OPINION: DRM bullying

Posted on May 8, 2014


Copyright is not that difficult a concept. If you create something original that is a piece of intellectual property eg an original piece of fiction, then it is yours, not anybody else’s to pass off as their own. The copyright is your right of ownership of that intellectual property.

When a piece of fiction is published for distribution to readers, in the first instance you retain that right to the property. A traditional publishing arrangement has a publisher taking on the business risks of producing and distributing the book while your right as creator is represented by a portion of the sales – a royalty. Unless you have been unfortunate enough or foolish enough to have your rights signed over to the publisher forever.

Now we come to the other side of the coin – the rights of the consumer. When we buy a book, we are purchasing a right to use the author’s intellectual property for our own purposes. We are allowed to read it for our own enjoyment without limitation on how we are to enjoy it. What are limited are things such as unauthorised reproducing copies, reselling or commercial lending. But while we are reading for our own interest, then there is no restriction on the likes of where or when. It would be a decidedly strange local bookshop that only sold you a book as part of a contractual arrangement that you may only read that particular volume on alternative Tuesdays, in the bathroom while reciting Monty Python scripts.

Enter Amazon. Now Amazon is a major corporate success. It has made ordering and distribution of books on such a scale that it drives prices down for the consumer. Amazon has also made a major success of its particular format of electronic book, the mobi file type, and its version of electronic book reader, the Kindle.

Here is where we now run into a quandary. When we buy an electronic book from Amazon, it is only in that proprietary mobi format, which may only be read on an Amazon kindle or far less efficient Kindle Reader application. So far, that is merely a business model attempting to drive up sales of its own products. But Amazon goes a step further by enacting Digital Rights Management as the default position with its mobi files.

DRM restricts what use can be made of the product you have just acquired from Amazon. You may only read your book on a Kindle reader. Nowhere else. And applications that can convert file types now usually have a default position of ‘whoops, sorry, that file has DRM activated and I’m not allowed to anything to it.”

The DRM concept has been justified as a means of combating piracy. And I’m all for tackling the problem of theft of intellectual property. But the reality is that Amazon are merely using their market position to bludgeon us into buyer ever more of their product. Congratulations on buying that book from us. Now spend a bunch more money to acquire one of our readers so you can actually read your book. But you are not allowed to read that book on any other form of reader that isn’t one of ours. The reader doesn’t benefit. The author doesn’t benefit. Only Amazon benefits in a nasty, oppressive, bullying manner.

Fortunately it is not that difficult to remove those DRM restrictions and convert the mobi file type into any other format you want. A quick search on a search engine like Google or Bing will show just how simple it is to remove.

If I decide I am going to read a book, standing stark naked apart from a Britney Spears lookalike wig with a cucumber up my bum, then I want it to be because that is how I want to be. I should not have a bookseller force me to that position simply because it wants to sell more products from its costume and vegetable produce divisions. I detest bullies and this is one instance in which we can stand up to them.

Ross sig




OK, now Ross has had his say, over to you – what do you think?

Posted in: Opinion