WWwP #9 Comments

These are the original comments from the old barrylyga.com. To add a comment, return to the BLog page.

Piracy

By: John Morris
on Mon August 09, 2010, 14:31:12

Have you noticed that many of the DVDs/Blu-rays being released in the last year or so also include a “digital copy” that you can view on your computer, iPod, etc.It would be nice if the publishing industry did the same thing with hardcover books or first release paperbacks. I have well over 500 hardcover books and more softcovers than I would care to count. It would be great to have a digital copy of these books, but I don’t feel the need to pay another $5-$10 each for this benefit.

I will freely admit that I have downloaded copies of movies before buying the DVD’s or Blu-rays just to see if they are worth the $15-30 I will have to spend on them. I would guess that 90% of the time I buy the movie, but there are some that end up being not worth buying.

I am what is known as a leecher in the world of P2P though. I download a movie, move it to a separate harddrive, and delete it off my computer. I do not share it with others. I also never upload any of the movies I purchase. I have gotten cease and desist letters from distribution companies, because while downloading you are also uploading pieces.

I’m not trying to justify this, but there are some customers who are involved in P2P who also end up purchasing the products. They just aren’t the norm.


Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Mon August 09, 2010, 15:26:19

@John: Oh, yeah, I’m definitely familiar with the digital copies you talk about. I thought I’d mentioned them in a previous blog, but maybe I didn’t. I think that’s a great way to go with books.

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Kathy Quimby
on Mon August 09, 2010, 15:49:04

I absolutey approve your suggestion that E-books come up with a way to lend them to friends, or to sell them as used. When that happens, I will acquire an e-book reader, but unless my life changes drastically (more travel or money or both), I’ll stick with the real books, both those I buy and those I borrow from my local libraries.
I also think that you’ve hit the key point: control of the decision to give away or sell a work should only belong to the creator of that work.
I’m sharing this post with a friend who has been in a long discussion with a third party about whether purchase of the physical book means purchasing the rights to reproduce the contents of that book in any manner the purchaser desires.

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: beth
on Mon August 09, 2010, 16:51:11

My biggest issue with DRM, though, is that it essentially punishes the law-abiders while not entirely preventing the law-breakers. While I agree with you–a small amount of DRM will stop the majority of would-be pirates–I also argue that a small amount of DRM will prevent a significant amount of people from buying the book in the first place. They won’t be bothered to pirate it–but the also won’t be bothered to go through the hoops to get it.
I recently bought a new external hard drive, and one of the incentives to buy that brand was to get a free digital copy of a movie that I particularly wanted. There’s nothing illegal here–I was buying a product, and the company was providing a free additional product as an incentive. In order to get the free movie–that I wanted–I had to fill out a rather extensive registration form for the hard drive, then download a code that would enable me to download the movie.
I quit bothering about halfway through. For a movie that I wanted, obtained legally, given to me for free–I couldn’t be bothered with the process to get it.
This is why DRM is bad–it isn’t effective in preventing piracy OR obtaining customers.

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Mon August 09, 2010, 16:55:30

@Beth: No, what hurts customers is ineptly-applied DRM, such as you describe. That’s the equivalent of the picture-distorting Macrovision I spoke of in the blog. Transparent DRM is harmless.
And honestly, I have to say: Unless the registration form you mention was pages and pages in length, I don’t see the big deal in registering your drive and downloading a code. You should register the drive anyway (in case you need warranty service) and downloading a code isn’t a big deal. That might not be how I would have handled it, but it doesn’t sound like a major sin.

I Thought That Sounded Familiar

By: fivecats
on Tue August 10, 2010, 07:50:26

My first thought was that I agreed with whoever you were quoting. Good to know I’m consistent, eh?
“DRM does stop people. All the time. It stops people who can’t be bothered.”
Here’s the thing, though: e-book owners/readers are typically NOT that audience. they’re the tech-savvy, first-adopters who also tend to disagree with the idea that they have purchased the access rights to a given work (book, movie, music) and not an actual copy of the work. (a copy that can then be shared, loaned out, duplicated/backed up if so desired, etc)
my parents, if they ever became e-book readers, couldn’t be bothered. the college students who will be getting all of their coursework books digitally in the very near future, can and will be bothered.
DRM is, in my opinion, a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem. the “I don’t want you stealing my chickens so I’m going to build a fence around them and keep a watchdog nearby” mentality does not work with anything digital. taking the recording industry’s approach of suing their customers might net them some money, but the industry is so disliked by the public (and many artists) that it is doing little other than showing how NOT to approach the problem.
at the same time, i am not advocating we throw our hands up in the air, either. as an author, i would like to be paid for my work. i would prefer people not download a pirated copy of my book, but i know i cannot stop people from making that choice.
i also don’t think i’m willing to risk alienating my readers by taking them to court and suing for damages.
i understand you feel stealing is wrong. i understand that you will never stop the pirates of the world. however, other than making the statement that their choice to do so is morally wrong, what are you willing to do?
i’m not trying to be challenging, i’m just trying to understand your position more fully. i share in the righteous indignation, i’m just not sure what the reasonable, balanced, fair response should be.

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Tue August 10, 2010, 08:16:46

@fivecats: Good to see you back!
Who said anything about taking my readers to court or suing them? I’m not doing that or talking about that. No one even brought it up until you did. I don’t know why you think that’s what I’m advocating, when I’m certainly not.
If you park your car outside and take the simple precaution of locking your door, you reduce your risk of your car being stolen. Why? Because odds are someone down the road did NOT lock his door, and even a skilled thief would rather steal the car where he doesn’t have to spend five seconds popping the lock.
So, why not lock the door, then? Sure, my car still might get stolen, but if it does, at least I can sleep at night knowing I didn’t just give it away.
You said: “they’re the tech-savvy, first-adopters who also tend to disagree with the idea that they have purchased the access rights to a given work (book, movie, music) and not an actual copy of the work. (a copy that can then be shared, loaned out, duplicated/backed up if so desired, etc)”
First of all, I agree that when you buy something, you buy an actual copy! I said explicitly that DRM needs to be modified to allow people to share, loan out, sell, etc. what they buy. We have no clash there.
But you say “tend to disagree with the idea…” and I don’t care WHAT they disagree with. “Disagreeing” with something doesn’t absolve someone of guilt or responsibility. “I disagree that speed limits matter, so the fact that I ran that car off the road while doing ninety means nothing. They should have been doing ninety, too. Everyone should be doing ninety.”
I think I said pretty clearly what I’m willing to do: Support reasonable DRM of the sort I described in the blog (the kind that is transparent and allows people to trade/loan/sell their e-books), knowing full well that it will stop X% of pirates and not stop Y%. I think that is entirely fair and eminently sensible: “reasonable, balanced, fair,” in your words.
Thanks for your input again!

Clarification, etc.

By: fivecats
on Tue August 10, 2010, 10:06:27

i’m not suggesting you are talking about suing your readers (honest!). i’m only wondering where your limits are, how far you’re willing to push the point.
i ask this for two reasons: first, personally, i’m a writer who is looking to get his book published. second, professionally, i spend my 40-hours a week bringing in the steady paycheck and health benefits at a well-respected academic press. there are days when i get to wrestle with this question for more hours than i ever thought i’d care to.
the “lock the car door” analogy is a good one. i grew up in the DC area and compulsively lock my car doors wherever i go. i know this will deter some people, but not all. if someone really wants to break into my car and/or steal it outright, there’s little i can do to stop them.
the difference is, if someone does steal my car, i’m going to want the legal authorities to persecute them to the fullest extent of the law. i want my car recovered, i want my car insurance to give me a significant pay-out so i can buy a new car and i want the car thieves put in jail.
you say you’re for “reasonable DRM”* . that’s one thing. however, what would you have happen to the person who is actively sharing your books online without your consent?i’m also confused on one point. on the one hand you address my quote:
“they’re the tech-savvy, first-adopters who also tend to disagree with the idea that they have purchased the access rights to a given work (book, movie, music) and not an actual copy of the work. (a copy that can then be shared, loaned out, duplicated/backed up if so desired, etc)”
by responding:
“I don’t care WHAT they disagree with. “Disagreeing” with something doesn’t absolve someone of guilt or responsibility.”
but then you also state:
“I agree that when you buy something, you buy an actual copy!”
check the EULA for your version of Microsoft Office. you don’t own that copy of Microsoft Office:
“The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software.”
what you purchased was the right to use the software until Microsoft says otherwise. that’s a huge difference. however, by agreeing to the EULA (which you must do to use the software) you agree to be bound by the restrictions Microsoft has placed upon its software and, now, upon you.
do you own that copy of Office or not? let’s say your computer dies and you purchase another computer, one that comes with an updated version of Office on it. your parents/kid/friend needs a copy of Office on their computer and you have your installer files for the old version. what do you do?
this isn’t a matter of saying “they should have been doing ninety, too. Everyone should be doing ninety.” to me, the question has to do with responsibility and reasonableness. should we purchase the software we use? yes. should we then be considered owners of that copy of the software? yes.
if i put a CD into my computer and it’s wrapped in a DRM that says i cannot make a copy of that CD — be it a software CD or a music CD or a hybrid — i am still going to make a backup of that CD (if I deem it necessary) regardless of what the EULA or DRM says. if that CD gets damaged and won’t play any longer, the EULA/DRM holder’s only solution is for me to purchase an additional copy. i feel that’s just plain wrong.
i’m honestly not trying to be confrontational here. i read your blog because i like your writing and appreciate your perspective. i’m just trying to gain some clarity on what you’ve written.

— Tom

(and all five of the cats)
==================================

* which, to my understanding of DRM, is something of an oxymoron. i’m not aware of any kind of DRM that would allow you to “own” your digital copy of anything, only access governed by the content producer for their approved access software. my understanding of DRM is that it is meant to restrict the customer from doing exactly the kind of “trade/loan/sell” that you advocate. how are you defining DRM?


Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Tue August 10, 2010, 11:41:21

@Tom: Well, first of all, I’m not taking anything you’re saying as confrontational, do don’t worry.
Second of all… I don’t use Microsoft Office. And I haven’t in years. I use Apple’s iWork suite, which allows me to re-install as I need to. Could I abuse it and install it on a million machines? Yeah, but I don’t. But if my computer dies, I can easily install iWork on my new system, no problem.
So in the case you describe, obviously I would disagree with the Microsoft EULA. Note that my disagreement does NOT give me the right to break it (though I suspect many software EULAs will ultimately be found unenforceable in court). But it means that I can and should fight to have it changed. Or, as I have done, choose to use something else. (The letter of Apple’s EULA is probably identical, but the end-result of it is vastly different.)
That said… I can perfectly legally sell any software I’ve purchased…as long as I delete it from my system, first. I don’t have a problem with that at all, and neither does a reasonable software publisher. The fact that Microsoft has a blinkered implementation of DRM shouldn’t paint the entire concept with the same brush.
So, yeah, man — I agree with you wholeheartedly! And I don’t even have a problem with you breaking DRM to make a backup of something…IF that is the ONLY way to back it up. (For DVDs, this is the case. For e-books, I have a copy on my iPhone, a copy on my iPad, and a copy on my computer…and then my computer is backed up. How many backups do I need, for God’s sake? Am I justified in breaking DRM to back it up AGAIN? I don’t think so.) And hey, the law is coming around, as recent modifications to the DMCA show. But I agree that it’s BS if a CD breaks that the only solution is to buy a new one. (Now, if the music folks established a rock-solid program whereby you could bring them a broken CD and they would replace it, no questions asked, I would say your right to break DRM to back-up that CD is on shaky ground.)
Now, let’s talk about suing people. You’re asking two different questions, really, when you talk about suing people. Because, you see, there’s a distinction between “my readers” and “the person who is actively sharing your books online without your consent.” They’re not always the same person! If someone downloads one of my books from a P2P site, of course I’m not going to go after that person. That person is misguided, certainly ignorant (in the denotative, non-pejorative sense), and, if aware of what he or she is doing, unethical. But I would have my publisher send a strong cease-and-desist to the site that made the download possible. Because it’s easier to interdict the supply, in this case. It’s simply a matter of pragmatism. It’s not practical (and it’s HORRENDOUS PR!) to track down the downloaders. It’s more pragmatic to get the uploaders and the disseminators. And, yes, I know the torrenting universe makes the “disseminators” everyone, but still — there is a repository SOMEWHERE for the torrent file to begin with. You can’t download the file unless you grab the initial torrent from demonoid.com or one of those guys. Attack THAT. (Continuing with my somewhat inelegant car analogy, I suppose what I’m saying is this: Raid the chop shops and the guys stealing cars will eventually find they have nothing to do.)
I’m defining DRM (to answer your footnotes question) as “something that prevents me from breaking the law with the content I’ve purchased.” Hence my (perhaps clumsy) description of the onerous complexity of photocopying and mass-distributing a physical book as a sort of “analog DRM.” “Reasonable DRM” is NOT definitively an oxymoron. It just has been SO FAR. (Actually, I’d argue that. Apple’s DRM for iTunes — since abandoned for music — is eminently reasonable, in my opinion. Buy the song once. You can load it on ANY NUMBER of iPods, iPhones, AppleTVs, etc. You can COPY it to FOUR OTHER COMPUTERS. You can, via Home Sharing, SHARE it with ANYONE on your home network. Last but not least, you can burn it to CD as much as you like. What more do people want????)
In short: Just because we don’t like the current implementations (and I think I’ve pretty well established that I don’t like most of ’em), doesn’t mean we throw out the entire concept.
And, to acknowledge another wrinkle, we must ALWAYS be vigilant against those actors who will use DRM as an excuse to prod another income stream into existence (as in your broken CD example). Industries must use DRM only to protect their rights and the rights of the content creators, not as a way of dicking the customer around.
Whew! Your turn, Tom. 😉

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: John Morris
on Tue August 10, 2010, 12:32:24

It would be difficult (if not near impossible) to go after the “chopshops” of the P2P community. The websites that host torrent downloads do not keep copies of the content being transferred on their servers, and they are often times located in countries with questionable copyright protection laws. They are providing the means of transfer, but not the content. I would call this being an accessory to criminal activity, but good luck prosecuting that one.If there are websites that are selling digital copies of books without the publisher’s permission, these would be the people to go after.
I do not see any problems with “invisible” protection. I have no problem with RFID chips in the movies and books I buy, other than when the clerk forgets to run it over the magnet and the alarm goes off at the door. If I were required to show my ID and sign a form with every purchase, like you have to do with Sudafed, this would become bothersome.
It would be very simple for an online retailer of ebooks to attach a digital signature to each purchase. You’ve obviously registered with the retailer to purchase books, so that signature would be assigned to you. If that file ends up on the internet somewhere being sold, you would be responsible for it. Simple enough.


Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Tue August 10, 2010, 12:42:42

@John: Your invisible tags idea is a good one, and — I think — an excellent example of the elusive “reasonable DRM.” 🙂
And maybe it’s just my contrary nature or — more likely — a consequence of a lifetime of reading might-in-service-of-right superhero comic books, but I have never been persuaded or dissuaded by the “it would be difficult, if not impossible” argument. My response is usually, “So? The skeptics thought the U.S. building enough bombers to fight WWII was difficult, if not impossible, too.” (And thank you, Aaron Sorkin, for drumming THAT one into my head…)

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: John Morris
on Tue August 10, 2010, 13:26:32

Let me change that wording. Rather than difficult, let’s call it a task that would cost more than it would benefit. For the people that the bottom line matters (Publishers) this would be a costly endeavor.As for you, I like your books, and I’d much rather you spent time writing than time tracking down pirates.


Continuing My Turn

By: Tom M Franklin
on Tue August 10, 2010, 14:47:29

“I don’t use Microsoft Office”
Personally, I think this is splitting hairs. You’re in the vast minority and most people in the US use some form of Microsoft software. And most of them think they own the software.
As for iWorks:
“Apple grants you a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license to use the Software as provided to you by Apple as a part of the Service and in accordance with these TOS; provided that you do not (and do not permit anyone else to) copy, modify, create a derivative work of, reverse engineer, decompile, or otherwise attempt to discover the source code (unless expressly permitted or required by law), sell, lease, sublicense, assign, grant a security interest in or otherwise transfer any right in the Software.”
and
“Apple may at any time, under certain circumstances and without prior notice, immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your account and/or access to the Service.”
and
“You acknowledge and agree that Apple may access, use, preserve and/or disclose your account information and Content if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce these TOS, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.”
(http://www.apple.com/legal/iworkcom/en/terms.html)
I’m not sure this comes across as “vastly different.” Not to me, at least.
Here’s the thing: we think we’re buying one thing when, in fact, we aren’t buying a thing at all. we’re buying access to a thing. and those two are vastly different concepts.
To bring it back to the concept of the book, I go into a bookstore, I choose a book, I pay for a book, I own that copy of the book. I can, at my discretion, chose to read that book, lend that book to a friend, give the book to another friend, sell the book on eBay or Amazon or to a used book store.
I do not own the content of the book, but I do own the physical entity that is the book.
DRM, in all of it’s current forms, says, you do not own anything physical. You do not own anything virtual. You only own access to that digital stream — and access in a way that only we sanction.
We both agree that this concept is wrong. We both agree that when we purchase a digital copy of something we should own that copy of the material, not just specific and limited access to the material.
“Buy the song once. You can load it on ANY NUMBER of iPods, iPhones, AppleTVs, etc. You can COPY it to FOUR OTHER COMPUTERS. You can, via Home Sharing, SHARE it with ANYONE on your home network. Last but not least, you can burn it to CD as much as you like. What more do people want????”
I don’t want to be told I can only listen to the song through iTunes. If I’ve bought that copy of a song, I want to be able to listen to it through whatever mp3 player I wish. You like iTunes? Great. If iTunes crashes my Mac or PC every time I start up the app, I’m screwed because my iTunes-purchased songs are not mp3s, they’re Apple-proprietary m4ps and only play through iTunes.
In that case, we’re back to me not buying the song. I’m buying limited access to the song through a software app of their choosing, not mine.
Honestly, I don’t think this is too much to ask.
“And I don’t even have a problem with you breaking DRM to make a backup of something…IF that is the ONLY way to back it up.”
If so, then the subject is not a simple matter of black and white, there are some gray areas where you feel breaking the law is justifiable.
” For e-books, I have a copy on my iPhone, a copy on my iPad, and a copy on my computer…and then my computer is backed up. How many backups do I need, for God’s sake? Am I justified in breaking DRM to back it up AGAIN? I don’t think so.”
God forbid, your house burns down. (You, the wife, the kids, you’re all away visiting someone with all of the pets, too!) All of your Apple hardware melts, along with the iPhone you forgot to bring with you. You now have no copies of any of your software. Apple says you can only share your content on X number of devices, but they’re all melted.
I’m not saying we should have an unlimited number of backups, but as a former IT Instructor once drilled into my head: Make a backup of the backup of the backup.
“It’s more pragmatic to get the uploaders and the disseminators. And, yes, I know the torrenting universe makes the “disseminators” everyone, but still — there is a repository SOMEWHERE for the torrent file to begin with. You can’t download the file unless you grab the initial torrent from demonoid.com or one of those guys. Attack THAT.”
You’re close, but not quite there. Napster was shut down because it was a direct peer-to-peer network. 20 people had Song A to share on their HDs and I wanted it. I chose the song and Napster picked one of those 20 people and gave me a copy of their, specific song.
Torrents distribute the sharing. 20 people have Song A to share on their HDs and I want it. I download the .torrent file and I download bits and pieces of the song from all 20 people.
Demonoid, etc., don’t host Song A. They only point to the .torrent file that someone else created. Yes, there is a person who created the .torrent file and did the initial sharing of Song A, but that person is, typically, long gone by the time anyone goes looking for him/her.
“I suppose what I’m saying is this: Raid the chop shops and the guys stealing cars will eventually find they have nothing to do.”
I doubt it. As long as there is profit to be made, chop shops will still be around. They can be driven further underground, their sales to body shops be harder to conduct, but they’ll still be around.
We’ve gone through this at the well-respected Press where I spend my 40-hour work weeks. I’ve led the search for some of our titles on the various e-book sites. When we’ve found them, our Rights & Permissions person has sent out a take-down notice to RapidShare, etc. and the file comes down.
And then, hours or days later, the file is back up again, under a new name.
And the cycle continues.
Here’s what I think needs to happen:
Make book/movie/music prices reasonable.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago over at my blog (tommfranklin.blogspot.com) in an entry I called “The Problems With Pricing the Digital Book” (http://tommfranklin.blogspot.com/2010/07/problems-with-pricing-digita l-book.html)
Briefly, when CDs first came out, vinyl albums were selling for around $8 apiece. CDs sold for $15. When the public found out that it was actually *cheaper* to press a physical CD than to press a vinyl LP, everyone expected CD prices to drop. The record industry decided they’d continue pocketing the increased profits and CD prices have only risen.
Those people who are going to pirate books/movie/music are going to pirate the medias regardless of what happens. Napster was replaced by Torrents, a more sophisticated file-sharing system that skirts around the letter of the law. Kill off Torrents and something else is going to come and take its place.
We aren’t going to reach the piraters and/or the leeches. And we don’t need to worry about the people who for whatever reasons (moral, age, competency, whatever) won’t pirate either. What we need to do, IMHO, is address the customer who might pirate/illegally share content, or might not.
If we make prices more reasonable, I believe more copies of the media will be sold and less media will be pirated/downloaded.
More to come, I’m sure. : )– Tom


Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Tue August 10, 2010, 15:20:35

@Tom: Dude! How is it “splitting hairs” to say I don’t use MS Office? I was just informing you that I don’t use it, haven’t for years. Haven’t installed it. Have no clue what’s involved in installing it, uninstalling, re-installing it. (Thank God.)
And quoting from Apple’s EULA completely misses my point. Sorry, but it does. My point was: MS makes you jump through hoops to reinstall Office. Apple doesn’t make me jump through hoops to reinstall iWork. That’s from the actual usage standpoint. That’s from the “What physical steps must I take in order to reinstall this software?” standpoint. According to you, it’s a nightmare to do with MS. For Apple, it’s easy. No hoops to jump through.
The EULA is a separate issue. The EULA is not DRM. The EULA is a contract. One that, as I said, is probably not enforceable ultimately. We’re talking apples and oranges, man! (No pun intended.)
It’s not the EULA that’s making reinstalling Office such a nightmare for you. The EULA could be blank, but you’d still have to deal with the serial numbers and whatever other nonsense Redmond throws at you.
Whereas Apple’s EULA could say, “If you reinstall this software without a personal note from Steve Jobs, we will hunt you down and peck you to death with ducks,” but the act of the matter is, I could still go ahead and reinstall it because nothing in the software prevents me from doing so.
I don’t know how many more times I can say it or how many different ways I can say it, so I’ll shout it from the rooftops: TOM! I AGREE WITH YOU ON EULAS! I AGREE WITH YOU THAT WHEN WE BUY A PIECE OF SOFTWARE, IT SHOULD BE OURS, JUST AS IF WE BOUGHT A PHYSICAL BOOK!
I agree. With all of that. I’m saying that I don’t have a problem with there being a system that stops us from doing something illegal with it.
The heart of our problem seems to be semantic. You say: “DRM, in all of it’s current forms, says, you do not own anything physical.”
But, Tom, you’re wrong! DRM does NOT say that. DRM doesn’t say anything. DRM is a SYSTEM. The EULA — the contract — is what says you don’t own anything. DRM is the system used to enforce (or not, as in Apple’s case) that contract. For now. I’m saying that I want a DRM divorced from EULA, a DRM that does one thing and one thing only: Prevents people from making illegal use of the content. That’s it! That’s all!
DRM. Not EULA. Two separate things. Intertwined only in the cases where they ARE intertwined. You can have one without the other.
“I don’t want to be told I can only listen to the song through iTunes. If I’ve bought that copy of a song, I want to be able to listen to it through whatever mp3 player I wish. You like iTunes? Great. If iTunes crashes my Mac or PC every time I start up the app, I’m screwed because my iTunes-purchased songs are not mp3s, they’re Apple-proprietary m4ps and only play through iTunes.”
Dude, you’re killing me here! Every single song bought through iTunes can be turned into an MP3 and played on any device or through any application that supports MP3. Every song can be burned to a CD and played on an old-fashioned CD player, if you like. You have complete and utter freedom to do whatever you want with that music! Seriously! The above paragraph assumes circumstances that simply don’t exist. No one is telling you that you can only listen through iTunes. You can turn your files into MP3s and listen to them in anything you want. iTunes itself has the tools to let you do that. You are NOT screwed. I see most of your arguments, but this one — I’m sorry, man. There’s nothing to support it. Maybe you just didn’t know that you could get your files out of iTunes? Maybe you think it should be easier? I guess everything can always been made easier, but I don’t think it’s that much of a chore, to be honest with you. I’ve converted stuff to MP3 in the past and it’s not a headache at all.
“If so, then the subject is not a simple matter of black and white, there are some gray areas where you feel breaking the law is justifiable. ”
Er… It’s not a matter of settled law, really. Like I said, there are many, MANY fair use exceptions to copyright, including personal back-up. If the scenario outlined doesn’t meet one of them, it will soon.
“God forbid, your house burns down. (You, the wife, the kids, you’re all away visiting someone with all of the pets, too!) All of your Apple hardware melts, along with the iPhone you forgot to bring with you. You now have no copies of any of your software. Apple says you can only share your content on X number of devices, but they’re all melted. ”
Oh for God’s sake… 🙂 Dude. That’s why cheap, online backup exists. And that’s also why every single time I have stupidly, stupidly borked my system and lost a file from iTunes, I’ve e-mailed Apple and guess what? Every single time (EVERY time), they said, “Hey, no problem. Here’s instructions on how to re-download.” I just had to do that last week with fifty bucks worth of TV episodes that my AppleTV somehow ate before they could sync to my computer. No complaints, nothing. Just: “Go ahead, here they are. Thanks for being a customer.” So, yeah, even in the scenario you outline, I don’t see a problem.
I suppose if an EMP went off in Cupertino, then I’d be fucked. But honestly, then I think I’d have bigger problems. 🙂
[snip where you correct my usage of P2P]
I knew I was mangling some computerese there. Thanks for correcting me.
“I doubt it. As long as there is profit to be made, chop shops will still be around. They can be driven further underground, their sales to body shops be harder to conduct, but they’ll still be around.”
See, that’s the difference between me and…probably the rest of the planet (with the possible exception of Don Quixote): I don’t have a problem driving them underground and making their business harder to conduct. If people want to make a living doing something illegal and I can’t stop them, then at least I can make it more difficult for them. That’s fine.
Then again, I also think elected officials should only get pay raises by a voter ballot. I am, clearly, hopelessly naive. 🙂
“We aren’t going to reach the piraters and/or the leeches. And we don’t need to worry about the people who for whatever reasons (moral, age, competency, whatever) won’t pirate either. What we need to do, IMHO, is address the customer who might pirate/illegally share content, or might not.
If we make prices more reasonable, I believe more copies of the media will be sold and less media will be pirated/downloaded.”
I remember the CD transition quite well. In fact, the high CD prices are what kept me from switching from my trusty tape deck for years. I didn’t own a CD player until one came with a new computer I bought in, oh, 1997!
It’s that middleground of people. THOSE are the people iTunes reached. (I hate to keep coming back to iTunes, but let’s face it — whether you personally like it or not, it proved that you can make money on what had previously been free AND protect people’s rights.) But the BIG problem is this: What is a reasonable price? I honestly think that the public at large (and especially early-adopters) have a distorted view of what a book “should” cost. If my hardcover books cost $17 and my paperbacks cost $8, what’s a “fair” price for an e-book? The thing is, you can’t just look at those prices and say “lower than that.” Because that paperback costs what it does because the publisher gets some bang for the hardcover buck. The higher-priced hardcover ALLOWS them to sell a cheaper paperback because they’ve already made some cash on the hardcover. If you remove the hardcover from the equation (because no one buys it because they want the e-book), then you have to make up that shortfall SOMEwhere. PLUS, during the transition period from paper to digital, people still gotta pay the rent!
But I don’t want to turn this into a discussion on the pricing of e-books. I already talked about that in another blog. I agree that e-books should probably cost less than they currently do. I’m not sure exactly what that price should be yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the FAIREST price for e-books will probably still be considered too high by the early adopters and by some of those potential pirates.
I promise, too, that I will read your blog on pricing. Soon. I’m sort of swamped right now. 🙂

Re: What’s Wrong with Publishing? #9: DRM

By: Barry
on Tue August 10, 2010, 15:23:08

@John: Don’t worry, man: I’m not personally tracking down anyone. I hand off any pirates I notice to my publisher. And, yeah, I’m sure it’s an expensive proposition for them, but “content” is all they (and I) have in the world. It’s expensive to buy insurance for your house, car, and health, too, but we do it anyway.
Oh, and here’s something most people may not know: I am actually contractually OBLIGATED to inform my publisher of any copyright violation that comes to my attention. Most authors have such a clause in their contracts. (It cuts both ways — the publisher is obligated to stomp on any violations they discover and/or are made aware of.)