Is Digital Rights Management Limiting Your Freedom?

Is Digital Rights Management Limiting Your Freedom

Publishing a book is a wonderful achievement, and you probably want to protect it from being pilfered. But protecting your book using digital rights management tools may not be in your best interest.

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is designed to protect your content online by “locking content into an account, requiring a password to open a file, making use of a hardware key, or applying digital watermarks,” according to American Libraries blog e-Content.

I would argue that rights are liberating, but DRM is, in fact, restricting. Consider this, DRM “controls what you can do with the digital media and devices you own,” according to Defective by Design. So, it can prevent people from sharing your work. In other publishing, such as the magazine industry, relies on the pass along rate, the rough number of times a magazine issue gets handed off to a non-subscriber. When friends share an issue with other friends, people can taste the content and may decide to purchase that magazine. With DRM, pass along is eliminated, and so goes your chances of finding new readers using that method.

The same idea is important for books too. Recently, I purchased a book, not because it was recommended to me, but my friend gave me a copy to borrow. I read the first chapter, was hooked,  logged onto Amazon, and that author made a sale.

History of Digital Rights Management

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “DRM has proliferated thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), which sought to outlaw any attempt to bypass DRM.” The 1998 Act, which governs DRM in the United States came from the World Intellectual Property Organization. The latter of these came from an international treaty, which has been signed by many industrialized nations.  In the WIPO, not only are digital books protected, but so is DRM software used for encryption. That’s why Kindle doesn’t share with iBook and Nook doesn’t share with anyone. And that’s why, if you’re lucky to remove DRM encrypting, you’ll likely get the ire of “Big Corporations” and unwanted attention of the courts.

Why Digital Rights Management Is Bad for You

Reports tell us DRM fights copyright infringement and keeps consumers safe from viruses. But we lose are freedom to share information, which limits your liberty and the liberty of others to share good ideas. Before DRM, I would submit, we enjoyed  an era of human history where idea sharing split cultures in half, fueled revolutions, and inspired us to greater things.

Consider the largest movement known to mankind, the Protestant Revolution. The act of Martin Luther nailing his 99 theses to the door of University of Wittenberg chapel didn’t cause the split with the Catholic Church; it was the pass long and the printing of the document, which gave it legs to spread faster. There was no digital right management in the 1500’s. Ideas spread with ease and communication was fluid, given the lack of technology.

This begs the question. Does DRM restrict information? And, is it restricting our evolution as we grow into a global culture dependent on the free flow of information?

3 thoughts on “Is Digital Rights Management Limiting Your Freedom?

  1. Great article Rodger. Your arguments that DRM is a flawed and restrictive solution are really compelling. It’s like the conundrum faced by many celebrities. They court publicity at every turn when it suits them, yet they demand their rights to privacy. I’m afraid there will always be a price to be paid. When ity comes to DRM and its impact on pass through and the free flowe of information, I would agree that the price is too high.

  2. Dermot, thanks for weighing in. At the end of the day DRM is designed to protect our work from those who might steal it. But the effort of DRM is not only defined by the problem, but is limited by it as well.

  3. Nice Rodger, I agree with the dangers of DRM which you have stated. The flow of information is evidently a crucial factor to its effectiveness. DRM was initiated to stop the stealing of information, but now that its design also hinders legitimate free flow of information from user to user, or client to client, then a solution has to be put in place to overcome that. Information providers leverage is based on the coverage of their content and that coverage is dependent on the flow capability.

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