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Old 09-21-2006, 07:33 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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The other sides of DRM

We always tend to think of DRM as a technology that annoys consumers. And granted, that's true. But there are two other sides of DRM to remember.

First of all, until something changes drastically, DRM actually enables us to have some e-book content that publishers would be otherwise reluctant to release. It may not be as user-friendly as we wish, and it may feel like we are renting e-novels instead of buying them. But that might just be better than nothing until we have another alternative.

Well, how about one more side of DRM that we don't think about much... DRM for corporate uses. There's a really excellent survey of DRM technology and it's role in corporate settings. He even gives some direction and motivation for those who are trying to get started, and have intellectual property in need of protection.

Here's how he contrasts the purpose of enterprise DRM from consumer DRM. "Most of the standalone DRM market has been devoted, thus far, to consumer-oriented copyrighted material like software, music, and video, where content providers, publishers, and distributors have extremely high interest in ensuring that people that access their information have paid for it.

Add the word 'Enterprise,' and we’re no longer just talking about meticulously scrutinized and thoroughly reviewed, copyrighted, legally approved documents. We’re talking about shared ideas in the course of their development. We’re talking about the records of online brainstorming sessions, review processes, and communications. We’re talking about information vital to the future of your business. Information that in competitors’ hands, whether accessible to them directly or published on a rumor blog, could spell disaster for your newest, most promising product and service initiatives."

You might not agree with everything he says, but it's a great article even if you hate DRM.

Via Shore Communications.
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Old 09-22-2006, 06:16 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
We always tend to think of DRM as a technology that annoys consumers. And granted, that's true. But there are two other sides of DRM to remember.
I'd argue that there's only one side of DRM: the content owner's. DRM gives the owner the power to seize rights that they don't have under law. The consumer has no rights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
First of all, until something changes drastically, DRM actually enables us to have some e-book content that publishers would be otherwise reluctant to release.
This is the same smoke that Hollywood put out when it pushed for the Broadcast Flag. "If we can't lock up the content, we won't put it out."

Companies exist to make money. Content that sits in a vault does not make money (actually loses money as its relevance drops and the cost of the vault). Since media companies make money only by releasing content, locking it up is sort of like GM saying that unless everyone drives the speed limit, they will stop making cars.

In a capitalist economy (that we are SUPPOSED to have) any unsatisfied market is quickly filled by a company looking to make money. Any company that says "we won't release this as an eBook because we can't lock it up" simply creates an unsatisfied market and fails to take advantage of the opportunity to make money.

It's a business model issue, not a technology issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
It may not be as user-friendly as we wish, and it may feel like we are renting e-novels instead of buying them. But that might just be better than nothing until we have another alternative.
You know my stand on this, so I won't go into it yet again.

But we have an alternative - it's called piracy. It's not an alternative that people like, nor is is something that most people want. But it's what happens when market forces are blocked by unnatural means (like stupid laws legislating out-of-date business models).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
Well, how about one more side of DRM that we don't think about much... DRM for corporate uses.
That's because DRM for corporate use really doesn't impact us.

When I create a document for work, the company owns it. No one disputes that.
As a consumer, I really don't have an expectations of being able to access a corporate document (except for the manual that comes with my latest gadget).
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Old 09-22-2006, 10:11 AM   #3
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If DRM was only meant to preserve writers or owner's rights over published material, that would be OK. But it is'nt. It's meant for big web outfits and lawyers to fill their pockets.
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Old 09-22-2006, 10:19 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
If DRM was only meant to preserve writers or owner's rights over published material, that would be OK. But it is'nt. It's meant for big web outfits and lawyers to fill their pockets.
And annoying programs that sit hidden on your PC.
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Old 09-22-2006, 11:37 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Frogsmasha
And annoying programs that sit hidden on your PC.
Did someone buy a CD made by SONY in the recent past?

Well, I learned one thing from that:
Don't use the original CDs. Most "Backups" are less trojan-infested today than the originals.
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Old 10-11-2006, 01:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon
I'd argue that there's only one side of DRM: the content owner's. DRM gives the owner the power to seize rights that they don't have under law. The consumer has no rights.
Actually, the consumer has the ultimate right: The right to refuse to buy. If more consumers refuse to buy e-books, e-music, whatever, because of DRM, the corporations will figure it out. The fact that many consumers just roll over and buy anyway (iTunes, for example), slows up the process of evolving or abolishing DRM for a better business model.

The e-business model desperately needs to change... it cannot continue to operate like brick-and-mortar businesses. DRM is the business' attempt to maintain the status quo, because they don't want to try a new business model and shake things up. They will likely be forced into it by new companies that are willing to experiment, and embrace the new business model... that's usually the way it happens in business. The new guys kick off a business war, and the winner becomes the new King of the Hill.

Unfortunately, we've got to wait until the war happens, and the smoke clears, to see how it all comes out.
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Old 10-11-2006, 01:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
Actually, the consumer has the ultimate right: The right to refuse to buy. If more consumers refuse to buy e-books, e-music, whatever, because of DRM, the corporations will figure it out.
Steve, it's been my personal experience that the "squeaky wheel" usually gets taken off & thrown on the trash heap rather than getting the grease. I fear that what is more likely to happen "If more consumers refuse to buy e-books, e-music, whatever, because of DRM" is that ebooks will die out rather than DRM dying out.
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Old 10-11-2006, 01:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
If more consumers refuse to buy e-books, e-music, whatever, because of DRM, the corporations will figure it out.
... or the corps might decide that there isn't any demand because no one's buying the (hobbled) product they're offering. In which case the process of having ebooks at all is slowed up.

There are a whole range of perfectly logical, perfectly defensible conclusions to draw from the DRM mess, that's exactly why it's such a mess. It's hard to convince anyone that their logical, defensible conclusion is inferior to your own, when all of the conclusions depend on perceived facts we can't conclusively demonstrate. (sigh)

(Note that I'm not saying you're wrong nor even that I disagree with you.)

That's what makes it all so frustrating.

I'm afraid that it can't help but be a long, painful road before we arrive at e-book utopia.
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Old 10-11-2006, 01:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
Actually, the consumer has the ultimate right: The right to refuse to buy. If more consumers refuse to buy e-books, e-music, whatever, because of DRM, the corporations will figure it out. The fact that many consumers just roll over and buy anyway (iTunes, for example), slows up the process of evolving or abolishing DRM for a better business model.
I think this is one of the most insidious features of iTunes, actually. The DRM isn't too onerous - you can easily remove it by burning the tracks to a CD and re-ripping them. (Oops, DMCA violation ;-))

But they're making people accept the idea of DRM - the idea that the tracks are protected and that they can't necessarily do everything they want with the music they've bought. When Apple removes the ability to burn and re-rip music, it will look like a loophole has closed, not like a fundamental right was taken away.

It's the old "frog in the pot" syndrome - we're only warmish right now, but we'll be boiling before we know it.
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Old 10-11-2006, 04:51 PM   #10
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Good points, everyone. But I think you're forgetting that new publishers will come along and create new business models, and if they work, the old publishers will either get on board or give up the market. Today's paper books are the equivalent of horseshoes against the e-book's automobile. We can't depend on the modern version of the blacksmith to do the job... we need to depend on the next Henry Ford.

And by the way, a lot of those blacksmiths ended up working for the car companies...
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Old 10-11-2006, 04:57 PM   #11
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Regarding the points made in previous posts, my take is that in the current book business model, publishers have all the reasons to slow things down with unacceptable high prices and oneorus drm. The margins on digital content are simply not there as opposed to the margins on physical content, but in other industries (music, movies), the product being already digitized, the corresponding industry had to react sooner (music with mp3's and Napster) or later (video when high speed internet being more and more widespread removes the main bottleneck for distribution online, whether legal or not).
For books I expect the same pattern, when widespread digitization (Google, cheap scanners, whatever...) will be available, the industry will react in a more acceptable way.

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Old 10-11-2006, 06:23 PM   #12
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the cost of digitisation isn't really an issue, it'd be something like $2k for your average book. Digitizing the titles you think will sell from a cost perspective wouldn't phase a publisher. The only owrry they would have is that being infinately distributable, overall sales will drop due to piracy ... or ... they will annoy the treeware distribution channel/don't have a viable distribution channel.

On a business model point of view - there is another business model, piracy! you just can't monitize it and there isn't a good model to bring this back to terms that publishers would see as necessary profits... at this point. I'm not sure it'll be an innovative publisher who will find the right model ... it could well be a new entity from left field that finds the model that will snowball.
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Old 10-11-2006, 10:58 PM   #13
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Yup... I can see that happening.
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Old 10-12-2006, 11:14 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdam
the cost of digitisation isn't really an issue, it'd be something like $2k for your average book.
It's really not an issue for anything published recently.

I couldn't say when they started doing it, but all modern books start electronically on word processors, get edited electronically, likewise for layout, and they go to the printer, you guessed it, electronically.

All that's really needed is to convert that electronic file to the file type/format needed for the reading software, and that's an automated process once the script or macro or whatever is created and dialed in.
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Old 10-15-2006, 12:58 PM   #15
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So, knowing that creating and distributing e-books is not an issue, we're basically waiting for the right combination of e-book selling model, and the right level of content popularity--say, if an up-and-coming e-book writer suddenly makes it big (IwishIwishIwishIwish...) or if an established writer leaves their print publisher for an e-book publisher--to get the ball rolling. If the content accommodates a popular and marketable reader, so much the better.
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