While Tor drops DRM, the industry still fights against those who would steal.

Last week, the world’s biggest science fiction publisher – Tor – announced that they were going to be dropping DRM from their entire list of books published. This is big news because ever since eBooks made an appearance on the market, most notably on the Kindle Store, Digital Rights Management has been part of the process.

Digital Rights Management – DRM – is how publishers ensure that the book you buy from them is only readable on the eReader it is bought for. The Kindle and Nook platforms are the biggest users of DRM since Amazon and Barnes and Noble can tie a particular copy of a book directly to a specific eReader.

The idea behind DRM was to ensure that eBooks bought were not easily reproducible on other platforms for sale and was a stringent measure against piracy. The problem with DRM is that it is easily removable with the right know-how and tools. The most dedicated of pirates found no stumbling block in DRM.

According to the Guardian Books article, one science fiction author John Scalzi, made one of the most profoundly intelligent comments regarding the practice of DRM that I have heard in a long time: “DRM hasn’t stopped my books from being out there on the dark side of the internet … Meanwhile, the people who do spend money to support me and my writing have been penalised for playing by the rules.

Copyright infringement is no laughing matter, however. Free-eBooks.net has its own battle with would-be pirates and we fight an ongoing battle with those who would steal from our dedicated and loyal authors. As is seen with DRM, even the most stringent of preventative measures is of little help against the insistent pirate.

I admit, it feels a little like knowing that a burglar is going to break into your house and take your 40″ HDTV whether you have burglar bars, security systems, and electric fences in place. It’s demoralizing, but we are not giving up.

What’s your opinion on piracy and DRM-free books? Do you think there is anyway to keep the miscreants from stealing what is not theirs?

 

  • LM

    I’d like to think that most people are decent and honor bound and pay for the products they enjoy, that’s the reason the entertainment industry is making billions a year, thus, the use of any restrictive software on a product paid for should not be discarded. The “bad” people will continue to find ways to defeat whatever the industry places into its products. I guess, these restrictions only affect the “good” people.The old “tapes” are a good example, people bought them and the industries made plenty of money, however, there were those that made copies for themselves without paying. It is a never ending fight that only affect the people that pays for the products.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sandibird Sandi Fish Bird

    I am the owner of two Kindles. I am happy to pay for the books I read, and do so regularly (darn impulse purchases!). I do think I should be able to view them on whatever platform I choose to use – or even loan them out to my kids or grandchildren like I do with the physical books I’ve purchased. I think that’s the biggest issue. As someone who legally downloads ebooks, mp3s and movies, I feel that I should have the same rights I have when I purchase their non-digital counterparts. Thieves will always find a way around the rules. I shouldn’t be penalized because of that.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Exactly, Sandi. :) Thanks for your feedback.

      I also own a Kindle, and my biggest complaint has always been that I should be able to lend my books out the way I would normally do if I had bought the physical format.

      Amazon does now have a lending feature attached to some of their eBooks, but not all and it is severely restricted to someone who also owns a Kindle and for a very limited time (2 weeks I think).

  • Mjt

    Since (all the evidence shows) you can’t change the world, perhaps the smartest thing to do is change your thinking. Neil Gaiman and Seth Godin are two writers who’ve seen that the biggest obstacle for authors is obscurity rather than piracy. Gaiman found that pirate copies of his work stimulated hard copy sales (in Russian, where the before-piracy and after-piracy effect was measurable).

    If you’re thinking in terms of piracy as ‘stealing a concrete object’ (and thus depriving you of it’s enjoyment) you are obviously trapped in a flawed metaphor.

    Find a price that readers will pay – it may be that your work is only valued at .99 cents, but you may find that a long tail market will giveyou many more readers.

  • Mjt

    Setting the value of an ebook is not straightforward. Sometimes an electronic version is better than a print one – if you want to cut and paste extracts, or if it has hyperlinks to explain footnotes etc. But in many cases it’s an inferior asset because you cannot sell it or lend it, and you know it has a very limited shelf life, in that formats and tablets become obsolete very quickly.

    It’s not easy to compare it to a song download. I buy a song because I want to listen to it multiple times. I borrow a book from the library for free because I only want to read it once.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Mjt, I just wanted to ask you about your point that eBooks have a limited shelf-life – I’m not sure how that would be since I have been carrying books on my Kindle that I bought with my first generation Kindle.

      Or are you making the point that the lesser known eReaders don’t have as much staying power as the big names? In which case, those eReaders don’t use DRM protected books anyway – so those books are transferable to other eReaders.

      • Mjt

        I was actually referring to the lessons of format changes – anyone who has been saving files for 20 years will have stories of data lost because it’s on old floppy discs or hard drives that have perished, or in formats that are no longer actively supported, such as Lotus or SuperCalc or WordPerfect etc.

        In 5 years your Kindle will seem prehistoric in comparison to the latest tablet, so you’ll put it in a cupboard. Then ten years from now you’ll remember a book you had on that old Kindle that you never got round to transferring to new tablet (if that was possible). But when you try to read it the machine won’t power up or the files are corrupted and you will have to buy the book all over again.

        (Which is not a big deal if it’s 0.50c, but is if it’s $35.99)

        But it’s a predictable drawback when compared to a hard copy

  • Csmith1968

    Maybe the best strategy would be to take the wind out the sails of the ‘pirates’. This could be done by making digital products such as ebooks easily available across borders, at a reasonable price and without restrictions in their usage. The existing rules and regulations are too protective, do not prevent piracy from happening and restrict mainly those who do (want to) play by the rules.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      I agree. Being from Jamaica, I know only too well the concept of being prevented access to content solely on the basis of not being within the borders of the United States. Restrictions like that one, when I have the money to spend, are just ridiculous.

  • Piratewatch

    On line booksellers are protected BY LAW from revealing the sources of their merchandise,
    Digital IP has no footprint. The small publisher has no choice but to privatize distribution.if he is not willing to compete with major corporations for income.

    As a publishing House victimized by an infringer, I don’t see how. The law permits booksellers to shield the identity of their suppliers, Unless the law is changed, the small publisher is out of luck.