There is a continuing battle surrounding Digital Rights Management (DRM). While most rights holders see it as a way of maximizing their profits, users see it as a way to reduce their ability to actually use the products they bought, the way they want to. Ironically, one of the books that spells out what is wrong with DRM, is now available with DRM.
DRM has managed to become widespread without the knowledge of many. DVDs, MP3s, books, software, games and even audio CDs (although such DRM’d CDs are not allowed to use the CD logo), they can all come with DRM nowadays. DRM issues occasionally hit the headlines, with instances like the Sony Rootkit lawsuits and HD-DVD fiasco, with TorrentFreak even running a competition to design an anti- DRM T-shirt last year (results are here).
The problem with DRM is that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. The only people who are negatively affected are honest customers, since pirates will get their DRM-free version off BitTorrent anyway. In fact, DRM seems to produce an increase in downloads over legitimate sales, with the ‘Spore’ fiasco as a recent example.
Public reaction to DRM is not favorable, and has been growing worse (such as when a DRM-based service closes). Even though some retailers have started to sell their goods without DRM, others have not, or have released products selling stuff ONLY in DRM encumbered formats. A prime example of without DRM is Amazon, with its music, and an example of with DRM is Amazon and their Kindle ebook reader. Kindle ebooks are sold complete with DRM, locking the books to a single system. This applies to all Kindle ebooks sold via Amazon.
One of the Kindle e-books looks a little out of place with DRM though. A member of the US-based Students for Free Culture organization informed TorrentFreak that the book Free Culture, by Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, is available through the service. The book deals with the rise of the copyright situation in the US, and how laws in other areas were changed to keep pace with advances in technology, sometimes making obsolete decades, or centuries of precedent.
The fact that this book is available in a DRM format might not seem all that important, except that the book itself spells out what is wrong with DRM. The book is available as a 100% free download on the book’s official site. However, short of violating the DMCA by circumventing the DRM, it is hard to put the pdf version of the book on the Kindle, exemplifying the problem. Most ironically, though, is that the subtitle of the book is “How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity”, so the book has become its own example.
Prof. Lessig will be giving a keynote speech at SFC’s “Free Culture 08” on October 11th.