As a writer, I’ve been trying to solve the issue of DRM for some time. I’ve heard many arguments against DRM, most of which I’ve found to be absolutely false. In contrast, I’ve found very little support for DRM. It seems that the general public has a major hate-on for DRM.
For those of you who wonder what DRM is, it stands for Digital Rights Management. DRM started making the news back when Napster was a major player in the pirated music scene. In essence, DRM was intended to make it impossible to copy music to your friends computer. This was an issue for anybody buying CD’s at the time, as they often wanted to load tracks onto their mp3 players. Understandably, this was viewed quite negatively. These days one can easily download many pirated tracks for free, or buy them legally, one at a time, from online stores such as Itunes and Amazon without DRM, and several others with DRM. in the case of those with DRM, the tracks may be copied a limited number of times. Naturally, the DRM-free music is more popular.
DRM works a little differently for ebooks. The most common form of DRM is Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). Ebooks using ADE may be opened using the ADE software on the computer to which it was originally downloaded. If the software is registered to an Adobe account, the ebook may then be copied to any device also registered to that account. Currently one may register 6 devices and 6 computers in the first year and one additional device and one additional computer per year after that. As technology continues to change, and policies are continually challenged, this policy may one day be altered.
All of the major publishing houses insist on DRM, while self published authors are split on the issue. Mike Coker, founder and president of Smashwords refers to DRM as an infection, and Smashwords does not offer the option to it’s clients. Mr. Coker has published an article on the subject on the Smashwords Blog.
Still, Coker isn’t the definitive authority on the subject. There is some debate left on the matter. Samantha Warren, for instance, makes a fantastic argument pro DRM in this article. In it, she defends her right to protect her intellectual property from those who would gladly steal it. This is a valid point.
I had the opportunity once to speak with a man who owned an ereader for the soul purpose of downloading pirated books. He became very quiet when I told him about my writing. Perhaps he had always thought that authors lived in a fantasy world where they would ride unicorns to the book store to make daily deliveries from their fantastic mansions made of gold. Or maybe he thought that authors were a myth, and books just appeared. The sad truth is that authors have jobs, and, though we would all love to stay home and write, it isn’t the reality for most of us. I think it’s fair of us to want to be paid for our books.