DRM or DRM-Free: The Debate

26 Mar 2012 1:17 PM | Digital Rights Committee (Administrator)

An interesting discussion on DRM (digital rights management) here: http://www.futurebook.net/content/dont-tell-me-truth-about-drm

While DRM is not a “hot” topic, it is nevertheless important in the bigger conversation of the Future of Digital.  For those who need a quick brush up on what DRM is in the first place, it refers to any technology which limits the use of digital content (ie, an eBook) after sale.  For example, libraries use DRM to limit patrons from sending their borrowed eBook to anyone else, printing a copy, or having it “checked” out for longer than a certain period of time.  Retailers such as Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble apply their own DRM to eBooks they sell that again limit the buyer from printing or sending the eBook, and generally limit the number and/or type of devices on which the eBook can be read.

People who support DRM claim that this decreases the chance of the book being pirated by creating a stumbling block in the way of putting a book up on a free downloads site.  Anti-DRM advocates claim that DRM can be stripped in a matter of minutes and so that stumbling block is practically nonexistent, and that DRM limits the functionality and useability of an eBook–that an eBook should be able to be taken anywhere and used in any way that the readers wants it to be, and that DRM only prevents new entries to the digital retail space and makes a reader less likely to buy an eBook due to the restrictions he or she will face.

As agents, it seems a no-brainer that eBooks must be sold with protection to prevent piracy, especially when an author’s ability to defend against the illegal use of their material is virtually non-existent.  The article points out that while there’s no evidence that DRM-free eBooks lead to increased piracy, or that people who read/download pirated eBooks would otherwise have actually bought that eBook (ie, that any revenue was actually lost), neither is there any evidence that DRM-free eBooks actually sell less than eBooks to which DRM has been applied.

Given that, if your author has decided to self-publish, or you are looking at ePublishers, do you advise the author for or against a solution which allows the eBook to be sold on one or more platforms DRM-free?  Without more evidence, the question must remain open.

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