Why DRM is the root of all evil

In my latest Guardian column, What happens with digital rights management in the real world?, I explain why the most important fact about DRM is how it relates to security and disclosure, and not how it relates to fair use and copyright. Most importantly, I propose a shortcut through DRM reform, through a carefully designed legal test-case.

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Adobe ebook DRM changeover means

A lot of people are about to lose their ebooks. (Thanks, Florian!) Cory 15

Humble Audiobook Bundle: name your price for audio editions of "Junky," "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," "Blood Meridian" and many more!


You've only got two days left to take advantage of The Humble Audiobook Bundle, which lets you name your price for a stellar lineup of DRM-free audiobooks (this is practically the only way to get DRM-free audiobooks these days, since Audible, the company that controls 90% of the market, requires that publishers use DRM even if they object to it). The Humble Audibook Bundle selection includes Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses;" William S Burroughs's "Junky;" Meg Cabot's "Abandon;" Dave Eggers's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius;" Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," Charles Portis's "True Grit," and many more.

The Humble Audiobook Bundle

All library audiobooks going to DRM-free MP3s

Ben writes, "Overdrive, which is one of the main suppliers of downloadable audiobooks to public libraries, announced that it is retiring its DRM-encrusted .WMA formats and pushing everything to DRM-free .mp3s."

This is a big deal. Audiobooks are the last holdouts for DRM in audio, and one company, Audible, controls the vast majority of the market and insists upon DRM in all of its catalog (even when authors and publishers object). Itunes, Audible's major sales channel, also insists on DRM in audiobooks (even where Audible can be convinced to drop it). Audiobooks can cost a lot of money, and are very cumbersome to convert to free/open formats without using illegal circumvention tools. To stay on the right side of the law, you have to burn your audiobooks to many discs (sometimes dozens), then re-rip them, enduring breaks that come mid-word; or you have to play the audio out of your computer's analog audio outputs and redigitize them, which can take days (literally) and results in sound-quality loss.

Overdrive going DRM-free for libraries is a massive shift in this market, and marks a turning point in the relationship between the publishers/creators and the technology companies that act as conduits and retail channels for their work. It's especially great that libraries are getting a break, as they have been royally screwed on electronic books and audiobooks up until now.

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Teach your rooted Android phones to lie to apps about whether it's rooted

There's a funny paradox in rooting your Android phone. Once you take total control over your phone, some apps refuse to run, because they're trying to do something that treats you as untrusted. Now there's a utility called Rootcloak that lets you tell your rooted phone to lie to apps about whether it is rooted. It's both long overdue and a neat demonstration of what it means to be root on a computer. Cory 10

You bought it, you own it, right?

In the latest Electronic Frontier Foundation post for Copyright Week, Corynne McSherry tackles one of the most troubling aspects of modern copyright law: the idea that even though you've bought a device or a copyrighted work to play on it, they're not really your property. Because of the anti-circumvention rules (which are supposed to backstop "copy protection"), it's illegal to discover how your technology works, to tell other people how their technology works, to add otherwise lawful features to your technology, and to make otherwise lawful uses of your media.

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How to have a healthy relationship with technology

My latest Guardian column, "Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful," talks about evaluating technology based on more than its features -- rather, on how you relate to it, and how it relates to you. In particular, I try to make the case for giving especial care to what happens when your technology fails:

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Requirements for DRM in HTML5 are a secret


The work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on adding DRM to HTML5 is one of the most disturbing developments in the recent history of technology. The W3C's mailing lists have been full of controversy about this ever since the decision was announced.

Most recently, a thread in the restricted media list asked about the requirements for DRM from the studios -- who have pushed for DRM, largely through their partner Netflix -- and discoverd that these requirements are secret.

It's hard to overstate how weird this is.

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DRM-free comics of excellence from Image Comics

The rise of Marvel's Comixology has meant that DRM -- Digital Rights Management -- has become the norm for comics, meaning that your collection is forever locked to Comixology's platform, and it is illegal for anyone except Comixology (and not the artists and writers who created the comics!) to unlock them so that they can be viewed on non-Comixology players.

It's as though Comixology had come up with a scheme to get us to buy our comics in a form that could only be put into special longboxes that they alone can sell -- longboxes that can only be stacked on the shelves they choose, and comics that can only be read under the lightbulbs they authorize, in the chair they approve. Every penny you spend on Comixology increases the cost of your switching away from it -- and increases the extent to which a single company (now owned by Disney) controls and sets the rules for making, publishing, retailing and reading comics.

Some comics creators are pushing back. Image Comics, publishers of The Walking Dead, announced its DRM-free comics store in July (Image is also noteworthy for its creator-friendly contracts, which are among the best in the industry). Last week, Image put on a one-day comics expo in San Francisco where it featured the new DRM-free titles coming to its store, and Wired rounded up seven amazing-looking stories that you'll be able to buy without selling your soul.

Image's creator-friendly policies have attracted some pretty amazing talent, like Grant Morrison, Jamie McKelvie, Michael Chabon, and many others. But the one I'm most intrigued by is Bitch Planet, from Kelly Sue Deconnick:

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High-end CNC machines can't be moved without manufacturers' permission


On Practical Machinst, there's a fascinating thread about the manufacturer's lockdown on a high-priced, high-end Mori Seiki NV5000 A/40 CNC mill. The person who started the thread owns the machine outright, but has discovered that if he moves it at all, a GPS and gyro sensor package in the machine automatically shuts it down and will not allow it to restart until they receive a manufacturer's unlock code.

Effectively, this means that machinists' shops can't rearrange their very expensive, very large tools to improve their workflow from job to job without getting permission from the manufacturer (which can take a month!), even if their own the gear.

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Representation of women in games and movies: the awful numbers


Catriona tumbled these enraging statistics about gender and representation in games and films for 2013:

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Amazon takes away access to purchased Christmas movie during Christmas

Bill sez, Last "December I bought some favorite Christmas specials for my kids with the idea they could watch them every year. Went tonight to watch one ('Disney Prep and Landing 2' if you're curious) and it was gone from our library and couldn't be found on the site at all. Amazon has explained to me that Disney can pull their content at any time and 'at this time they've pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel.' In other words, Amazon sold me a Christmas special my kids can't watch during the run up to Christmas. It'll be available in July though!"

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Crowfunded prize for first open jailbreak of Ios 7


Elizabeth Stark writes, "We're pleased to announce the Device Freedom Prize: a crowdfunded reward for the first developer(s) who release an open source iOS 7 jailbreak. Providing users the ability to control their devices is crucial in an age where we're increasingly dependent on our mobile phones. An open source jailbreak provides users the capability to install what they want on their own devices, the ability to audit the code they're using to do so, and enables disabled users to more easily use their devices."

"We've assembled a judging panel of awesome folks that care a lot about these issues, including Boing Boing's own Cory Doctorow; Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit; Biella Coleman, Professor and Author of Coding Freedom, and Chris Maury, Accessibility Advocate. Contribute to the prize to help make an open source iOS jailbreak a reality."

Is iOS7 jailbroken yet? (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

Study shows removing DRM increased music sales


Intellectual Property Strategy and the Long Tail: Evidence from the Recorded Music Industry [PDF], a new working paper from University of Toronto Strategic Management PhD candidate Laurina Zhang documents the rise in sales experienced by the music industry following the abandonment of DRM in digital music offerings.

The paper compares sales of 5,864 albums from 634 artists from before and after the music industry eliminated DRM, and finds an average rise of 10 percent in overall sales (though back-catalog experienced more of a lift compared to front-list titles). As TorrentFreak reports, "This effect holds up after controlling for factors such as album release dates, music genre and regular sales variations over time."

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Renault ships a brickable car with battery DRM that you're not allowed to own


You can't buy a battery for the new Renault Zoe. Instead, you have to rent it. And if you stop making payments, the battery's DRM will prevent you from recharging it. It's part of a larger product strategy through which the Zoe collects huge amounts of data on your driving and ships it all back to the manufacturer.

Just what the world needed: a car you're not allowed to own, and which you can't use anymore if you lose your job and can't pay the monthly battery rental fee. And if Renault's battery provider goes out of business, your Renault is bricked.

DRM in Cars Will Drive Consumers Crazy