Sunday, December 02, 2012

Using DRM to Enable ebook Resales?

We all know that the DRM licence is often only as good as the availability of the server ,or service it was initiated and ‘stamped’ by. In other words you may have a perfectly valid and paid for copy of a title, but if for any reason you need to redownload it and the service has gone – poof! So has your licenced copy. Ok you may expect that, but when the licence is from a generic provider such as Adobe and their widely adopted ACS4 service you could transfer the licence but no, Poof, its gone! An interesting challenge when some may not be around into the future.

We now read with some interest another twist on the ‘Poof it gone’ DRM story as it relates to Barnes and Noble. This is about a request to redownload being refused because the credit card details held against the specific ebook licence had expired. This itself raises many questions about why credit card details are being held against a third party additional licence in the first place and whether  these are being held in perpetuity?
It is amazing that we continue to endorse the DRM route claiming protection of publisher and author rights, but we blatantly ignore or abuse consumer rights. It appears a sale is only as good as the consumers ability to back up any file and hope they never change their credit card, or it doesn’t expire and of course, they don’t need to replace the file. Some would suggest that an ebook may be for Christmas and not for life.

However with tongue in cheek, this also raises the thorny question of first sale doctrine. It is claimed that a digital file is always pristine and therefore a second sale practice is not the same as ‘used books’ and potentially undermine the market. However, some would suggest that if DRM is as rigid in its rules as it appears , then it would be easy for a service such as Adobe to validate the file is genuine and enable a resale. After all this is the argument in the current Redigi case where they validate files against itunes. It is also possible then to transfer or create a secondary licence to the new user thus controlling resales by DRM.  

It would be somewhat perverse to think that perhaps DRM does have a place after all? Using DRM to promote and control secondary sales would be an opportunity which we feel would itself send many DRM supporters over to the other side! Of course it will never happen but it demonstrates once again to that we have to becareful what we wish for.   

Original article on Barnes and Noble at The Passive Blog

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