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To read comments to this article, go here
UK Publishers Asked for DRM Thoughts & I Offer Some - For Free!
Sunday, November 20 2005 @ 09:56 PM EST

The UK Association of Online Publishers (UK AOP) have announced that their members, online publishers, are being invited by the UK (Parliamentary) All Party Internet Group (APIG) to provide DRM case studies for an APIG DRM study. I have formed the impression they'd like positive DRM experiences.

They would like to figure out to what degree "protection" is needed for both copyright holders and consumers. Well, that's refreshing. At least they are considering consumers. While they don't specifically ask consumers to respond, I don't see why consumers should not express themselves politely. We're all in this together.

Here's the latest. They are thinking that DRM would be a benefit to consumers, because we can buy "the right to read a book just once or pay a fraction of a penny every time" we play a song. Excuse me. When I buy a book in paper form, I already get to read it more than once. On what legal basis are publishers now proposing to sell me a book I can't reread? Copyright law limits copies. But limiting reading? This is an opportunity for me how? It will be cheaper than paying each time I read the book? Is that the plan now, to make us pay per read? Similarly, I don't know how they figure this is a song-listening fiscal opportunity. It is for them, but how is this great for me? I get to pay more than once for the same thing. I'm probably missing something.

Maybe with songs it might make some sense if you weren't sure you liked the song. You could pay to hear it once and see. Of course, you used to be able to walk into a record store and listen for free to see if you wished to buy. So, I guess the new opportunity in DRM is they've figured out a way to make people pay to browse. Talk about your progress. Amazon is experimenting with this idea:

For Amazon Pages, Bezos said, the cost for most books would be a few cents per page, although readers would likely be charged more for specialized reference works. Under Amazon Upgrade, anybody purchasing a paper book could also look at the entire text online, at any time, for a “small” additional charge, Bezos said. For instance, a $20 book might cost an extra $1.99. Copyright holders would determine whether the pages could be printed or downloaded. “We feel strongly that copyright holders get to make these decisions,” Bezos said. . . .

“The Amazon programs are the way copyright is supposed to work,” the Authors Guild’s executive director, Paul Aiken, said Thursday. “You provide access to readers and some compensation flows back to rights holders. It seems like a positive development.”

That may be how the Author's Guild would like copyright to work, but has it until now? If I go to Barnes and Nobles in person, do they charge me to browse? At a higher rate if it is a reference book, to boot? If I jot down something interesting, do they arrest me? If I show something cool to my best friend standing next to me, is it piracy?

Google, Random House, Simon & Schuster and other book publishers are reportedly considering the same type of "service":

Random House, the country’s largest general trade publisher, listed a number of “key components” for any deal, including that “Books will be available for full indexing, search and display” and “No downloading, printing or copying will be permitted.”

I do get why publishers would be excited at the prospect. But what about us? Consumers are always being told DRM plans are for our benefit, but how so? Now we "get" to pay per page view? Per read? Per listen? And after paying the premium price to view a reference book, I can't copy the information I paid for? Not even just for myself? I don't have a photographic memory, so what good is a reference book to me if I can't retain the information? How do I retain it if I can't copy it? Has anyone thought about this from the standpoint of us consumers?

The president of Random House has terms before he'll sign on for Amazon Upgrade, the new system where someone buying a paper book is allowed to also read the book online any time for a “small” additional charge, like $1.99 for a $20 book. Here's how he expresses his worries about pricing for viewing the digital text, which by the way costs him essentially nothing to provide electronically after the first one is scanned:

“We’re worried about pricing. We will not participate on the basis of some small, incremental charge,” said Sarnoff, emphasizing that publishers set suggested prices.

See what I mean? Consumers are to be fleeced at all costs. To the max. Now they've figured out a way to make us pay to browse. It's like the movie moguls. 99 cents isn't enough for a song now, by the way, according to reports that Hollywood is trying to sit on Apple to make them charge more. More and more for something that costs essentially nothing to duplicate forever.

Apple advertizes their iPod as holding 15,000 songs, and at .99 a song, that is $14,850 from my pocket alone to fill my iPod. That isn't enough? People used to listen to the radio all day long for free, did we not? You had to listen to ads. That was it. DRM is no fairyland for consumers. If you compare what we are being offered with what we are used to, rights are being snatched away from us. We get to pay more ... and more, and more ... and we get less and less. The only benefits stem from the technology, not from the content. We've traded convenience for, well... for everything else, outstandingly fair use.

Here's my favorite topic from the list of topics they are investigating:

*Whether DRM systems can have unintended consequences on computer functionality.

*Can* they? I think they can skip that one, after Sony. It's no longer a theoretical. By the way, there is an iTunes vulnerability associated with the DRM now being reported in the news, so far only in iTunes for Windows. I suggest for them a new topic:

* Whether DRM systems can have astronomically high unanticipated legal costs for publishers and content holders that will wipe out every penny DRM purportedly saves them

Ponder that. Ask your lawyer to explain the math. P.S. Just a clue: pirates aren't deterred by DRM. Not ever. Just holding down the shift key bypassed the Sony DRM tentacles, I have been told. All Sony did was annoy their paying customers. Oh, and contribute to the destruction of culture, in case they care. Culture, schmulture. If you do the math that way, they ought to notice that they are losing money. Pirates are still there, and the rest of us are less and less interested in their stupid wares. Or should I say Warez?

So, there are my thoughts for you. No charge for my intellectual property, by the way. But don't download or copy or share a word of it. You can read what I wrote, but that's it. I charge for copying, and it's a separately charged service. And no distribution. All you can do with it is clasp it to your dying breast and be buried with it. Otherwise your heirs might read it, and then we'll have to sue your estate for the unauthorized page views or lock them up. Those pirates.

Yeah. Kidding. But betcha some brainiac will charge you for copying. It'll be advertized as a great new benefit DRM makes possible for consumers. Yup. And no niggardly incremental charge for copying either. We're talking monetization here. IP is pure gold, don'tcha know. There's money in the air, and if it's money no one used to make from the same IP, so what? Move with the times. Consumers are so stupid, they'll buy rootkits.

Say. That reminds me. Something I've been meaning to ask. Why did a half million of you buy those CDs? Live and learn, kidlets. Live and learn. DRM is not your friend. Remember: they can't pull this off without us.

Here's the announcement:

************************

UK inquiry into Digital Rights Management: Case studies required

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG), a discussion forum between new media industries and Parliamentarians, is to hold a public inquiry into the issues surrounding Digital Rights Management (DRM), including the degree of protection needed for both copyright holders and consumers.

The policy debate around DRM is often cast as an argument between publishers of software, music and movies, anxious to prevent revenue loss from illegal duplication; and consumers, who fear they may lose existing rights to freely enjoy what they have purchased and to pass it on to others when they have finished with it.

However, to portray the issues surrounding DRM as merely a consumer versus publisher debate is misleading, according to APIG. It points to wider applications of DRM in, for example, allowing individuals to buy the right to read a book just once, or pay a fraction of a penny every time they play a song. This allows publishers greater flexibility in the services they offer and leads to increased consumer choice, says the Parliamentary Group.

The inquiry will focus on:

  • Whether DRM distorts traditional trade-offs in copyright law
  • Whether new types of content sharing license (such as Creative Commons or Copyleft) need legislation changes to be effective
  • How copyright deposit libraries should deal with DRM issues
  • How consumers should be protected when DRM systems are discontinued
  • To what extent DRM systems should be forced to make exceptions for the partially sighted and people with other disabilities
  • What legal protections DRM systems should have from those who wish to circumvent them
  • Whether DRM systems can have unintended consequences on computer functionality
  • The role of the UK Parliament in influencing the global agenda for this type of technical issue.

AOP views this inquiry as an opportunity for online publishers to submit information on the positive ways in which DRM can be used to help define and administer legitimate on-demand publishing and subscription services in the future.

Members with examples/case studies of the way in which they have already adopted DRM technologies to help improve and develop on line services are requested to email these to Alex White, director of AOP, so these can be included in our submission to the inquiry to highlight the benefits for both publishers and consumers. Please email your examples to alex.white@ukaop.org.uk by Friday 9 December.


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