Home » Amazon, Big Publishing, Copyright/Intellectual Property, Ebooks » Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption

Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption

31 October 2014

From Chris Meadows at TeleRead:

It’s that time again. Ars Technica reports that the Copyright Office is accepting petitions on activities to exempt from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, making it legal to crack DRM for certain restricted purposes.

. . . .

Public Knowledge will be submitting requests to legalize consumer ripping of DVDs and to allow circumvention of DRM locks on 3D printers. I’m not holding my breath.

. . . .

Here’s a crazy thought: if the Big Five publishers knew what they were doing, they would be submitting and throwing their weight behind a petition to permit consumers to crack e-book DRM for purposes of archival and platform interoperability. Think about it. Publishers already full well know their insistence on DRM effectively handed Amazon the keys to the kingdom, and their conflict with Amazon has come to a head over the last few months with the Amazon/Hachette squabble. What better time to ask the government to permit consumers to break the Amazon shackles?

This would be a way for publishers to have their cake and eat it, too. They could continue to put DRM on their books, placating authors who fear piracy, and it would continue to be illegal to crack DRM for pirate purposes. And what would it really change? It would only legalize something a lot of consumers already do illegally. It’s not as if they’re even trying to hunt down and prosecute people who crack DRM illegally anyway, unless they do something stupid like upload watermarked books to peer-to-peer.

. . . .

With legalized DRM-cracking for interoperability, e-book stores could set up their own DRM-cracking import services for the people who aren’t tech-savvy enough to set up Calibre themselves. Want to move all your e-books from your Amazon library to Barnes & Noble, or Kobo? Just drag and drop the files from your “My Kindle E-Books” directory onto this uploading app and we’ll take care of everything for you! Who knows, it might even make it possible for other e-book stores to compete with Amazon if you could make it almost as easy for customers to switch away from them and keep their libraries as it is to keep using them.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Amazon, Big Publishing, Copyright/Intellectual Property, Ebooks

14 Comments to “Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption”

  1. >”Here’s a crazy thought: if the Big Five publishers knew what they were doing…”

    That’s your answer to why this won’t happen right there.

  2. “placating authors who fear piracy”

    This makes it sound like publishers are at the mercy of authors who demand DRM. I really think the publishers are the originators of the desire for DRM. Sure they have managed to convince some authors it is beneficial but if the Big 5 through there influence behind the evidence that DRM hurts sales and eliminated it what could those traditionally published authors do. And how long before they changed their minds.

  3. Historically, large corporations don’t win by creating an alternative platform, they win by using the law to steal away the one that already exists.

    Cracking DRM would only complicate their rightful place as owners of the Kindle platform once they get a hold of it.

    • In most cases, however, large corporations don’t win. Winning corporations grow large. The corporations that are already large, and try to defend their turf by the tactics you are talking about, usually fail and their assets are cannibalized by other firms.

  4. Look at what happened to the MP3 market when DRM was dropped, Apple became stronger. Dropping DRM would allow everyone to go to whatever store services the consumer the best. Amazon has the most books, the best search functions, and is the most consumer friendly. Loosing DRM plays right into Amazon’s hands.

    • You might be right.
      Dropping DRM would definitely strengthen Amazon. However it would also at least make a competitor possible in ways that are nearly impossible now.
      I think it’s worth trying, but won’t happen because it would represent a change and change is what everyone fears most.

      • I definitely think it is worth trying, it is just counterproductive for the publishers. The publishers are so afraid of piracy and the possibility of a stronger Amazon that it will never happen until the ebook market has been fully mature for several years. Then the stores will demand it so they can continue to grow by stealing customers from the weaker sites.

    • I would disagree (just my opinion, but here goes…)

      By using DRM, you are locked into the vendor you buy from.

      By being DRM-free, I can go buy from any number of vendors, experiment, see if I like their material, their service, etc.

      I buy almost all of my books from alternate vendors — Humble Bundle, StoryBundle, Weightless, Smashwords, BookViewCafe, Gumroad, Robot Trading Company and other similar vendors precisely because I can just buy, download and archive without having to worry about using Amazon (or Kobo or B&N or Apple’s oh-so-special, you-must-use-this app).

      I really like being able to download and archive my books.

  5. Historically, large corporations don’t win by creating an alternative platform, they win by using the law to steal away the one that already exists.

    Apple created IOS, and Google created Android. Pretty good platforms. What did the law do?

    • It created taxes.

    • I should probably have used the term “entrenched” rather than large. It would have been more accurate.

      And while it’s true Apple and Google are both companies with innovation deep in their DNA, neither one of them have been above using regulatory capture and litigation in order to stop others from following in their footsteps, or shutting down competition that would be able to compete on a level playing field.

  6. Last I knew, Tide had 22% of the laundry detergent market. More than any other detergent.

    Tide won that 22% share because it was first into the market and had the most name recognition. So what did Procter & Gamble — the makers of Tide — do?

    Created Cheer, Era, and Gain laundry detergents. In other words, they went into competition with themselves.

    P&G keeps its position in the market through competition, and they know it. If they have no effective competition from the outside, they create competition from the inside to keep themselves sharp.

    Would that this attitude were contagious.

  7. A thought on the general topic of the article:

    You don’t need a special exemption for ebook DRM, or for anything else, in the DMCA. The whole DMCA is a tissue of flaws and can’t be fixed that way, though it could certainly be made even more complex, unwieldy, and impenetrable. Trying to fix the DCMA by issuing particular exemptions is like trying to cure cancer with acne cream.

  8. For what it’s worth, I went ahead and banged something out and sent it in. I doubt it will have any effect, but it’s worth something to have my words on the record at least.

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