Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Digital Rights Management (It Doesn't Say What You Think It Does)

Before we get started, you can find an excerpt of Kismet at the Daily Harrell.

I think for an author I may have a unique view on digital rights management and piracy. I don't like DRM. I don't hate piracy. Yep. I said it. Hear me out, before you call me crazy.

DRM often limits the devices a reader can access your story on. That means if I want to buy your book, but your DRM software doesn't work with my reading device of choice, I'm probably not going to buy your book. If I do, and I can't read it or have a hard time reading it, I associate your name with a reading process that is a pain in the butt. Even if I associate your name with a story I love--it was still a pain in the butt. If I only liked the story, it wouldn't be worth it. In short, I think DRM can cost an author sells.

Piracy may cost an author sells, but it offers exposure. Yes, I know. Stealing is stealing. On the flip side, most people aren't willing to spend money on an author they don't know. If a reader finds your work for free from a slightly less than legal source, you may become his/her new favorite author. You wrote a book they illegally borrowed, but books are usually out legally long before they're available illegally. If someone loved your work (which they wouldn't have seen otherwise), they are likely to buy your next work, and the one after that, and the one after that. Don't get me wrong. I understand the business sense, that we have to be careful about how many books we give away, and I don't like the idea of a website making money off my work and me not. I just think when we consider DRM software, we need to think it through. Are we willing to give a book away for discoverability? Do we want to protect our work to the point of losing potential readers? Also, lots of times downloads come from countries where the book isn't legally available, so did we actually lose anything?

For what's it's worth my thought is that you should copyright protect your work. You should not use DRM. If my work is being illegally given away for free and still has my name on the cover, I don't care that much (unless and until I'm a best seller--then things get more complicated). If my work is being given away for free with someone else's name on the cover, I've copyrighted, so that will change and I will be paid restitution. If my work is being sold illegally, I sue.

What are your thoughts on DRM?


  1. Until this past week, I didn't really have any strong thoughts on DRM. I understood the piracy angle, and had no issue with authors or publishers protecting themselves.

    Like I said, that was my attitude until this past week . . . when my Sony died.

    Now I'm left with a decision of what eReader to buy next. I was all set on the Kindle, until I realized all the DRM protected ePubs I've bought won't work. By my count, that's about 100 books I would lose by moving to a Kindle.

    That pisses me off. I bought them. I paid my own hard-earned money for them. To have my choice of devices limited by the DRM on books I own is ludicrous. I either have to sacrifice books for the device I want, or settle for another device to keep my books.

  2. I don't like piracy at all. I think the fact that sites like Amazon let you preview a book (read a portion before you buy) is amazing. You can try out a new author before you decide to shell out the money. I'd much rather do that and then decide to buy or not than go to a site that pirates books.

  3. I think I agree with you Beth. It feels counter intuitive but I think the way of the future is low cost books that people will be happy to pay for. Amazon has a lot to answer for. Have a great week!

  4. I don't know. Must think on this. I don't like the idea of someone else selling my books and I don't receive the royalties from them. :(

  5. It's an interesting (and obviously quite debated) issue. I do think publishers and authors should be able to protect their copyright--but I agree with you that some forms of piracy might not be as harmful as some people would make out.

  6. Go Beth! I'm glad to find someone who doesn't have a knee jerk reaction about piracy. The subject isn't as morally cut-and-dry as some think, especially with regard to 3rd world countries. You made a lot of good points. For me, I think art is a passion and an honor, and artists shouldn't be greedy. In other words, if you're in it to get rich, you're in the wrong business.

    1. I'm in total agreement with you, and I would also like to say that I never thought about this until I listened to an editor at a conference speak on this subject a year ago. (At that point I was unpublished, so it was interesting but didn't matter much). The point is it seems like some people in the industry are aware of it, so I'd like to see more posts like this, so people like Bob (first commentor) can avoid problems.

  7. I'm not even there, but I agree with you, Beth.

    Thanks for an nteresting article on a subject I hadn't thought much about, yet :)

  8. I suppose having it stolen isn't much different than giving it away, Beth. I guess I'd just like to be the one to decide when and how many. Interesting post!