Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hard and Soft DRM: Part 1

Hard DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) was created to protect the copyright licence from being abused. It was perceived that it was easier to copy a digital rendition than a physical one and therefore effectively locking it from being digitally copied made sense. So Hard DRM was born.

In reality,music is easy to rip and books can now be easily scanned and once digital both are easy to distribute.

Hard denotes that the rights are rigidity enforced by encryption. Hard DRM restricts physical access and usage of the file by either software or firmware and it is invisible and inaccessible to all but the licenser.

We have to ask is whether it has worked? It clearly will never stop the pirates who will revert to physical source, or merely break the code. It is effective at often restricting ordinary uses from making copies and distributing them to their friends, but in doing so, it may inadvertently restrict them in their own use and also limit the life expectancy of their purchase. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the file can’t be copied, or be read on the device you want to use it on, or that you have exceeded the number of copies deemed fair, or the people you bought it from no longer exist and the licence is in fact now void.

Today we only really have one effective DRM for books – Adobe’s ACS4, which supports both PDF and epub ebooks. Most of the eInk ereaders now support ACS4, most of the major distributors and retailers use it and it will soon be supported on mobiles. Amazon stands alone with its own proprietary DRM, Google doesn’t need it as they are online and what others exist are not worth chasing. Interoperability is the key and Adobe quickly offered that and gained the high ground. The question is whether this is the real answer or a mere stop gap?

We will have issues over time as the encrypted licence is not generic to all servers but locked to that which issued it. Therefore as retailers change suppliers and suppliers go out of business there will be issues. However some will say that that problem doesn’t exist today, so let’s not worry the consumer, retailer or anyone else and assume that will be fixed tomorrow.

Does DRM deter or promote sales? Do consumers care about DRM, hate it, or are they ambivalent towards it? The answer is varies according to who you talk to and often their position within the food chain.

To be honest we love it as a supplier and hate it as a consumer.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Martyn - I'm getting more into your blog now - I'm a start-up author / publisher and I'll be attending my first fair (Bologna) next march. Very interesting reading about digital rights etc as I'm trying to "go digital" as a part of my business model right from the start. I've just bought InDesign so will try publishing EPUB format also.