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Media Books Businesses

Book Publishers Abandoning DRM 218

Posted by Zonk
from the another-one-bites-the-dust dept.
tmalone writes "The New York Times is reporting that book publishers are beginning to phase out DRM-protected audio books. This month the world's largest publisher, Random House, started offering DRM-free mp3s; Penguin has announced that it will follow suit. Their logic? DRM just doesn't work. 'Publishers, like the music labels and movie studios, stuck to DRM out of fear that pirated copies would diminish revenue. Random House tested the justification for this fear when it introduced the DRM-less concept with eMusic last fall. It encoded those audio books with a digital watermark and monitored online file sharing networks, only to find that pirated copies of its audio books had been made from physical CDs or DRM-encoded digital downloads whose anticopying protections were overridden.'"
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Book Publishers Abandoning DRM

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  • duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:52AM (#22713528) Homepage
    the blindingly obvious usually will win out in time.
    • Re:duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:06AM (#22713574) Homepage
      I think this is needed as a tag for this article - suddenoutbreakofcommonsense.

      Isn't this all based on something we try to teach children? If you give someone trust then they will do the right thing, but if you're instantly distrustful then they're never going to do the right thing.

      Hurrah for non-DRM! It's good to see they put some effort in to this rather than just going "we must put digital restricting management on the files because of 'teh leet haxxorz' who will cost us trillions of dollars and destroy the world economy by being selfish enough to want to do what they wish with the file they've paid for".

      If only I had the cabling to format-shift my two Discworld audio book tapes.
      • Re:duh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Idimmu Xul (204345) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:28AM (#22713886) Homepage Journal
        Way to not read!

        Isn't this all based on something we try to teach children? If you give someone trust then they will do the right thing, but if you're instantly distrustful then they're never going to do the right thing.
        From the blurb

        It encoded those audio books with a digital watermark and monitored online file sharing networks, only to find that pirated copies of its audio books had been made from physical CDs or DRM-encoded digital downloads whose anticopying protections were overridden.
        People are going to pirate whether their is DRM or not, which is pretty much what their study found.. the DRM did not stop piracy, so why pay extra for a mechanism that doesn't work and inconveniences legitimate purchasers?
        • by IBBoard (1128019)
          Way not to read! From the blurb:

          It encoded those audio books with a digital watermark and monitored online file sharing networks, only to find that pirated copies of its audio books had been made from physical CDs or DRM-encoded digital downloads whose anticopying protections were overridden.

          People are pirating the DRM/physical versions, where as the watermarked versions (from the use and meaning of the phrase "only to find") weren't pirated (or were to a much lower level as to be insignificant). That reads

          • That reads (to me) as "people who were given DRM-free audio books were happier with them and didn't feel the need to pirate them".
            Or the DRM release was available way before the DRM-free release and pirated first by a piracy group looking to sell it on in China or release it for some 'scene kudos'.
        • "...the DRM did not stop piracy, so why pay extra for a mechanism that doesn't work and inconveniences legitimate purchasers?"

          This is the exact sequence of events that occurred with early computer games and copy-restricted floppy disks. It didn't stop piracy since cracking programs ran rampant, and it irritated all of the paying customers who had to type in those damn words from the manuals. This is exactly what's meant by people failing to learn from history being doomed to repeat it.
      • by argStyopa (232550)
        "Isn't this all based on something we try to teach children? If you give someone trust then they will do the right thing, but if you're instantly distrustful then they're never going to do the right thing."

        Actually, I'd say it's kind of the obverse - what I've learned as an adult: that people who are basically honest assume others are too. If someone immediately assumes you're a lying, cheating, deceitful SOB, that's usually a key clue that THEY are in fact lying, cheating, or simply a deceitful SOB.

        I beli
        • by IBBoard (1128019)
          That wasn't quite my point. Yes, you can over generalise and there will always be people who are inherently going to cheat, but if you're given a position of responsibility then people will often be responsible because they have been given something extra and feel they should show it was worth giving it to them.

          The other similar one is respect. A lot of people complain that they don't get respect from youngsters and yet they won't give respect themselves. Once you start giving respect then you start getting
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        Everyone thinks everyone else is like them. It's just human nature.

        I used to go to Planet Crap years ago, and was struck that the publishers and heads of game companies who commented there who were in favor of DRM all admitted to being copyright infringing pirates when in college.

        Thieves expect everyone else to steal, violent people expect violence and honest men expect honesty. Basically, anyone who insists that DRM is necessary is a thief.
    • by Ruie (30480)
      And some did the right thing way back:

      Baen Webscriptions [webscription.net], Baen free library [baen.com]

  • by DKlineburg (1074921) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:54AM (#22713540)
    I understand this was originally causing quite a stir with Audible.com [audible.com]. Audible stats that it will not allow any non DRM books to be placed on there site. Even if the author requests that they do so. I know of one author mentioned on TWIT - This Week In Tech [twit.tv]. (I believe was John C Dvorak, but can't remember) that we was not going to put his book up on Audible.com just for the reason he wanted it not DRM'd. With all the major book companies shifting to a none DRM format, I wonder if sites like this that are smaller will change there attitude.
    • Even pdf ebooks are f*cked up. The one I bought from PACKT Publishing [in the UK] was watermarked with my email and mailing address [fine, didn't interfere with me using it], but the book also has errata. A) They don't have a version with the errata applied [which has been expounded as being a reason for having ebooks, because they are SO EASY TO UPDATE]. B) The permissions on the PDF are set so I can't even manually add annotations to the various pages with the errata
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Are there any free PDF readers that ignore the permissions on these documents. It seems like a stupid restriction to no allow one to add annotations.
    • by allcar (1111567) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:19AM (#22713604)
      Audible insists on DRM, so I won't use audible.
      Whenever the free, pirated version is technically superior to the costly commercial version, the business case is on pretty rocky ground.
      There are an increasing number of examples showing that people will pay real money for products that can easily be obtained for nothing, but it must be worth their while. Well presented, high quality, DRM free recording, perhaps accompanied by supporting extras, such as maps and illustrations will sell. The recent experiment by the Nine Inch Nails is an excellent example of people being prepared to pay for a premium product.
      • by justsomecomputerguy (545196) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:06AM (#22713782) Homepage
        As the unwilling DRM expert in the school district I work for, I've told all the Librarians to NOT buy from either the Apple iTunes store or Audible.com, to instead buy the books as CD's or even Cassette Tapes and then make their own DRM-less MP3 files for use on the players the district checks out to students.

        We don't do this to get around copyright law, we buy as many copies as are made available, but it is simply NOT WORTH THE TIME AND TROUBLE to deal with DRM.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by douthat (568842)
          Both Audible and iTunes audio books support CD Burning out of the box. If it is your prerogative, you can then rip the CDs to DRM-free mp3s or oggs, or whatever. The DRM is annoying, but not invasive, but using these services is really about the instant gratification. (You can also authorize your audible account on a seemingly endless number of computers and devices. There are also apparently some tools to strip the DRM in pure software.)
          • by Aladrin (926209)
            So they should buy it, buy blank CDs, use proprietary software to burn it to those CDs, then rip it back to the computer.

            How is this is better than just buying the CDs and ripping them?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by shalla (642644)
          As the unwilling DRM expert in the school district I work for, I've told all the Librarians to NOT buy from either the Apple iTunes store or Audible.com, to instead buy the books as CD's or even Cassette Tapes and then make their own DRM-less MP3 files for use on the players the district checks out to students.

          And as a librarian, I'm appalled if they listen to you. Is it easier? Yes. Is it still copyright infringement if you aren't very strict? Yes.

          I think DRM is wrong, and this move is making my day.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Alon Tal (784059)
      It was Cory Doctorow who complained about Audible's mandatory DRM, in TWiT 124 [twit.tv], around the 43 minute mark.
    • by PinkyDead (862370)
      I shall watch with interest to see who wins out: the large publishers or Audible.com

      I tried Audible.com last month - I actually tried to get into Audio books full stop, but on Linux it's a miserable disaster. All the methods I tried failed - for obvious reasons. Audible, however, while having the best site, quality and selection, was the worst experience. Their subscription model is hard to get your head around - especially if you are trying from scratch. And by the time you find out you can't use it on
      • by Kredal (566494)
        If you have not called them on the phone and waited on hold for 15-30 minutes, your account is probably still active.

        Good luck.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      placed on there site... change there attitude...

      Their literacy is over there.

      Once is a typo, twice in the same comment is either a non-English speaker or an illiterate. Ironic that in a thread about literacy you get comments from people who can't spell a five letter word.
  • I realize almost everyone here knew this back when this whole thing began, but I fear that the music and movie industries will largely ignore this, or, worse, try to improve upon it somehow. The current models are failing, but they don't want to admit it. They'll probably continue investing more into an arms race they can't win. Maybe a mixture of diminishing sales and wasted money will cripple them enough that others can rise up and take their place.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``I realize almost everyone here knew this back when this whole thing began,
      but I fear that the music and movie industries will largely ignore this,
      or, worse, try to improve upon it somehow.''

      I don't mind if they improve it. If they can come up with a scheme that
      allows legitimate use (using the software and hardware of _my_ choice,
      thank you very much) while making unauthorized use harder, I will be
      happy. The problem I have with current DRM schemes is that they
      restrict legitimate use (which then isn't even l
    • I realize almost everyone here knew this back when this whole thing began, but I fear that the music and movie industries will largely ignore this, or, worse, try to improve upon it somehow. The current models are failing, but they don't want to admit it. They'll probably continue investing more into an arms race they can't win. Maybe a mixture of diminishing sales and wasted money will cripple them enough that others can rise up and take their place.

      I'm not so sure. There have already been moves to get music DRM free. Now Audio books seem to be following suit, so perhaps the penny is finally dropping. DRM is not a safeguard, its a challenge.

  • by 49152 (690909) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:08AM (#22713580)
    From the article: "Our feeling is that D.R.M. is not actually doing anything to prevent piracy," said Ms. McIntosh of Random House Audio.

    Wtf? A business person actually seeing whats been f...king obvious for years now? :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mSparks43 (757109)
      its better than that, they're saying DRM encourages piracy, which makes a funny kind of sense, since even if you buy DRM'd stuff, you then have to turn to the file sharing networks to get the non DRM stuff.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Too bad they still haven't figured out that "piracy" isn't costing them a dime but can actually increase revinues, but DRM does cost them money.

      DRM costs them qite a bit money they would get from me if I didn't refuse to buy it, and I imagine a lot of other people's money as well.

      OTOH how many people bought a legitimate copy of something they originally got through shady means? Quite a few.

      DRM is brain-dead stupid.
  • I'm impressed. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:16AM (#22713592)
    How often does a company actually get the queue and do something right? The fact that they tested their assumption and made a move based on evidence is praise worthy. Not that they will give up, but at least they figured out how they aren't going to win.

    Maybe these books that everyone talks about actually do make you smarter.

    • How often does a company actually get the queue and do something right?

      "get the queue"? Are you sure you're using it right? I've never seen that expression before. Maybe you mean "get a clue"?
    • by syphax (189065)

      The scientific method in the media industry. Remarkable.

      As someone who gets eBooks from eMusic, and doesn't share them via P2P (go get your own damn subscription- it's not that expensive), you're welcome.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:17AM (#22713820) Homepage
    What the publishers need to do is make an agreement with a few distribution channels to get their books out there in PDF format incredibly cheap. If I could buy a typical $8 paperback book on the iTMS and sync it to my iPod Touch for $3, I'd buy a lot more books. Not only that, but if you got it down to around $3, the publisher would have much fewer worries about piracy because it'd be clearly discounted for internet sales. One of the things that is just asinine is that most ebooks cost as much as the printed copies!

    I've debated a few IP expansionists on a subject that would do much more to hamper piracy: bringing IP under state property laws. You catch someone making a business off of your IP without you releasing it for free? How does grand theft sound instead of "copyright infringement" if it's really property? You want to get rid of serial piracy, especially the for-profit kind? Throw the punks in with the guys who commit real felony property crimes.

    Of course that's assuming IP is real property...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by STrinity (723872)

      What the publishers need to do is make an agreement with a few distribution channels to get their books out there in PDF format incredibly cheap
      Please, no. PDFs should be reserved for files where the layout is important. With ebooks, I don't care if the pagination matches that of the dead-tree version. I'd much rather have some form of text markup language where the software can rewrap to make optimal use of my screen space.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I guess it depends on the book. For paperback novels, you are totally right. However, for textbooks and the like, I would have to say that having a specific layout can help in a lot of instances. You could probably develop a PDF reader than would output the book in a more plain text type format (similar to 1 column available on the Wii Opera browser) if you just wanted something without the layout.
      • by Steve001 (955086)

        STrinity wrote and included with a post:

        What the publishers need to do is make an agreement with a few distribution channels to get their books out there in PDF format incredibly cheap

        Please, no. PDFs should be reserved for files where the layout is important. With ebooks, I don't care if the pagination matches that of the dead-tree version. I'd much rather have some form of text markup language where the software can rewrap to make optimal use of my screen space.

        I strongly agree with this. One o

    • by amplt1337 (707922)
      The problem with this is that publishers are already operating on very thin margins (I know, I work with them and have friends in the industry). This is because so many books that get published totally flop, and because authors actually get a fair shake with royalties (unlike music artists). That $8 paperback is cheap already, but the physical production costs are going to be around a dollar. Selling online at a $5 discount would probably push the profit-per-sale into the red.

      If you want to start an onli
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:52AM (#22714066) Homepage Journal
    Since the watermarks survive, as the content plays indistinguishably with them in there, but don't prevent copying, why don't they just watermark everything?

    If they charge your credit card when you download the watermarked content, they can just watermark the content with your card ID. Then if they catch a file out there in the wild, they can see who it came from, and investigate the cardholder and the contentholder with violating copyright law.

    If it's even worth the bother. They'll realize that people distributing some of the content for free to their friends the best advert for more content. And even if they give all the content away free, they'll realize that the content is just a way for people to connect to its author, so the content is advertisement for all kinds of other products: presubscription premiere releases, physical copy collector's items, schwag like T-shirts/posters/actionfigures, personal appearances, "author's picks" compilations of other content, recommendations of other authors, branded SUVs with the author's signature...

    The audience has already moved into the 21st Century "free content" economy. These dinosaurs are still selling CDs as if they're still in the business of selling plastic discs, that they emboss with content-encoded patterns as a marketing stunt. Well, they can't custom-watermark CDs so easily, and the costs of trucking them around is more than they "lose" on free downloads. They should get with the program before they're nothing but an obstacle.
    • by amplt1337 (707922)
      This is book publishing, not music. The kind of tie-ins you're talking about are not and have never been a major revenue stream in this industry. Kiss will sell out stadiums' worth of tickets; when was the last time you or anyone you know paid more than a moderate venue cost to go to a book reading?

      Book publishing is seriously in trouble, because the Internet is already great competition for text-based information. Making books is expensive. Making good books is even more expensive. Good books are much
  • I was briefly excited until I realized that this had nothing to do with multi-format eBooks.

    Guess I'll stick with Fictionwise and Baen for a while more.
  • inaccurate subject (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trawg (308495) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:06AM (#22714166) Homepage
    would it have been that hard to prefix it with 'audio'? I don't care about audiobooks
  • I bought serial number #1 from them, "The Pleasure of finding things out", on MP3 CD.

    Then, they went DRM.

    From: Doreen Moore
    Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 12:21:58 -0700

    Dear Mr. Richardson,

    We just created our first MP3-CD recording. It is available for purchase
    only
    for 19.00. The title is "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" by Richard
    Feynman.

    It will be a slow process initially, but hopefully within the next few
    months we can release an initial batch of about 50 or so titles to start,
    then
  • by Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:27AM (#22715020) Homepage

    I've made a three-stage theory on DRM:

    1) DRM is introduced, many bold claims are made about it, manufacturers are very excited about it, cracking efforts begin.
    2) The DRM starts to get cracked, new schemes are introduced with equally bold claims, many legal threats are made, but it starts to become clear that this isn't working.
    3) Investigations are done into how beneficial DRM is, and the results aren't favourable to DRM. The DRM is deemed to be costly and useless, and is promptly abandoned.

    e-books seem to be moving towards stage 3 right now. Of course, there is the possible stage 4 to be concerned about.

    4) Stage 3 is somehow forgotten, DRM is re-introduced, many bold claims are made about it...

  • Their logic? DRM just doesn't work.

    It's a shame it took them this long to figure that out. They could have asked any one of us and we would have told them that for a $20,000 consulting fee.

    (apologies to Mr. Black for ripping him off)
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:12AM (#22716718)

    The computer software industry generally realized twenty years ago that copy protection schemes cause more problems than they solve. (When was the last time you had to look up a word in a printed manual, or attach a hardware dongle, in order to run a piece of software?) Copy protection is rarely difficult to circumvent, adds to the costs of media distribution, provides no benefit to the legitimate customer, and often drives legitimate customers to become illegitimate for the sake of convenience.

    It's nice to see a sign of hope that other digital content industries may finally be coming to the same conclusions.
    • or attach a hardware dongle, in order to run a piece of software?
      Isn't that what you're doing when you have to insert a game CD when the game is installed to the hard drive?

      I think soon we're likely to start seeing games distributed on modified USB flash drives. That could function as a dongle, would save the time to install the game, would save the user's hard drive space, and would run faster.

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