Saturday, July 18, 2009

And you thought it belonged to you: Why DRM is such a bad idea

Last night I noticed a very funny thing. Amazon had "un-booked" some books they had sold. Their customers woke up to find that their copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm had been taken back, and the cost refunded. Ironic as anything, but how could it possibly happen?

They had not bought a physical copy - they had paid for a licence to read an electronic copy on Amazon's eBook machine - a "Kindle". And that electronic copy was weighed down by DRM - Digital Rights Management (or Digitally Restricted Media) - so that the people who control it are not the buyers, but the sellers. So when Amazon felt they needed to revoke people's eBooks, they could.

You buy it - but they own it!

It turns out that Amazon, surprised by their customers' outrage or embarrassed by the irony of retrospectively un-selling 1984 -- who knows -- have said they won't do it again.

But they can - and that's the problem with DRM. You don't own what you have bought. "They" can stop you lending it to people. They can prevent you from electronically quoting snippets. They can invisibly edit or change what you have bought - or add new advertising. Or they can take it away altogether. And, often, if the publisher goes bust or even decides to stop selling it, what you bought just stops working. Forever. And it's illegal to try to get it back (in America, it's a felony).

And that is why DRM matters, and why the laws that pander to it matter even more.

And the more media becomes digital and is delivered electronically, the worse this will get.

Maybe not today; maybe not tomorrow; but soon - and for the rest of your media.


アダルトSEO said...

Oh, really a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

'with our eyes closed, we exist'