New ebook DRM isn't just easy to break, it makes no legal sense

"Lost in Translation," my latest Publishers Weekly column, looks at SiDiM, a new DRM scheme developed by the German Booksellers Association and the Fraunhofer Institute (with funding from the German government). The idea is to produce random variations in the text of ebooks so that each customer's ebook can be uniquely identified.

As I point out, this is an old and long-discarded idea, trivial to break (just compare two copies of the book); but more importantly, it rests on the silly idea that finding "my" copy of an ebook being shared illegally will somehow be bad for me:

The idea that copyright owners might convince a judge, or, worse, a jury that because they found a copy of an e-book on the Pirate Bay originally sold to me they can then hold me responsible or civilly liable is almost certainly wrong, as a matter of law. At the very least, it’s a long shot and a stupid legal bet. After all, it’s not illegal to lose your computer. It’s not illegal to have it stolen or hacked. It’s not illegal to throw away your computer or your hard drive. In many places, it’s not illegal to give away your e-books, or to loan them. In some places, it’s not illegal to sell your e-books.

So at best, this new “breakthrough” DRM scheme will be ineffective. But worse, what makes anyone think this kind of implicit fear of reprisal embedded within one’s digital library is acceptable, or, for that matter, preferable to old-school DRM?

Lost in Translation