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 Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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I think this is interesting:

http://boingboing.net/2012/04/24/tor-books-goes-completely-drm.html

It is particularly interesting to me, because I’ve been publishing my ebooks and videos DRM-free for several years now, and have recently been thinking about rethinking my stance on DRM.

Specifically because there really is a lot of piracy. This does include being able to find my content on criminal warez sites, but that’s actually not my concern. My primary issue with piracy is that it is too easy for companies that use CSLA .NET to buy one copy (technically a content license for one person) of my books/videos and to then share that content with their entire development team.

Although that is technically a criminal act, I don’t think most development team managers intend to be criminals. I think they intend to be frugal. I can hear the discussions in my head: “If he really meant for us to buy a copy for each developer he’d have made it harder to copy.” Or variations on that theme.

(yes, I’ve worked in business too – for around 25 years – and I know exactly how these conversations unfold)

The reality is this: I believe most people are basically decent. I also know for a fact that DRM punishes honest consumers, and does little or nothing to stop true criminals.

So I’ve chosen for years to be DRM-free. This way an honest consumer who buys my content is able to get a PDF or WMV file that they can easily read/watch on nearly any device, as they choose. No worries about licenses expiring or losing keys or passwords.

And the fact is, that if I did use DRM, the really bad guys would crack the DRM in a matter of hours or days, and the content would still be on criminal warez sites.

I’ve been rethinking my stance on DRM, because it would encourage otherwise basically decent people to actually buy the required number of copies of the content.

And yet I really don’t want to cause pain to honest consumers by using DRM. So I’m torn.

I tweeted the other day that I am considering releasing some future “ebook” content as a Windows 8 Metro style app. Not as a PDF, but literally as an app. It is an interesting idea, because it would basically force each developer to purchase their own copy of the content (or share their Microsoft Live ID passwords with each other), and yet wouldn’t technically be DRM. The app would just work – no keys or passwords to lose or expire – because once you buy a Windows 8 app from the Microsoft Store, you own the app and there’s no muss or fuss.

There are drawbacks to this. As someone pointed out, not all CSLA users are on Windows (especially now that we support mono for Android, Linux, and OS X). And I’d have to write an app in addition to creating the content – not as simple as writing the content as a Word document obviously.

So I’ll be very interested to see what Tor Books finds out as they release all their books DRM-free. Will they dodge the DOJ/Apple/Amazon legal/distribution traps as they are trying to do? Will their content be pirated more than it already is? In short, it will be interesting to see if this turns out to be a win, loss, or draw for them over time.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on CSLA version 4.5 and thinking about whether to remain DRM-free, go with DRM, or perhaps build a “book as an app”.

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