Sunday, December 08, 2013
On DRM or the lack of it
By OFW Editor:
Carlos J Cortes
Published: August 28, 2012
I realize that big publisher are fighting tooth and nail to keep their heads above the tide line, but some rulings by their top executives read to me as death wishes. To quote David Suzuki “We're in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they're going to sit.”
In the latest page from the DRM shenanigans Ursula Mackenzie, CEO of Little, Brown U.K.—part of the Hachette group— has written a letter to the authors her company shares with Thor, where she attempts to dictate terms to her rivals, only the writers are in the middle of the fray.
Tor, part of McMillan, shares books, and thus writers, with Hachette. Problem is that Tor decided, after a thorough market analysis—including giving away over 1,000,000 e-books in the run-up to the launch of Tor.com—that DRM was not only useless but bad for sales (their business increased after the giveaway). Hachette,
use DRM. And here’s the quandary.
Cory Doctorow, has written a superb article about the senselessness of Ms. Mackencie’s attempt to force the hand of Tor through their writers.
It’s hard to say what’s more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers. Let’s just say that Hachette has balls the size of Mars if it thinks it can dictate what other publishers do with titles in territories where it has no rights.
The letter goes on to list the titles the author has under contract to them, about 10 of them, and sure enough, all of them are easily found online free of cost and free of DRM with a single search on Google. If they weren’t, it would probably be more cause for concern—imagine being so obscure that no one could be bothered to rip you off! But this is where Hachette’s logic veers off course. “In the context of casual infringement, easy file sharing, and as a part of an overall copyright infringement strategy,” the Hachette letter asserts, “DRM is proving effective.”
In sending its letter, Hachette is missing the most salient characteristic of DRM: it is useless for preventing copying and excellent for preventing competition. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition on removing DRM without the DRM-vendor’s permission is a license to misappropriate the relationship between publishers and readers. If the Big Six thought Wal-Mart and the other big-box retailers had them over a barrel, just wait until the DRM vendors do to them what they did to the music industry before it abandoned DRM in a Hail Mary attempt to get some competition back into the music retail market.
You can read the full Cory Doctorow’s article at
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