If you have spent some time cruising the internet today, you probably came across International Day Against DRM. No, this is not a Hallmark holiday. In fact, it is a strong movement which characterizes DRM as taking away freedoms and consumer rights.
Defective by Design is one of the largest voices in the fight against DRM.
“We are a participatory and grassroots campaign exposing DRM-encumbered devices and media for what they really are: Defective by Design. We are working together to eliminate DRM as a threat to innovation in media, the privacy of readers, and freedom for computer users”
Not sure what DRM is? In our digital age, it is a large part of our everyday life. Defective by Design does a good job of describing it:
“Would you ever shop at a book, video, or record store that demanded permission to send employees to your home to take back movies, novels, or CD’s for any reason? Would you buy something that broke when you tried to share it with someone else?
Digital Restrictions Management is technology that controls what you can do with the digital media and devices you own. When a program doesn’t let you share a song, read an ebook on another device, or play a single-player game without an internet connection, you are being restricted by DRM. In other words, DRM creates a damaged good. It prevents you from doing what would normally be possible if it wasn’t there, and this is creating a dangerous situation for freedom, privacy and censorship.”
They blame Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony as major companies which choose DRM in order to make money, not actually stop/prevent mass file sharing. You can read an account of Amazon’s Kindle issues from a readers perspective here. Dana Robinson wrote for DigitalBookWorld.com about the backfire of DRM protecting work from being illegally distributed:
“…the insistence on heavy DRM by publishers has unwittingly given Amazon power over the ebook market that publishers now regret. Customized DRM on Kindle devices creates a closed system that locks readers in to one retailer, which is potentially far more dangerous to the ebook publishing industry than the threat of piracy…”
Then there is the Reader’s Bill of Rights for Digital Books which is a blossoming idea. It is interesting how authors become divided with this as we are both creators and readers. The main points in the bill are:
1. Ability to retain, archive and transfer purchased materials
2. Ability to create a paper copy of the item in its entirety
3. Digital Books should be in an open format (e.g. you could read on a computer, not just a device)
4. Choice of hardware to access books (e.g. in 3 years when your device has broken, you can still read your book on other hardware)
5. Reader information will remain private (what, when and how we read will not be stored, sold or marketed)
Many issues arise with point number two. The paper copy is typically allowed if there is no plan b of keeping a copy- however, points 3 and 4 provide a plan b. From the writer’s point of view, I would say never print my ebook! From a reader’s point of view, I would occasionally want to print sections of a book (think school textbooks for studying).
So, what is better than DRM in regards to ebooks? How, as an author, can you protect your work from swimming around the internet and being illegally downloaded? Digital Watermark. Watermark is a personalized edition of an ebook. This allows the reader to keep the ebook for years to come, just like a hardcover or paperback version. Readers can download the book multiple times as it contains a personal identifier. Narcissus uses watermarking to protect their author’s work. It beneficial for both authors and readers. Please read more here about DRM v. Watermarking.