To DRM or Not To DRM?

July 3, 2013

Song of the Day: Almost Easy by Avenged Sevenfold

To DMR or not to DMR? That is the question.

DMR, Digital Rights Management, is technology used to limit the use of digital material and the devices that material is viewed, listened to, played, or watched. Bear with me here, it’s like an encrypted code that padlocks books, movies, music, and games from being shared, copied, printed, or resold illegally. In other words, it is supposed to prevent piracy.

In theory, controlling the use of digital material after the initial sale can be a good thing. In theory. The problem lies with the fact that it is easy to strip these access controls from a book. Thus not slowing down those who wish to share or pirate a book. Don’t ask me how. I’ve no experience with technology in these matters. In fact, a group of acrobatic trained monkeys are typing this post for me.

RF getty monkeyDMR proponents argue that these locks protect the intellectual property from being copied. It keeps the content from being altered and converting it to other formats. All in effort to curb illegal activity and maintain revenue ends up where it belongs—in the author’s pocket.

Opponents call foul, saying that it limits activity between stores and devices. Those who lawfully purchase a book are restricted from doing things that are legal under the fair use laws, including making a book readable on a e-reader that may not have supported the format it was purchased from. This inconveniences many consumers. More importantly, legitimate customers might be surprised they don’t actually own the book, DVD, music, or game they bought.  Remember when Amazon remotely deleted in mass George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from every Kindle with the purchased books without the owners’ consents? Yeah, well, that’s the case in point.

Now, there is a new DRM meant to allay both sides of the debate. Well, only part of the debate. Small changes are made within each book sold—a varying punctuation mark, an alternate word replacement—and serve as a ‘digital watermark’. You can read more about this new DRM here in an article from Wired Magazine.

It’s all very interesting. I am glad to see proactive measures are taken against piracy. But there is so much more to this story. There is so much more to DRM, both good and bad. In my opinion, if a criminal wants something bad enough, they get it no matter what safeguards are in place.

What are your thoughts? Are you for or against DRM? What do you think of the new DRM changing your words, your story? As a reader, would this bother you?