Publishing exec admission: "I break ebook DRM"

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21 Responses to “Publishing exec admission: "I break ebook DRM"”

  1. bkad says:

    He’s not the only one. I know others who work in the publishing industry who feel similarly.

    And of course I break the DRM on ebooks I publish. It’s foolish not to, and even if breaks the letter of whatever license I bought the book with it doesn’t break the ‘spirit’ of things so long as I don’t distribute.

    I’ll admit I’m skeptical that DRM-free books would work as well as DRM music does — writers don’t make money from concerts. I’m willing to be wrong, though. For me, it’s not DRM itself that bothers me, it is the effects of drm, for example device lock-in, lack of resale, risk of obsolescence, etc.

    I wonder if there would be a way to have a distributed, cryptographic DRM… I thought of this when I was reading an article about bitcoin. I wonder if there would be away, using the magic of computers, to create a DRM system that would be open (anyone can read the source code and make devices compatible with it), would allow unlimited transactions (lending books to friends or for sale), and would be free of any one company’s interest (distributed),  but would make wholesale infringement difficult enough not to be worth it. It’s a pointless exercise since companies don’t really have a strong incentive yet to allow resale or compatibility, but I think something like what I describe would work. It would almost be as good as physical books, from both customer and a publisher point of view.

    • bkad says:

      Just say I’m aware some writers ARE successful with DRM-free books. I just think that is specific to the author and his or her audience.

      • Sagodjur says:

         Likely authors who connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy. I read Cory’s For the Win online for free and then bought a physical copy for him to sign when he came to town. It was worth it to see him in person and hear him speak.

    • foobar says:

      Ultimately, your device has to get the plaintext, which means you get the plaintext. Cryptography is useful for preventing third parties from snooping on messages you send to other people, not for preventing people from reading things you intend for them to read.

  2. lostmongoose says:

    “I believe this is justified because I realize that when I buy an e-book from Amazon, I’m really buying a license to that content, not the content itself. This is ridiculous, by the way. I feel as if e-book retailers are simply hiding behind that philosophy as a way to further support DRM and scare publishers away from considering a DRM-free world.” 
    Blame the retailers? BS. *YOUR* company publishes the books. *YOUR* company can say ‘no’. Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc do not own the rights, publishing companies/authors do. The licensing nonsense rests with the publishers and authors. Someone out this guy so we can properly ridicule him.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I don’t think that he’s the owner of the company.

      • lostmongoose says:

        That wasn’t an ownership ‘your’ it was a ‘your’ in the sense that he’s an executive there and is just as at fault as his fellow upper managers for the very DRM he complains about.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Please understand that in the last several decades, many businesses have reclassified workers into managerial and executive positions in order to avoid having to deal with them responsibly in terms of pay, disputes, etc.  I’ve met Hollywood studio execs who make less than supermarket managers and have far less say in how the business is run.

  3. randyman says:

    I’ve been using ebook readers for quite a while. First, the RocketBook, then the first Sony Reader, and now I’m on my third iPad.

    I bought quite a few ebooks on the Sony, and was frustrated when the first iPad came out, because I hadn’t made it more than halfway through the first book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way…

    With readily available resources, I removed the DRM from everything on the Reader – all legitimately bought and paid for – and transferred them to the iPad. I then wiped the Reader, initialized it, and gave it to a friend. No transfer of copywrited goods.

    Here’s the thing… I had a right to do this. I don’t have to wait for someone to give me the right; I don’t give a damn what the legalese says – I have an absolute right to continue reading what I paid for.

    Publishers, wake up… I’ve bought a lot of novels by Doctorow, Stross and others I first read in DRM-free form. There’s money to be made by decriminalizing consumption.

    • Wade Sims says:

       No, you absolutely most certainly do NOT have an absolute right to continue reading what you paid for.  You SHOULD have a right to continue reading what you paid for.  But you do not have that right at all, because you can sign away certain rights through use of End User License Agreements and Terms of Use. 

      That right should not be absolute.  Freedom of speech should be more absolute, but I think we would mostly agree that I should not be absolutely free to spam these boards with obscenities merely on the grounds that I have an absolute, unassailable right to freedom of speech.  I terminated that right by agreeing to use this reply board.  You terminated your right to read as you see fit when you purchased the e-book.

      I don’t want to derail on an economic policy debate and justifications for lack of free market; I haven’t even made my own determinations there.  But I have not bought an e-book and will not buy one for the foreseeable future (haven’t illegally downloaded any, either), until DRM is removed.  E-books are more problematic than music because format transfer is nigh impossible, so I can’t very well go make my own, but with prices being what they are, I’m happy with my dead trees.  I sacrifice convenience, but I also don’t feel compelled to argue that I should maintain a right I explicitly/implicitly signed away by terms of use.

      Trust me, these problems are changed much faster by business policies than by legislation.  Make DRM unprofitable, as we did music, and the businesses will follow suit, albeit slowly.

      • Mantissa128 says:

        I think he’s talking about a kind of basic human right, rather than a legal right. The concept of ownership predates the legal system, which follows it and tries to codify it, leading to occasional absurdities such we see with DRM.

        From my perspective and experience over the last decade, it seems to me that it is continued consumption of jailbroken products and the failure of DRM to stop this that has driven changes in the music industry, not boycotts. That said, I agree that the only way to reach content providers is to deny them their prize, and however you get there is equally effective.

  4. Andrew Singleton says:

    Who’d have thought. Someone stuck with the same runaround we pleebs are suddenly finds the hoops too annoying to jump thorugh.

    Good for you man for being willing to speak up. Hope you don’t get fired/thrown under the bus. I sincerely don’t. We need more of that mindset in the publishing world.

    • digi_owl says:

      As was pointed out elsewhere, what sunk prohibition was high ranking officials being caught with their proverbial pants down. Most of the crazy laws and such come into existence because those that decide do not see themselves affected by it…

  5. greggman says:

    Vote with your wallet folks! Don’t buy DRMed stuff and then remove the DRM. All you’re doing is telling the publisher you like DRMed content. Refuse to buy DRMed ebooks, music, movies, etc..  Support those publishers that provide ebooks without DRM

  6. Patti says:

    greggman has it exactly right.  I decided back when music still had DRM that I would vote with my wallet and not support that business model.  I now own a Kindle Fire, and I’m sticking to my guns on that.

    I have no problem, however, on DRM with things that I’m borrowing/renting.  I use Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library regularly, and check out ebooks from my local public library.

    I would desperately love to be able to just buy books with a couple of clicks and have them on my Kindle.  That’s not going to happen, though, as long as the content that I’m purchasing has DRM.

  7. SedanChair says:

    Do I feel “evil”? No, not really. If I was giving these books away, I would, but I’m the only person using them.

    OK, signing up for evil then. Piracy is noble and keeps authors lean and fighting-fit.

  8. If DRM’s purpose is to stop piracy and not to lock you into an eco-system, the way around that and still use DRM would  for device manufactures to either create one single DRM standard or support multiple DRM systems on devices. Any device that is owned and registered to you would accept any DRM’d content also registered to you regardless of the vendor.

    • Mantissa128 says:

      DRM is a pipe dream because of the KISS principle. It’s hard enough making content work on a variety of devices, and multiplying the complexity of the wrapper around that content makes for a high enough rate of failure to be rejected by consumers.

  9. digi_owl says:

    Seems these media execs flip flop on the sale being a license or a actual product depending on what side of the table they are on…

  10. pinup57 says:

     @boingboing-e16a4ca71de93b9d1e35186e568d9fdf:disqus : (quote)”I’ll admit I’m skeptical that DRM-free books would work as well as DRM music does — writers don’t make money from concerts. ”

    This is a common misunderstanding: one must make the difference between AUTHORS/COMPOSERS and MUSICIANS. These are not neccesarily the same persons. Many authors/composers are not concert-musicians. Many musicians don’t write the music they perform.  Those that do both, do BOTH.

  11. pjcamp says:

    “Do I feel “evil”? No, not really. If I was giving these books away, I would, but I’m the only person using them.”

    As I recall, the IP industry claims this is not a legitimate excuse. So does the DMCA.

    You know, if the publishing industry really wanted to break Amazon’s grip on e-book publishing, they’d leave off illegal collusion that benefits only Apple, and adopt a standard, DRM-free data format standard, transportable to all readers, and then inform Amazon that the Kindle can support it or not get content.

    I hear ePub is handy.

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