Petition for a DRM-free Kindle

Holmes sez, "After Jeff Bezos's public apology for the remote deletion of books, Amazon still has total control over peoples' virtual libraries-- a kind of control that has no place in a free society. The Free Software Foundation is calling them out, joining with readers, academics, librarians and authors (including Lawrence Lessig, Clay Shirky and BB's own Cory Doctorow) in a petition against Amazon's ebook DRM. The petition opens: 'We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon's are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon's use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear threat to the free exchange of ideas.'"

We believe in the freedom to read (Thanks, Holmes!)


  1. As much as I wholeheartedly support this and will sign, as well as passing it on to friends to sign, I don’t see it getting anywhere.

    Corporate greed and narrow mindedness will always win out.

  2. Seriously – if you don’t like what the Kindle does – don’t buy it. Vote with your wallet.

  3. it’s possible to sign the petition and not buy a Kindle as well. At least until they fix it. Indeed, that may be the very idea.

  4. mrbill1234 @ 2: I came here to say just the same thing.

    With a “If you really want to get their attention, buy a competitor’s product.”

  5. Obviously voting with your wallet is the only thing that would be effective. A petition, if anything, would be callin attention to this. “I haven’t bought a kindle, but if you fix these problems I will.” Of course, this would only be credible if no acceptable competing products existed.

  6. #4 @paulr – I would think that sending them a copy of the receipt from the purchase of the competitor’s product would get the message across fairly well.

    Any suggestions as to what’s the best alternative device to a kindle?

  7. Every e-ink reader on the market reads several non-DRM’ed formats. If you don’t like DRM’ed books on Amazon’s store, don’t buy them.

  8. Speaking of competitor’s products, the Sony PRS-505 is an excellent book reader and can be used without getting involved in DRM-encumbered media. Stores like Fictionwise sell unencrypted books. Sites like Feedbooks and have free books. And the Sony devices support the emerging epub standard.

  9. ^I’ll also add that Costco stores are clearing out the PRS-505 for $199 now, so its a great time to buy if you’ve been thinking about getting one.

  10. If you want a DRM-free Kindle, make one. Seize this opportunity to find this hole in the marketplace you think exists and make money on it.

    No one will, though. The Kindle is one of the nichiest of niche products. A tiny subsection of its userbase cares about this shit, and that userbase is a miniscule fraction of people in general.

    Hey, how about NOT FUCKING BUYING a device that does stuff you don’t like instead of whining to people to change the device you already bought?

  11. What if you load non-Amazon titles onto a Kindle. Can they futz with those?

    I see, for examples, has books in Kindle format and FreeKindleBooks has MOBI files.

  12. @jaytkay

    Yes, you can put non-Amazon content onto a Kindle. Almost all of the content on my Kindle is stuff from Project Gutenberg and other sources, none of it DRM’d. Without the wireless on (which I rarely bother to use), I can’t see how Amazon could delete my non-Amazon content (or even Amazon content, for that matter), unless they have some super-secret-stealh-always-on-wireless that I don’t know about, and I can’t believe Amazon would gladly pay for extra electronics and stealth wireless just for the option to delete Project Gutenberg books, which I could just reload anyway. There’s no money in it for them.

    The common confusion here is the Kindle as a device vs. the content Amazon sells for the device. The device will happily accept and display non-DRM content, including native PDF support on the DX I have. I don’t like their DRM scheme, so I avoid their content, but I still like the eReader and how it works. I think boycotting the content is the most direct way to protest, although to be fair, boycotting the device would probably have an indirect effect as well. I’d like to think my use of the Kindle says, I like what you’re doing with the gadget, and you should keep doing that, but you should notice I don’t buy content from you, and you should address the problem with that. That and I’ve explicitly given them e-mail feedback on that.

    Like Robert @10 says, the issue is really with the publishers, I suspect. (And I know because I work with them.) From encountering similar situations, I know that if Amazon told the company I work for that they were going to sell non-DRM copies of our product, my company would flip out and refuse to participate.

  13. Thanks, BOOKGUY

    So it’s like the ipod. Only if you were too lazy to look beyond the iTunes store were you locked into Apple DRM (“were” because most iTunes items are now available in “pro” non-DRM format).

    People complain about the DRM they buy. When it’s easy enough to buy non-DRM. Or rip your own CDs/convert Gutenberg etexts.

  14. Yes, this is about the publishers, and about the store, and not really even so much about the Kindle.

    The publishers need to understand that until their desperate clinging to DRM ends, people will never truly take seriously the future of e-books.

    A DRM’d e-book is a poor replacement for a paper one. Only a DRM-free e-book is truly revolutionary.

  15. #1; Do notice how many of the music labels sell their stuff without DRM now. This is in large part because they’ll sell more of it. Corporate greed is not incompatible with customers’ ability to do as they please with the media they legally purchase, since that ability usually leads to more purchasing.

    And #10 and #16 are right. Shouldn’t this petition go to the publishers rather than to Amazon? Until then, follow #14 and #15 and vote with your wallet by boycotting DRMed content (but not necessarily the hardware that displays it).

  16. Who is against DRM? Obviously, people who like to steal music and books — it makes things easier for them. But there is another group of people who is against DRM: Silicon Valley intellectuals. Software engineers, CEO’s of startups, the Open Source crowd, and technorati like Corey Doctorow.

    People who are for DRM have a very simple, and very valid point. In order for an industry to survive, the people who work in it need to get paid. In the music industry, for example, this means A&R people, producers, engineers, and of course, the musicians and composers themselves. If everyone stole music instead of buying it, none of these people would get paid, and the industry would fall apart. In the minds of music industry folks, what they are doing isn’t any different than a ticket taker at the movies verifying that you have indeed paid for your seat.

    What are the arguments against DRM? Well, I think it’s something about usability… or file formats changing? Or the free exchange of “information” (is art really just “information”?) To be frank, every time I used to read the arguments against DRM they seemed like lies. I always felt like there was something not being said.

    Then I bought an external hard drive — and everything clicked. Right there on the box is glowing ad copy, describing all the wonderful things you can do with that hard drive. “Fill it with stuff! Pictures! Movies! Music!”

    That’s when I saw it. No DRM means more files, more piracy, and people buying bigger hard drives, faster computers, faster internet connections, etc, etc. The fact is, the “free exchange of information” that happens when there is no DRM translates into even greater profits pouring into the pockets of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who advocate a DRM-free society.

    Music-stealers, book-stealers — you’re being played. The intellectuals who come out and talk all the talk about freedom and how DRM is evil — they want your money too. As a musician, I can tell you — music isn’t “information” and it shouldn’t be free. Even if I love playing music with my friends, I’m not going to get up on stage and shake my ass like a fool in front of a bunch of strangers unless someone pays me to do it. And that is true even if the “stage” is your computer.

  17. @18 EEEEAAII – Most of us in opposition to DRM aren’t so because we’re “Music-stealers, book-stealers.” We oppose DRM because it sucks. It makes life miserable. My Kindle is much more convenient than a paper book, but nobody can flip the switch on my paper library. DRM systems make it so that the things you have legitimately bought a license to read, listen to, watch can just be taken right out of your hands, effortlessly.

    If you think we’re all a bunch of thieves who are ‘being played’ because someone else gets to profit on our thievery… Kind of sounds like someone’s playing you.

  18. #18: I’m against DRM because I don’t see why books, music, videos, or games that I purchase should suddenly stop working just because Amazon have decided to move to a different DRM standard and shut down their authentication servers.

    This has HAPPENED ALREADY with Microsoft, not to mention a fair number of smaller enterprises. What’s worse is that it allows Amazon to retroactively brick parts of the files you bought, or even “un-sell” them without notification or your consent.

    Anyone who tries to color this as “Elitist jerks and thieves vs poor starving sensible business people” is either a colossal moron, or an Astroturfer.

  19. To be fair, there should be distinctions made between people who are against DRM because it’s a pain in the ass and you can’t control what you own, and people who think there’s no such thing as “stealing” music, ebooks, etc. And yes, there is a large overlap.

  20. eeeeaaii,

    I have no stolen books, no stolen music, no stolen videos. Everything is either legally purchased from an online download store or copied from another medium. I’ve paid for all of it.

    I’ve also paid four times for the same text book. Why? DRM. Do I use all four of those copies at the same time? Do I read with eight eyes? No. So why the hell did I have to pay for the book FOUR TIMES?

    That’s why I’m against DRM. I’m against having to pay for a new format for every device I might use.

  21. This sort of action is necessary when the target of the petition has already become too strong. Since the Kindle is pretty irrelevant in the book environment, I would simply campaign against it, not for a better version of it.

  22. This is only part of a much larger problem with Amazon. In addition to their lousy DRM issues with the Kindle, they’re throwing their weight around in other ways too. They recently caused PocketPedia and Delicious Library applications to be pulled from the Apple App Store because the programs might (might!) contain information on books/CDs/DVDs that was obtained from Amazon’s web site.

    More info here:

  23. at #20, #21:

    What, exactly, is so wrong with renting (licensing) media? What is it so important that you be able to “own” those digital files? You only paid 99 cents for that song, and within a year you’re probably going to be tired of it and you’re not going to want to listen to it anymore.

    When I was in high school I bought hundreds of cassette tapes. I don’t even know where they are now — I might have thrown them all away. Most of them got broken, melted, or lost. Even if I could find some of them, I don’t have a cassette player anymore to play them on. I’m not heartbroken about it — my musical tastes have moved on anyway. And if I really wanted to hear that Led Zeppelin song again it’s not going to break the bank to shell out 99 cents to buy it again.

    I’ve heard that argument, but my answer is — so what? I’ve heard people say “it’s not the cost of the downloads, it’s the principle of the thing”. What principle? When you go to a concert, you don’t own the concert hall or the performers. You’re not allowed to go in anytime you want or make them play for you whatever you want. Does that violate your principles somehow? No, you just accept it, because to you it seems normal.

    What I see as a frightening and disturbing trend with digital media is that there seems to be an overall perception of consumers that they are somehow owed unfettered access to the creative products of the folks who actually produce this stuff. And anything that inconveniences them or gets in the way is violating their rights somehow. I don’t buy it. Nothing lasts forever — not tapes, not 8-track cassettes, not LP’s, not CD’s, and not DRMed files. Buy it, listen to it a while, and move on.

    And if you really don’t want to pay for a recording of me playing guitar, then go buy yourself a guitar and learn to play it yourself — then you can entertain yourself all you want. Meanwhile as long as you’re having me entertain you, I need to get paid, and I want some assurance that you’re not going to go give that file to 100,000 of your closest friends — because, dammit, you’re a total stranger and I don’t trust you. Get over it — why should I?

    1. eeeeaaii,

      You’re actually a shill for the anti-DRM movement, right? Because nobody here has made any better arguments against DRM than you have.

  24. “People who are for DRM have a very simple, and very valid point. In order for an industry to survive, the people who work in it need to get paid. In the music industry, for example, this means A&R people, producers, engineers, and of course, the musicians and composers themselves. If everyone stole music instead of buying it, none of these people would get paid, and the industry would fall apart. In the minds of music industry folks, what they are doing isn’t any different than a ticket taker at the movies verifying that you have indeed paid for your seat.”

    Even if you stipulate to this, what on earth does DRM have to do with anyone (apart from DRM vendors) getting paid?

    Or do you know something that the world’s preeminent cryptographers, computer scientists, and security experts don’t that leads you to believe that DRM stops copying?

    I’ll bet you’re like those people who say “[Friedman-style capitalism|Marxism] really work, and all their failures in the world can be explained away through special pleading — there’s some way in which all those earlier experiments don’t count, but someday they’ll do it right and utopia will arrive.”

    I’ll bet you’re about to type something like “Oh, but all those DRMs were imperfect, but here’s how a perfect one is possible, despite everyone else,” and then say something incredibly vague and technically ridiculous about how DRM can be expected to work.

    Do I win my bet?

    As to nothing lasting forever: people who bought unpersoned Plays For Sure and Open AG music probably expected it to last more than a year or two. The piano roll in my office is 110 years old and plays fine. And of course, within a mile of my office in Clerkenwell are dozens of booksellers who have books that are centuries old. “Forever” is a long time, but I’ll settle for the century that well-cared-for media can be expected to last (and I’ll thank you and your thieving friends in the entertainment industry to get out of the way of my preservation efforts aimed at keeping my property in good working order).

    All these ad-hominem attacks on the character of the people who dislike DRM is both hilarious and dishonest. People stay away from DRM by the millions — only you and Mark Halprin believe that they’re all “bespectacled academics.”

  25. OR… don’t buy a Kindle, and buy a consumer-friendly reader instead.

    Petitioning the government to change a law makes a lot of sense: You are stuck with the existing legal system whether you want it or not, so if you’re dissatisfied the reasonable thing to do is to work to change it.

    Petitioning a company to change a product you don’t like makes much less sense to me. Nobody’s making you buy it, and there are a lot of other choices. When I’m at a store, I don’t get mad at the products I don’t want to buy–I just don’t buy them. Instead, I buy the things I want. Problem solved?

  26. @ #29,

    Nope, just a musician, writing songs because I love it, but wondering to myself — what’s the point of trying to get a record deal? What’s the point of touring, trying to get fans and a following? My day job will end up paying me more money.

    That’s ok, all you DRM-haters can just keep listening to those same old songs that were recorded back in the days when artists got paid to write music. With the way things are going, there won’t even be a music industry in a few more years. And all you folks will realize, out of your greed, that you’ve killed the goose who laid the golden eggs.

    Smart and talented people go where the money is. If there’s no money to be made in creating music, there won’t be any good music to listen to.

    1. Nope, just a musician, writing songs because I love it


      I invite you to link to some examples of your music.

  27. eeeeaaii,, For someone who professes to have all this respect for “creatives” you’re awfully quick to disparage actual working artists — such as me, David Byrne, Trent Reznor, Barenaked Ladies, Jonathan Coulton and any number of writers, photographers, musicians, performers, etc, who’ve spoken out against DRM — as “digerati” who know nothing about the motives and markets for art — and to talk big about what artists will and won’t do, when, by your own description, you are a dilettante who doesn’t even have the artistic integrity or confidence to make his work public.

    Is the deal that working artists who disagree with you (and who know a lot about technology) (these two factors may be related) are dismissed as “technorati?”

  28. Mr. Doctorow,

    I’m surprised that you’re saying this, because this is actually the MOST specious argument against DRM. No, of course DRM doesn’t stop copying. DRM stops my aunt from thinking that it’s completely ok to copy and distribute music. So, yeah, with DRM, a few people will steal the music, but a good fraction of the people using it will pay for it. Without any DRM, EVERYONE will steal the music, because it will seem normal and “ok” to steal music.

    People take cues about whether or not they are supposed to pay for something from the way it is protected. If you see a bunch of donuts laid out at your office, nobody there to protect them, no sign indicating anything, would you assume that the donuts are $1.00 each? No, of course not. You would assume that they are free — it’s donut day at the office! If somebody is sitting there, guarding the donuts, and there is a sign saying $1.00 each, you’ll probably pay (even though you could distract the person and have your friend steal a donut if you really wanted one). DRM is just the digital equivalent of the ticket taker at the movie theater, or the person sitting there guarding the donuts. It’s just saying “hey, you there — this stuff isn’t free. You have to pay for it.”

    As far as the preservation-for-future-generations argument goes, I do agree that this is a kink that has to be worked out — but in the mean time I’m sure the folks at the Library of Congress could probably ask Microsoft to unlock any Plays-for-Sure file that they might have need of.

  29. @13: The issue is emphatically not the publishers, who are clamoring for a meaningful DRM-free publishing option for the Kindle store, but Amazon won’t disclose to the publishers whether there’s any kind of restrictions on their “DRM-free” files that prohibit moving those files to competitors’ devices, or making devices that will read them.

  30. Eeeeaaii: “With the way things are going, there won’t even be a music industry in a few more years. And all you folks will realize, out of your greed, that you’ve killed the goose who laid the golden eggs. Smart and talented people go where the money is. If there’s no money to be made in creating music, there won’t be any good music to listen to.”

    Thanks, Eeeeaaaii, you just gave me the best laugh I’ve had in a long while. If the present configuration of the music industry dies, or changes into something else, there won’t be any good music to listen to? Oh my, that’s rich.

  31. Mr. Doctorow,

    Congratulations on knowing lots of famous people, and being famous yourself. That doesn’t necessarily make you (or your friends) right, or your points defensible. The artists I am personally concerned about are not the ones who have already “made it” — they have lots of ways to make money besides through selling songs. The ones I’m thinking about are the ones who have ideas, and a love for music, but who live in a culture where the Zeitgeist says to them, in effect “Hey you — we expect you to play music for us, for free, and like it. We’ll pay you — maybe — if we feel like it.”

    Oh, and excuse me for “talking big.” Perhaps, since you actually “are big”, I should just shut my trap — eh? Indeed.

  32. Here’s an idea on how to make more of an impact at Amazon. If you really want an ebook, go buy one that doesn’t force you to use either their DRM’d trash or PDF and doesn’t constantly phone home where the manufacturer can make changes to your unit on a whim. Send a letter to Amazon stating that you bought the competing product instead of the Kindle because of X, Y and Z, and include a copy of the receipt. A large portion of the folks that sign these petitions/send letters stating “I would buy one if…” wouldn’t actually buy one. Sending proof that you went with the competition drives home that they did lose an actual sale.

    On a side note, I love my Sony 505. Didn’t think I’d ever buy another Sony product due to all the proprietary crap, but they decided to go away from that model on this product. That reminds me, I should probably send a letter to Sony thanking them for making a product that doesn’t lock me down to their accessories and isn’t loaded with DRM crap.

  33. @34: Have you actually read any of the material critical of DRM? Like this, say:

    Because if you want to talk specious, the most specious argument of all is that DRM “keeps honest users honest” (Ed Felten: “Keeping honest users honest is like keeping tall users tall.”)

    You apparently think that your aunt is a crook. I trust my aunt, she’s a very nice person.

    But even my aunt — who really is a saint — might be tempted to download music for free rather than pay for it if paying for music meant:

    * Waiving rights that the public is guaranteed under copyright law (would you buy a grapefruit or a Buick if the man who rang up the sale recited 26,000 words of EULA text and said, “You’ve just agreed” when you handed over your money?) (Because all told, the number of EULA words you have to agree to to buy a song on your iPhone is 26,000) (Those words do not say, “Here’s a bunch of harmless things that are actually quite good for you”)

    * Having rootkits installed on her computer

    * Being locked into playing music on one vendor’s device

    * Being spied on when she listens to music

    * Having her right to listen to the music she paid for arbitrarily revoked because the company went under

    * Having the right to listen to the music she paid for revoked because she moves to another country

    We’ve had photocopiers for half a century. There is no “protection” on books that stops you from photocopying them. There is, nevertheless, widespread normative understanding that photocopying whole books is wrong. Your argument is bunk. If you’re so convinced that everyone else is a thief, including your close family, your mind must be a real cesspool.

  34. @Nosehat (#36), sorry, left out a crucial word — there won’t be any NEW good music to listen to. Like I said, you can listen to those old DRM-free recordings. Or, of course, make some of your own music, with your friends, if you like. Who knows? Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe it’s time for rock and roll to die.

  35. eeeeaaii: You’re on a roll. Your material just keeps getting better: “Maybe it’s time for rock and roll to die.”

    OK, so now you are equating the current profit structure of the music industry with rock and roll. Without the profit structure continuing in its current form, no rock and roll?

    Oh dear. My experience of rock and roll has been somewhat different from yours.

  36. @37: Famous, shmamous: if your reading comprehension is that poor, perhaps you should go elsewhere, otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

    I don’t know those people, and the fact that they’re famous isn’t the important thing: the important thing is that they’re successful artists, both established and recent, who oppose DRM.

    Special pleading is a dumb rhetorical strategy. Saying “All the people who know what they’re talking about don’t count because they’re famous,” or “I don’t like the music of the people who disagree with me so they don’t count” or “All those artists who are starting out and dislike DRM don’t count because they’re NOT famous” doesn’t make you right.

    It makes you intellectually dishonest.

    If all you have to bolster your extraordinary hypothesis that the Internet (which has delvered more opportunities for artists and audiences to create and connect than any technology to date) will end creativity is that you find it a convenient excuse not to pursue art, color me unconvinced.

    Dilettantes have spent centuries dreaming up excuses for their failure to actually make art — rather than aspiring to making art — “no one understands me,” “my day job is too hard,” “my kids make me crazy.”

    The visible, undeniable fact is that millions of people are *not* demoralized by the Internet, but rather inspired by it. If you lack the self-discipline to make art, just turn on the television or something.

  37. @jaytkay #18:

    So it’s like the ipod. Only if you were too lazy to look beyond the iTunes store were you locked into Apple DRM (“were” because most iTunes items are now available in “pro” non-DRM format).

    Yes and no. The iTunes store does use DRM, but as far as I can tell Apple can’t remotely delete music from my iPod or computer after I’ve purchased it. (If they can then they’ve been savvy enough not to let that fact become widely known.)

  38. @39 (Mr. Doctorow),

    You’re attributing things to me that I didn’t say. I didn’t say that my aunt (or your aunt) was dishonest. I said that she would NOT EVEN REALIZE SHE WAS STEALING. And if you tried to tell her she was stealing, she wouldn’t really believe you. Because if somebody expected you to pay for something, they wouldn’t just leave it out there unprotected, would they?

    I live in New York City. If I have an old piece of furniture that I don’t want anymore, I leave it out on the curb. Usually, somebody with less money than me will pick it up — it’s very common here. I don’t need to leave a note on it that says “Hey, this is free — don’t worry, I’m not going to call the police and report it stolen”.

    Can’t speak to the copyright law thing because — what rights are you talking about exactly? I’ll read your talk, maybe it’s detailed there.

    I don’t think my aunt cares about rootkits or spying. She doesn’t spend her whole life on the computer like you and me.

    I addressed the lock-in thing before.

    People illegally photocopy stuff all the time but you can’t distribute it to a zillion people.

    As far as my mind being a “cesspool” — in my opinion it’s just being realistic about human nature.

    I’m looking forward to reading your talk. I’ve seen most of the arguments before, and like I said, they just don’t ring true for me. If I see something new in there I’ll definitely consider it. I did not reach this opinion quickly — I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I just can’t see any validity in the anti-DRM position.

  39. @Cory

    No, there isn’t any “normative understanding that photocopying whole books is wrong”. It’s just that 1) It takes a long time and 2) costs a lot of money. It just isn’t worth it.

    In the very few cases where photocopying is a serious issue (sheet music for example), there is basically the physical equivalent of DRM — there are inks that photocopy poorly, watermarks designed to obscure the photocopied page, etc.

  40. @42: Mr. Doctorow

    re: famous: It was the implication, not the fact — you mentioned their names in the sentence as your own.

    re: special pleading:
    “attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption.”

    I did justify the exemption. I stated that the famous people’s opinions are colored by the fact that they can feel confident about having a reasonably solid stream of income because they are already established. Meanwhile, for my 14 year old cousin John who just picked up a guitar, there is no certainty or even likelihood of ever making any money at all in the entertainment business, since it is basically crashing and burning. And there are lots of folks who are watching with glee. I can’t even comprehend that… this is the industry that helped create the greats, from Elvis to the Beatles and on and on. But not for too much longer, it seems. It almost seems, from what I read in forums like Slashdot, etc., that geeks hate the music business and artists — just because of some stupid file format issue!

    I certainly have not said the internet will end creativity or the internet is a terrible bad thing. I’m just saying — let’s tolerate DRM, so the artists and folks can get paid, and so we can continue to enjoy new music and books, etc.

    The whole dilletante angle is getting a bit personal but all I can say is that I’ve made art of many types all my life and will continue to do so whether you hurl insults at me or not. Also — dilletante? You’re a musician but also a famous blogger… so I would think that if you were a true non-dilletante you would choose one of those two things and stick to it.

    Thanks for the interesting debate… by the way, I worry even about saying this stuff for fear that angry programmers will find out where I live, hack my facebook profile, hack my website, etc, etc. And you, in effect, are calling ME a hater…

  41. @Cory #35

    Cory, do you have any links to say more about that, i.e., that publishers would like a DRM-free solution? I don’t mean that in a challenging way–I’m just curious. As I mentioned upthread, I know that my particular company would be most displeased with “unprotected” versions of its content, but that’s all I can speak to because although I’ve worked for several publishers, I’ve only worked at one publisher since this became any kind of issue. Also, the bulk of our business is not trade or mass market, which could make a difference.

  42. @ 48:


    You can find me on with the same username you see here — eeeeaaii

    As you may know, soundcloud is a new service that was written up recently in Wired. What I personally like about it is that it gives up and coming musicians a chance to showcase their work, in a controlled/streaming environment (similar to MySpace, but more focussed exclusively on music). You can think of it as sort of a twitter-like social network for musicians. I only have a few songs up there right now, but I may put more. It’s not DRM exactly, but it does give me some control over my work, in the sense that I know who is listening to it, what they think about it (if they decide to comment on it) etc., etc. It’s good for listeners, because they can access and listen to new music, but it’s also good for the musicians (remember us? :)

    Look folks: I know these are unpopular opinions. I don’t mean to antagonize anyone here. I really just want to raise some points that I’ve long felt but kept silent about, because (at least on the internet) it seems like I’m very much in the minority. I’m really being honest when I say that I’ve never really been swayed by any of the arguments against DRM — I’ve really tried, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. I’m still open to hearing one (and I’ll make it a point to read Mr. Doctorow’s full talk)

    Thanks for listening (to my opinions — and to my music, if you choose to check it out)


  43. Jonathan Badger @ 45: “No, there isn’t any “normative understanding that photocopying whole books is wrong”. It’s just that 1) It takes a long time and 2) costs a lot of money. It just isn’t worth it.”

    See here:
    How to Digitize a Million Books

    One company thinks that there’s enough of a market for automatic scanner: 1250 pages per hour, won’t even crack the spine – so you can bring the book back for a refund!


    anonymous @ 8: Any suggestions as to what’s the best alternative device to a kindle?

    Well, I’ve had an iRex iLiad for more than a year now.

    It’s a bit pricey, but: the screen is large (a bit smaller that the new Kindle DX but bigger that the Kindle 2) and they’ve pretty much open-sourced the software. This was one of the deciding factors for me: I knew my device couldn’t be obsoleted by fiat.

    And then there’s the (drool..!) iRex DR1000S:
    If you read a lot of newspapers or technical PDF documents, it’s ideal. Battery life is not so good, but the USB port/charger is big improvement from the iLiads’. (Mind you, that huge hunk of glass is scary!).

    Kindle/iRex comparisons here:

  44. Screw the DRM-Free, give the Kindle a Flash card slot and native support for PDF (I know the latest superexpensive Kindle does PDF natively). I’ve got one of the latest Sony readers- but the resistive touch screen on it really degrades the quality of the text, which is a crying shame. At least it supports SD cards (and Sony’s proprietary flash card format). As an Field Applications Engineer for a microcontroller company, I love the face that I can carry a huge amount of datasheets. Just need a magnifying glass to really use it.

  45. Hey Jason/EEEEAAII,

    You say you make art regardless of circumstances, and yet claim you won’t perform unless someone pays you.

    Some make art for themselves (easier for painters and authors) and some make art for money (RIAA-barbies) and some — very few in actuality — get both.

    Digital distribution for free on the internet has a better chance of making the first group the last group than any other strategy.

    As for paying for the salaries of music executives and A&R, the public has apparently decided that MySpace and YouTube serve them better.

    If you don’t yet have a record deal, beware pursuing such a self-imposed slavery that will ultimately result in a corporation stealing your success and charging your failures.

    The choice is to be a hobby artist or a professional schill — professional artists are Cory’s examples.

    As a songwriter, you ironically have better financial prospects than most other artists — research local compensation plans to find out why.

  46. @eeeaaii #49: Thanks for the link to your music, and I’m sorry for the snarky tone in my comments before. I was 80% convinced you were a shill for the DRM interests doing a very poor job of impersonating a real person. Now I’m 80% convinced that you are sincere, if rather green. So, my bad.

    I understand that you are frightened that if the music industry in its present configuration changes or dies, it will destroy music and “rock and roll” with it. Rest assured, this is not even remotely the case. Pre-internet, the recording industry offered artists two very valuable things that the artists didn’t have themselves: access to recording facilities, and access to channels of promotion/distribution. Artists signed away all kinds of rights and an almost criminal chunk of their profits to get access to those things. It was possibly worth it back then, although you’ll find that many artists from the 70s onward complained about how their contracts stifled rather than promoted their creative spirit.

    The home computer and the internet have changed all that. The aces the recording industry used to hold (production and distribution) are now squarely in the artists’ hands. This pretty much removes any reason for the recording industry to exist, from the artists’ point of view, and from the consumers’. Of course the music industry as it was configured pre-internet will die/change. This is inevitable.

    But the good news is, music didn’t die. Look around, there are hundreds of new ways to “do” music on the internet, and lots of new avenues to success that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The musicians/bands I am familiar with make most of their money through touring and CD sales at shows. Free, non-DRMed electronic distribution of their songs only adds to their wealth, by generating buzz and creating new fans to come to their shows. They give away as much music as they possibly can, since it only adds to their bottom line.

    Don’t want to play out? For the kind of music you make, you might want to put a portfolio together. Contact people making independent films and offer to do the sound track for free. Generate buzz and a solid portfolio, and there’s no reason you can’t do film or video work someday.

    Maybe you want to be rich and famous with your music someday. If so, work on becoming famous first. That’s the way it works these days, and DRM only gets in the way of that process.

    By the way, I liked your tracks. Especially “Cutout Building”–nice sounds and a very nice overall shape to that piece. Keep up the good work.

  47. Sounds like a great petition. However, there’s absolutely no chance of me buying a kindle until they cost a heck of a lot less than netbooks.

    I’m not spending several hundred bucks in order to buy e-books that cost the same as paperbacks.

  48. @52 Sorry, I know that sounded self-contradictory. What I mean is that I make art for myself first, but I don’t feel inclined to make art for other people unless other people will (at least, eventually) pay me for it. So, for me, free digital distribution of my work is not going to put me in both of the groups you mention — it still leaves me in the first group.

    Record companies aren’t just executives. They are also engineers, producers, managers, etc, etc.

    I’ll check out “local compensation plans,” thanks.

    @53 (Nosehat)

    Thanks for taking the time to listen to my music! I totally appreciate your comments — yeah, my wife likes Cutout Building too. Anyway, yes, I’m a real person – 37 year old programmer, if you want to know more — maybe not quite as green as you think. And I’m also sorry (to you and Cory also) that my first post was so inflammatory. My frustration with the anti-DRM movement has been growing for years. I really just want to make my point and argue against the typical reasons given for the anti-DRM stance, which I don’t agree with.

    As I mentioned above, record companies do offer more than just recording facilities and means of distribution. In fact, they offer something very important which I’m sure you’ll remember from economics class: it’s called “division of labor.” When working within a record-company-like organization, the folks in the band can focus on what they are supposed to focus on — playing bass, or drums, or writing lyrics. Somebody else handles the engineering. Someone else manages deadlines and makes sure things get done. Someone else handles booking tours. In a way you can think of this as a big collaboration of people similar to the huge amount of collaboration that it takes to create a feature film. Sure, technology allows somebody to do it all in their living room — and for some projects maybe that’s fine. But you listen to an album like U2’s Achtung Baby for example — even if you don’t like that band — and try to deny that the recording team (producer, engineer, etc) has an integral role in making an album sound amazing. You think Bono and the Edge could have done all that themselves in Cubase in a bedroom? I doubt it. I know artists complained about record companies — Pink Floyd practically made a whole album about it (Wish You Were Here). But those same artists made millions of dollars, and there were plenty of other artists who knew better than to complain. Dark Side of the Moon has sold 43 million copies since it was recorded. That’s a lot of “selling CDs at shows.”

    And that’s just it. By saying that we should get rid of the record companies, we are essentially telling up-and-coming bands that they have to do it all themselves. Engineer it yourself. Promote it yourself. Distribute it yourself. Forever — your whole artistic career will consist of driving around the country in a used van that you bought with money from your day job, and try to somehow turn a profit selling a few CD’s at shows. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to practice your instrument.

    As far as getting famous first — there were quite a few blues guitar legends who died famous and poor. Fame isn’t going to guarantee you riches unless there is some legal mechanism that gets the money from the fans to you. DRM is part of a system that allows this.

    Anyway, thanks again for the compliments. I hope, by sticking my neck out here, I’ve made at least a few people think twice about this anti-DRM crusade. I think it’s wrong, and I’ve been talking to people, and I’m finding I’m not the only one.

    Thanks for listening.

  49. #25 “I’ve also paid four times for the same text book. Why?”

    Cos you’re a moron who didn’t think to go to the bookstore instead.

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