The Big Craptastic Deal about DRM

The Big Craptastic Deal about DRM
by Julie Butcher-Fedynich

DTM, author DRM

First, for those of you who have ignored the internet for the last several months, a brief explanation: DRM is the acronym for Digital Rights Management. They are a set of technologies employed by manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders, and are used to control viewing, use, and sharing after the point of sale. When you have already paid for a product, these measures keep you from being able to say, make a digital copy of a movie that you own to watch on your tablet or iPad.

DRM is the reason you can’t read your Kindle e-book without downloading an app from Amazon. There is software all over the internet that allows you to remove DRM but it is actually illegal to employ this method in order to use the movie, e-book, or game on another device—even when you own said material.

I’m not saying that DRM is bad, but it’s useless when dealing with pirates. If someone wants to steal your copyrighted material, then they will. DRM only controls the people who actually buy the product. The honest guys –you and me. The stealing type people can hack the codes because it isn’t even hard anymore.

Personally, I would like all of the e-books in my library on one device. If that device is a total POS,(Piece of sh*t) I want to buy another tablet or reader and I want to take my books with me. Right now, I trot back and forth between apps on my tablet and it is a royal pain in the posterior.

Yes, I am computer literate enough to find another app that removes the DRM from what I have purchased. But do I do this? No, a huge big fat whopping no. You know why? Because I don’t want to be in the grey area when someone decides that removing the DRM for personal use breaks the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I haven’t won the Powerball Jackpot. Heck, I didn’t even escape Chicken Pox as a child. I’m not that lucky. They would come for me.

I am convinced that if I remove the DRM and thereby break the DCMA, Storm troopers will come through the doors and down the chimney with the FBI and CIA close behind. The next thing you know, I’d be labeled a terrorist and my life would be FUBAR. They’d cart me off and water board me until I told them how many My Little Pony episodes were on my tablet.

No. Thank you very much.

That said, Readers need to become as vocal as Gamers. When Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would require a daily check-in to the server (DRM used to search for illegal games) and that it would no longer allow the game that you had purchased to be used on another Xbox. (You can’t go to a friend’s house and play.) The gaming community erupted. No, they exploded with a wrath more suitable to Noah’s flood, or a coming apocalypse than to the use of a gaming console.

And their detonation of the internet worked for them—in a way. Microsoft backed down from their everyday check-ins. They said that now there won’t be no-sharing, and you can play with a friend or lend them your game.

But, what they didn’t say was if they were changing the Terms of Use.

When you purchase the new gaming console, you will immediately download a patch that will disable the offending features. The DRM will still be on the machines and unless the Terms of Use change drastically, they can implement the features again whether you want it or not.

The main problem I have with DRM is that it is too George Orwell and 1984. The Big Brother effect is kicking in, and even though I am a traditional, play-by-the-rules sort of person, the more they push, the more I want to shove back.

Back in 2009, when Mr. Orwell’s books, Animal Farm, and 1984 (How weird was that?) disappeared from thousands of Kindle devices, the creep factor set in. Amazon explained that the books were added to the kindle store by a company who did not hold the rights, and that since these were illegal copies, they had been deleted. This was the right thing to do but, it still sent chills up my spine because they just made it go away. Poof, right down Big Brother’s incineration chute of a memory hole—a sneaky DRM attack in the night. Because of this, I still do not own a Kindle.

Walmart can’t come into my house and take back the Avenger bed set I bought—even if the company who sold it didn’t have Use Rights for the artwork. They don’t send the DRM police to steal an item that I have legally purchased. Unfortunately, anything you have digitally acquired that has a DRM can be taken from you at any time.

To give credit where credit is due, a year ago, Tor Publishing listened to the consumers, and to the authors, and removed DRM from all of their titles. A year later, they report no increase in pirating of their books. This one was a no-brainer. Geeks read Tor books. Geeks can also remove DRM if they want to. But, generally speaking, us Geeks are a law abiding bunch of honest citizens.

I refuse to believe that the world is full of thieves and that DRM is necessary for our electronic entertainment. The .oo1 percent of miscreants that are foiled by DRM (the rest of the evil-doers can remove it) are not worth the time, money, and consumer discontent caused by cramming these programs down our collective throats.

DRM puts the crap in craptastic.

by Julie Butcher-Fedynich


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Julie Butcher Fedynich
Buzzy Mag Columnist & Pundit. Julie Butcher lives with her husband and six children on the fringes of Utter Chaos. She is the sister of #1 USA Today and NYT bestselling author, Jim Butcher. She adores puppies, kittens, and thinks world peace would be awesome as long as stuff still blows up in the movies.
  • Edith Copinus

    Oh dear. How I wish it were true and that the world was not filled with people who would steal books, artwork and music. DRM came about because of massive theft and loss of income to artists and those who work with those artists. For some reason people who would never steal so much as an ashtray from a restaurant or your living room feel entitled to take anything that appears in an e-format without so much as a twinge of guilt. They do not consider that the author may have worked on that novel for a year and that it may be the culmination of a lifetime of experience. Nope. Apparently the lack of fear of punishment is what does the trick. Is DRM perfect or even a good solution? No. By the way, those copies that were pulled form Kindles, did Amazon give the customers the money back? They should have done so. If you purchase stolen merchandise from a retailer they should refund your money. Even if they sold it not knowing they were in the wrong. People get into trouble for selling knock off designer goods all the time but it still goes on. Is that a good thing? Bottom line is while I appreciate your feelings about the general goodness of geeks, I wouldn’t bet my 401K on it.

    • Julie Butcher

      They did get the money back. I think it was the sneak attack that upset the people.
      I do think that criminal types will steal anyway. Tor’s report confirms that pirating didn’t rise without the DRM.

    • Brindle Chase

      I’m with you Edith. E-pirating is so prevalent, its an epidemic. If it is made harder, the general law-abiding citizens will purchase rather than steal. But its easy, so the majority steal. I don’t care what anyone says, most people I know are of the opinion if its on the internet, and free, its fair game. And so they download, thinking they are perfectly inside the law, and they are not. That’s the problem, they think its legal.
      Publishers like Tor are aware of “obvious” pirate sites, but I guarantee that many more copies are being exchanged through other venues such as facebook, myspace, twitter and good old email and is 100 fold the pirate sites.
      However, what I will say is, readers compared to music listeners, or movie downloaders, are more honest. The Kindle and the Nook have made that happen. If books were unprotected PDF formats that didn’t require a login account to view on your tablet… book piracy would sky rocket. The new wave of tablets coming out will increase book piracy, just like the Mp3 player magnified music piracy dramatically. IMHO.
      I have DRM on some of my books and not on others and Julie is right. Hackers will get them no matter what you do. But my unprotected books have been pilfered on a scale of over 100:1 versus my DRM protected books. Because its easy to copy my unprotected books, more take them. More post them as free for downloading, because they got it for free, surely they have the right to give it to others for free… right?
      Now, that said, I spend exactly zero percent of my time chasing pirates. I know they steal my books, but as a techy and a nerd, I know there is no way to stop them. The answer isnt DRM, but it helps in the meantime. The true solution is to make the punishment way not worth the violation and then start enforcing it enough that fear of being caught outweighs jacking the latest Nora Roberts book. Imagine if web hosting companies actually reported piracy conducted through their services, rather than hide behind legislature that says they are not responsible and therefore may turn a blind eye and even worse, posts advertising and profits off the pirate sites that harness massive traffic for the stolen goods. Make that illegal and piracy will find themselves back in the underground where they belong.
      Piracy in this day and age has become a social issue. Society has desensitized to it where many if not the majority don’t even recognize it. Most can’t tell what is and what is not piracy, especially the younger generations. They grew up in a world where that brand new book is available for free on some obscure website in Russia. Why buy that new hit song, when you can go to a teen social forums and ask for it. Someone will email it to you within minutes. Until society sees it as wrong, it will only get worse.
      For now, I don’t mind making it harder to copy my books and if a few or even a lot of honest people are offended by me protecting my books, where they won’t, I’m okay with that. I would never be offended by someone protecting their anything… home, children, family, their pets, their property and belongings or even the books they wrote. I have no issue purchasing something that is protected either. I do my best to honor copyrights the same as I view trespassing laws. I won’t copy your book to something I am not allowed no sooner than I would walk into your home uninvited.
      On the other hand, I have no issue with authors who don’t want to use DRM. Its a choice and I respect their copyright with or without the DRM protection, so to me, it matters not.
      Anywho… that’s my two cents.

  • Tammy J Rizzo

    As a writer, I’m opposed to DRM. I won’t buy an item if it’s been slapped with DRM. I won’t give my money to a company that imposes DRM. I do not appreciate being considered a thief by virtue of wanting to buy a digital item, and DRM presupposes that all such buyers are thieves who are going to do nefarious things with the item if not stopped. That is insulting your customer base, and that is really, really bad business.

    When I publish, if someone pirates my book, well … pirates don’t go for trash, only for treasure. If they’re pirating it, it must be good! And most readers, by a HUGE margin, pay for their goods.

  • ~B

    “I’m not saying that DRM is bad, but it’s useless when dealing with pirates. If someone wants to steal your copyrighted material, then they will. DRM only controls the people who actually buy the product. The honest guys –you and me. The stealing type people can hack the codes because it isn’t even hard anymore.”

    Agree 100%

    “There is software all over the internet that allows you to remove DRM but it is actually illegal to employ this method in order to use the movie, e-book, or game on another device—even when you own said material.”

    It’s illegal in some places and legal in others.

    “DRM is the reason you can’t read your Kindle e-book without downloading an app from Amazon.”

    Only true for DRM’d books of course. There are many thousands of books where the author/publisher offers them through Amazon without DRM that can be read with other software or converted to other formats.

  • madisonwoods

    I wish Random House would get rid of DRM too. I listen to most of my ebooks on Kindle’s read out loud feature. Only the old ones have it, I believe, but I can’t listen to the ones I buy that are published by Random House, which means I can’t feasibly use the books I bought since I don’t have time to sit still and read. I listen while I’m driving to work. I suspect they think it’s a competition to Audible, which is ridiculous because I use Audible books too and the quality difference between a robot voice (Kindle) and human-narrator (Audible) is reason enough to choose one over the other, but what difference does it make to them if I listen or read if I’m paying for the item anyway? I could just as easily…well maybe not so *easily* get someone to ride in my passenger seat and read it out loud to me from the KIndle. Grrrr. It’s a sore spot.