Unlike some of its stablemates, the Amazon-owned comics platform is to allow authors and publishers to distribute their work without the shackles of proprietary rights-management, writes Cory Doctorow

The largest online comics distributor, owned by Amazon, will let you download comics in your library in DRM-free formats like PDF and CBZ, where permitted by the publisher, for your own long-term archiving and use.

The move ensures that comics fans will always be able to access their comics, regardless of their relationship with Amazon, and regardless of future changes that the company might make. It also makes it simpler to give away or bequeath your comics, or to share them within your household.

For comics creators and publishers, it means that they can sell through Amazon without selling out to Amazon, because their readers can read and organize their Comixology comics alongside those bought from other vendors, like The Humble Bundle and Image's digital store, which has a DRM-free selection.

We've always known that when someone puts a lock on your property and won't give you the key, the lock is not for your benefit.

DRM–digital rights management–is often demanded by publishers in the belief that it limits piracy. Though all DRM systems fail, often at comical speed, they're backed by laws (such as the U.S.'s 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which forbid circumvention.

As only the company that developed a DRM system is permitted to unlock it, the losers are not just readers (who may at least free their platform-specific titles using hacks) but publishers, whose serial weddings to DRM systems create a legally inextricable history of broken books.

That publishers and platforms are realizing this is a problem is is the best news I've heard in years. I've signed up for Comixology because of it, and look forward to using the service in the future.

Whether you hate DRM of love it (I don't think many people love it, but hey, it's a big, weird world), I think everyone can agree that if publishers and creators don't want DRM on their works, then retailers have no business insisting on it. I even call this "Doctorow's First Law":

Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and won't give you the key, you can be sure that the lock isn't there for your benefit.

I can only hope that other Amazon divisions, like Audible, follow suit. Unlike Comixology, Audible will only distribute its audiobooks with its proprietary DRM, even if the publisher and author object (this is why none of my audiobooks are on Audible).


(Thanks, Chip!)