Jag Venugopal's Blog

January 26, 2011

Read my lips: DRM is Useless

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 7:00 am

If any further proof of the uselessness of Digital Rights Management (DRM, or “Copy Protection”) was needed, Wired Magazine has it. They have published a brief how-to designed to strip DRM from ebooks of any variety — Kindle, B&N or Sony. Typically stripping DRM was accomplished by a technically adept individual who would run a few python scripts that had various magic steps. Not any more. Now, all you need to do is to set up the Calibre e-book reader, install some plugins, and drag-and-drop your DRM infected files. The software takes care of the rest. A kid could do it.

Publishers and their lawyers can try to sue the author of Calibre, but that’s likely to be difficult because it is open source. If he stops developing it, someone else will pick up right where he left off. And if they sue the ISPs from where Calibre is downloaded, the whole show will move to a different ISP, out of the reach of American lawyers. You cannot put an open-source genie back in the bottle.

The bottom line is that DRM never worked for other media (e.g. music) and will not work for books. DRM is technically unworkable because the decryption key has to be embedded in the software on a user’s desk.

Neither is DRM commercially workable. Thanks to the Agency Pricing Model foisted by publishers upon the reading public, many ebooks now cost more than the paperback at Amazon. Users will definitely not pay more for an eBook and then have it crippled by DRM infection, such that it cannot be used on any device other than for which it was originally purchased.

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