There are spectacles made from chocolate? Where do I buy them?
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Abecedary View Post
And yet how many people do you know who would sit there and photocopy entire books to pass around to their friends? I'm sure it occasionally happened, but it was far from the norm.
It was pretty norm for textbooks in the early 80s. And game manuals.

Really really norm.
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Old 07-15-2009, 01:58 AM   #14
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I agree with this basic premise: DRM is not evil.

Some implementations of DRM are evil. Making DRM so that you can only read it on a certain device is evil. Making DRM so that you don't want to distribute it, isn't.

While I agree with Moejoe, an encrypted file will always attract hacker, you can make it harder for the non-hacker to distribute a file, especially if you encrypt it with personal data. As long as you can read it on any reader you want, most people won't complain.
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Old 07-15-2009, 03:06 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Abecedary View Post
And yet how many people do you know who would sit there and photocopy entire books to pass around to their friends? I'm sure it occasionally happened, but it was far from the norm.
I know in Peru buying cheaply bound photocopies of books was the cheaper way to get school textbooks, and I hear making your own copies is a widespread practice in South American colleges. Also, don't people who ORC books so that they may be digitally distributed perform a similar physical labor? Or people who sold pirated editions of books before the internet; did they not also photocopy the entire book?
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