Home » Ebooks, Piracy » Just A few Questions, Ms. Rowling…

Just A few Questions, Ms. Rowling…

28 March 2012

From Future eBook commenting on the Pottermore ebook watermarking system:

This really feels like a watershed moment, doesn’t it?  So, briefly…

1) I’m a bit confused – how is watermarking not DRM by another name?

. . . .

4)  Are you sure that embedding personally identifiable information in the book itself is such a good idea?  No nagging privacy issues?

. . . .

6)  Hasn’t your customer database just become the ne plus ultra of hackers’ wet dreams?

Link to the rest at Future eBook

Ebooks, Piracy

13 Comments to “Just A few Questions, Ms. Rowling…”

  1. “6) Hasn’t your customer database just become the ne plus ultra of hackers’ wet dreams?”

    Especially since all the savvy ones have got the pirate copy a long time ago.

  2. We made her a billionaire. She could give the digital books away and it wouldn’t hurt her in the least and probably make her one of the most beloved women of the century.

  3. brendan stallard

    “Not nearly as much, for example, as Trent Reznor or Cory Doctorow trust their fans. Or, come to think of it, not as much as Amazon trust any of their mp3 customers.”


    I’m not a pirate, but every now and again, I do buy extra copies of records/tracks and give them away in an attempt to assist the artist. I hope the giftee will listen to the track and buy the album.

    I understood that Amazon MP3’s were not DRM’d, the above confuses me. Obviously, I can’t control what happens to the file once I’ve given it to someone else.

    I don’t know Doctorow or Reznor, and I don’t understand the reference. Is the writer indicating that those two writers aren’t concerned about DRM, or the opposite.

    If anyone knows, please advise.

    Carp like this just might make me extremely careful about ALL buying options. I’m just NOT going to have their worms tracking me, they can bugroff.

    Potter, well, rotsa ruck. Phooey.


    • From what I understand, Trent Reznor had issues with the exorbitant price that his record label was charging for one of his albums, so he told his fans to just pirate it and actually uploaded it himself to a file sharing site to facilitate that. Then, when the record label wouldn’t work with him again, he started his own to release his next album and allowed fans to choose to either download it for free or to pay for it. And it ended up as one of the best selling records that year.

    • Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author and policy pundit who is one of the most eloquent anti-DRM advocates out there. He’s very good about backing up his positions with action — he’s avoided Audible, released ebooks for free at the same time as print hits the shelves, etc. He as a lot of interesting work and is worth checking out. http://craphound.com/ (yes, that’s really his site)


  4. I don’t know much about those artists either, Brendan, but I can say that Cory Doctorow is known for giving his work away–I think he might have some kind of voluntary pay system? Somebody correct me on that one if I’m wrong (and I probably am). Trent Reznor is a rock singer/musician. His band is called Nine Inch Nails.

    • If I remember correctly, for their last couple of albums Nine Inch Nails have given away the MP3 versions for free and charged a few dollars for the CD-quality, DRM-free FLAC version.

      • brendan stallard

        Sarah/Rich/Tori and Edward,

        Thanks very much for de-ignorami-ing me. My ears didn’t suit the 9 Inch Nails sound. Er, that is a muso/studio inside joke for good male singers of harmony, BTW. A 9 incher nailed it, see?

        Cory Doctorow avoided audible, eh? That’s a large part of why I’m not familiar with his works. He seems an interesting fellow, I’ll give him a try.



  5. Hi all,
    In France, Watermarks is a solution that is already used by some resellers. I wrote a blog post (in French) about it, with discussion about it’s merits (and faults).
    I’m in the process of translating it for you… Please stay tuned.
    (original here : http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.com/2012/01/le-marquage-cet-inconnu.html )

  6. (Copy of my blog post http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.fr/2012/03/watermarkings-french-altenative.html )
    (Water)Markings ? the “French” altenative ?
    In one of my precedent blog post (In French) http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.com/2011/12/drm-lexception-culturelle-francaise.html , I evocated about marking as an alternative to DRMs, but didn’t say much more than that, so here are some details about what this term covers when I talk about it. Please note that some call these “Social DRMs”.

    For me, and in THIS precise context, “Marking” is a technical mean allowing, through modification of a digital ebook, to add non-intrusive data, relative to the selling circuit, up-to (and including) the final “sell” to the customer, this information beeing non-trivial to delete. The goal for the retailer and the publisher to deter “piracy” and illegal redistribution.

    A few points of interest :

    Marking can be made visible, or invisible. The solution used by Immateriel (the most used in France) is to at least show parts of the marks, which has at least one benefit : it clearly shows the customer that the “copy” that he received was given to him personally, and not to an indeterminate community. However, this choice can have detrimental effects on the reading experience, as is the case when the visible indications appear at the start/end of each chapter, especially if they create incorrect formatting.

    I would personaly be in favor of a smaller visibility, restricted to the start/end of the book. This would not, of course, go against invisible markis inside of the text. In all cases, the visible part would have the “dissuasive” effect, while the invisible part allows “tracking” a leak’s source if necessary.

    Technical :
    First point : DRM are in fact already watermarks, as they already closely tie the content with personal data.
    And the “most available tools” that get rid of DRMs, clean the files from the encryption only, not necessarily the entirety of the personal linkings. So if you’re happy with DRMs, why whine with Watermarks ?

    As all DRMs, marking is fallible, which is why I stated the goal was not necessarily for it to be tamper resistant, but non trivial to suppress. One can note though that since they are less intrusive than DRMs, hackers will have less motivation to crack them, and they should stand better the test of time.

    An other more technical point is that while DRMs are defectuous by design (as you need to give at the same time the product and the key to read it), the reseller can keep slightly more data secret, which is slightly better.

    Unintentional divulgation :
    Here is for me the sticking point : in the case where the work is distributed, either inadvertently, or badly ckecked, the reader could have problems for things that are not of his fault. For example if he looses his ereader, he won’t necessarily think about going to the police with a list of the works that were on it whereas this would be the only “good faith” proof if the works where distributed…

    Once again, Watermarks are DRM-lite, and while not widely known, this would already be the case with standard DRMed books.

    Not available at big distributors:
    This intermediary level protection measure is not widely used (and not among the “big” resellers”). So if you prefer them to full size DRMs, please ask for them in replacement !

  7. How is Watermarking different from DRM? Watermarking doesn’t in any way threaten to stop me from doing whatever I want with my book/movie/song/whatever. I can convert it to any required format and use on any device, now or that will be invented in the future. I can back it up. I can even lend/give a copy to a friend (even though, technically, depending on the details, that might be all that legal.) All of this doesn’t depend on some disinterested third party giving me “permission” to read a book I ‘bought.’ Those a pretty radical concept for people who actually buy e-books rather than just pirate them.

  8. I don’t get why this watermarking seems like such a new idea. Maybe in fiction books it is but in RPG sourcebook and rulebook ebooks it’s been used for many years.

    As far as I know, nobody’s hacked http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/ looking for that database of identification, there’s been no privacy violations of having digital watermarks in the files.

    I can definitely see some complaints about the Pottermore site, but this seems silly to me.

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