Nick F. Stanley

Ramblings of a New Author

My Thoughts on DRM

So let’s talk DRM. I don’t like it. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have it at all.

For those who don’t know, DRM is short for Digital Rights Management. Basically, it’s software whose stated purpose is to manage your digital rights for software and data you use. It does things like determine how many computers you can keep a downloaded song on, or how many devices you can have an eBook on, or sometimes how many times you will be allowed to install software before being forced to buy another copy.

Lots of content creators, publishers, and sellers are starting to come around to the point of view that DRM is undesirable, some more than others. In gaming, CDProjeckt tried out DRM in The Witcher 2, and subsequently removed it since it did no good. In music, iTunes used to use DRM, then Amazon came out with DRM free tracks, and people flocked to them. There are more than those two examples of course, but we’ll go with that for now.

So when I published my first book on Kindle, I have a confession. For a short moment, I was tempted to tick the box to use DRM. I’m honestly not sure what difference it would make. Well, let me rephrase that: I’m not sure what difference it’s supposed to make. I am sure it would make no difference at all in any good way.

The thing about DRM is that it doesn’t actually do anything useful. If someone wants to pirate a copy of something you have created, they will find a way to do it. If someone has access to something you have created in a usable format, they can make an illicit copy and distribute it. Consider the extreme example: pull out a camera, photograph each page of an eBook on the screen, scan it into the computer, and you have a crude pirated copy of an eBook. Except, this is the least technical way it can be done, which can be done by just about anyone. People with the technical know-how can intercept the information well before it reaches the screen and a camera. Even with DRM. Once one person breaks it, everyone else can get it online very easily.

So why might I have been tempted to use it then? Well, because it provides an illusion of safety. It sounds good to say you’re protecting your work. I actually had a friend who told me once, if I had created something someone wanted to take, I would want to protect it. And they are right that I do want to protect it. The implication that I would choose to use DRM to do so is wrong though, I’m happy to say, even though it was tempting for a time.

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