Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Digital Rights Management: Why are we still having this conversation?

via http://drm.info/

   Earlier this week, a discussion popped up in a Goodreads group, of which I'm a member, about DRM, piracy, and all that jazz. I shook my head, commented my two cents, then promptly unfollowed the thread. We've been having this conversation for the better part of a decade now. To DRM or not to DRM? Honestly..? I'm damn tired of this question.

   Most consumers are well aware of DRM and what it's "supposed to do," but for those who don't, let's take a look.

So what is DRM?

According to TechTarget:
Digital rights management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they've purchased.
Sounds all well and good, but there's a problem here. It doesn't work. Frankly, it's like communism, it looks good on paper, it looks good in theory, but in practice, it completely fails at its supposed purpose. Well, to be fair, DRM does succeed at part of its purpose: "to restrict the way consumers can copy content they've purchased." Basically, it completely restricts consumers from copying LEGALLY PURCHASED content completely. Bought a book on Amazon? Sucks to be you if you have a Kobo e-reader. Bought a e-pub from an underappreciated and underrepresented indie author on Smashwords? Too bad, you can't read that one on your Kindle. Sure there's a Kindle app for PC, Apple devices, and Android, but that app takes up precious space that you could be using for books instead.

I'll also point out that DRM is used on more than just e-books. It's used on digital music you've purchased, video games (especially those for PC), software, you name it. If it's digital and they can slap some DRM into the coding, they do.

Why should I care?

Let's put this into perspective. We're going Old School for just a minute. Say you walk into a bookstore, you find a book, it looks interesting, so you buy it. If that bookstore was Barnes & Noble, it likely had a Starbucks, so you decide to pick up a Pumpkin Spice Latte and read a few pages of that new book. Everything's good, do a happy dance. You leave, go home and decide to read some more while laying in bed. Everything's still good. The next morning, you have to hop on a plane for a flight from LAX to CTI, you pull out your book, and the flight attendant jerks it out of your hand and says "Sorry, we don't allow books purchased at Barnes & Noble to be read on this flight." WTF?! You're going to raise hell right? You're going to have it out with Delta, do everything in your power to ensure that attendant never flies again, and you're going to read your book anyway!

This is essentially the exact same situation that DRM is putting you in. It tells you what you can read and where you can read it. It allows companies like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers to decide on a whim that they no longer want to allow an author or even a publisher to be able to provide their books to consumers by way of their site. It allows them to remotely remove content that you've bought and paid for from your account, your devices, everything, and there's nothing you can do about it. At least, not if you don't protect your content from the DRM police.

Would you allow a Barnes & Noble clerk to walk into your home and take back a book you purchased legally? Absolutely not! So why do digital retailers think that they have the right to do the exact same thing? You'd sue that clerk for everything they had, you'd press charges for Breaking & Entering, Tresspassing, and Theft! So why do we allow digital retailers to do this? If you've purchased content--not the ability to stream the content--but the actual content itself, it is YOURS to do with as you please. Just like you can choose to give away a physical book, you should have the freedom to give away a digital book if you choose. Just like a physical book, if the seller chooses to stop selling the book, they can't take it away from you, neither should a digital retailer have that right. You are free to read a physical book however, whenever you choose, be that in a car, in your bed, on a plane or a train, you can even read it while taking a swim (though soggy books are a bit hard to read!). The point is that it your choice what you do with your property, it's not the decision of the retailer from which it was purchased!

Well, I'm done with my rant. If you'd like to know what your options are in combating DRM and protecting your rights as a consumer, check out https://www.defectivebydesign.org/ or stop back by here later and I will take a look at some of the options.

What do you think? Is DRM helpful or a hinderance?

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