The Raging Debate about eBook DRM

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The Raging Debate about eBook DRM

Turgay Birand

February 28, 2013

eBook DRM officially stands for "eBook Digital Rights Management", and it is a term used to describe any technological method for fighting piracy so that the rights of musicians, software developers, and eBook authors can be protected. How eBook DRM Protects Authors DRM offers three levels of protection for authors of ebooks:
  1. It establishes a copyright for the contents of the ebook.
  2. It oversees and manages how the ebook is distributed.
  3. It manages and limits what the ebook owner can do with his or her ebook.
Without all these levels of protection, the ebook can easily be redistributed without the author receiving fair compensation for their work. Why Many Readers Find DRM Annoying Readers who are used to actual books in paper form have become accustomed to exerting their ownership rights of the books. Their rights aren’t limited to just reading the books. Readers can lend the books to their friends, they can even photocopy the pages if they wish, and once they have read them, they also have the option of reselling them. Many of those readers who buy electronic versions of their books assume that they can also do the same with their ebooks, in addition to the inherent advantages of having the books in electronic form. With eBook DRM, all those assumptions are dashed to pieces. Readers suddenly find themselves with no easy way to lend a copy to their friends, and they may not even be able to make copies for all the devices they own. For example, if a book can only be copied once, then the owner who has a copy of the ebook in their PC and laptop may no longer be able to copy it to their ebook readers or tablets. This is why so many readers are either: 1. Not buying ebooks, or at least not buying those with DRM; or 2. Finding ways to remove or disable the eBook DRM. In the US, it is illegal to disable a DRM system according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, yet the practice is quite popular not just all over the world but also within the country. After all, when people feel deeply that they are entitled to something, then they will find a way to get what they want. The instructions for disabling eBook DRM systems are easily accessible through a simple Google search. For some people, it’s a matter of convenience that eBook DRM should be eliminated. Others sincerely believe that it is a matter of civil rights, and in the US such concerns are taken very seriously indeed. For these people, DRM stands for Digital “Restrictions” Management. A Pending Resolution Right now, the debate about DRM is still ongoing. It still remains to be seen whether the use of DRM is worth all the hassles that potential readers have to go through in order to enjoy the electronic versions of the books they have purchased. Some authors have concluded that the stigma of DRM, its cost, and all the negative feelings it causes among readers are not worth the extra money to be gained by curbing piracy somewhat. Still, for most independent authors for whom every single sale is important, DRM represents their best of trying to find a way to make a living through writing. The fight against piracy may seem to be a losing battle, but for authors, DRM is all they’ve got. Also, many smaller publishers need DRM to even break into the business, so eBook DRM is very much a reality and requirement for the masses. Therefore, further development and simplification of DRM mechanisms seem to be the best path to pursue for all involved in digital publishing.

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