It’s difficult to have a discussion about open publishing without also considering digital rights management (DRM), the software that attempts to control what people do with digitally distributed content. For many publishers, the thought of publishing books under a Creative Commons licence is anathema, but yet they don’t want to pass up on the opportunity to distribute their material digitally online. Instead of experimenting with open publishing, they try to find a middle way and frequently they think that middle way is to use DRM to lock up their ebooks and audiobooks.
As you can tell from my tone, I’m none too keen on DRM. It’s something I’ve done a lot of work on with the Open Rights Group, where I was until recently Executive Director. Rather than rehash all the arguments here as to why I believe DRM is bad, I’m going to give you a nice list of links:
- Cory Doctorow’s Microsoft Research DRM talk (also as a text file with links to other versions)
- Cory Doctorow’s Hewlett Packard Research DRM talk
- The Open Rights Group wiki page on the Government’s DRM public inquiry with lots and lots of links to evidence submitted by various other groups on both side of the debate. Obviously, I’d suggest reading ORG’s submission
- My write up of the Government’s DRM public inquiry hearing, pay particular attention to the submission from the RNIB/Share the Vision (no. 4) and Audible/SNOCAP (no. 7)
- Notes from the Guardian’s Changing Media 2006 conference DRM session with Dr Ian Brown
The problem with DRM is that it’s a fundamentally flawed technology which erodes our rights and favours contract law over copyright law. It prevents users exercising their fair dealing rights (called fair use in the US), restricts access to those with disabilities, and does nothing to benefit the consumer.
I have been surprised by the relish with which some publishers approach DRM, but in looking for a middle way they’ve ended up down a cul-de-sac.