Rights Restrictions Management
I don't own a Kindle. I have a Nook. If I buy an ebook from Amazon, it is not possible to legally convert the format to Nook format. I am restricted from reading the book which I "purchased" in the way I want to read it. I want to read it on my Nook. I don't want to buy a Kindle, and Barnes and Noble may not publish an ebook edition of the novel I want. If I purchase a paperback or even a used hardcover of the book (if it is available), I can read it in my house, at the beach, in a canoe on the river. I am not restricted, and I didn't even get to support the author since I bought the book used. Royalties generally don't pass to the author unless it is a "first sale". Even then, an author's contract generally does NOT pay the author since the publisher has to cover all sorts of expenses. For a "midlist" author, the payment for a book is usually the advance they get from their publisher. It is only the top tier authors who get ongoing royalties because their books sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
I am restricted. The author of the book is not going to get money from me even though I want to pay it. Digital Restrictions prevent me from doing a relatively simple format conversion. I have the free software tool, Calibre with which I can manipulate electronic formats from mobi to epub. Calibre does many more formats, too. If you read ebooks, Calibre should be on your computer.
But, I am restricted by DRM. The "Rights" belong to the publishers. That doesn't help the authors, really, even though it is the authors for whom copyright is theoretically designed. The publishing industry "purchases" the rights to make copies for sale. The industry's theory is that unrestricted digital files will be wantonly duplicated by all of us and simply shared for free.
DRM does not stop with ebooks of course.
- It is used by music companies to lock down digital albums. The good news is that I can generally buy a CD of an album and use my favorite CD "ripping" tool K3B to get the music as files on my laptop. I can play them as I work as I am doing while writing this set of notes. The odd thing is that musicians are often giving away music or selling it for a low price online. It is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) which is doing most of the yelling about the "piracy" of music. Piracy is one of those terms designed to make users appreciate the RIAA position on DRM. For the record, piracy really is the attempt to make money through the counterfeit duplication of a CD. My humble attempts to conveniently listen to music for which I have paid is not the same thing. I have no intention to sell my digital copies of the CDs I own.
- It is used by the movie industry to lock down movie downloads, DVDs and BlueRay disks. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the group charged with fighting "piracy" in movies.
- Both the MPAA and RIAA use the rules of the Internet to issue hundreds of "takedown" orders when they find music or video files on the nternet for which no royalty agreement has been signed by the site owner. YouTube is asked to remove access to a video of a couple of kids dancing to music by their favorite group. Of course those girls have not paid for the "performance rights" for the music. They are not charging money to watch their video.
"If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed."
Peter Lee, Disney Executive in an interview with The Economist in 2005
What Can YOU Do?
You can buy a Kindle to read Amazon ebooks. Or you can protest the restrictions. You can pay NetFlix or Verizon FiOS or Comcast, etc. to watch a movie as a "rental" and watch it within a limited time (48 hours?), but if you decide to "buy" the movie (something FiOS offers), you can watch the movie anytime...as long as the service isn't down, and as long as the service actually exists.
You can demand better. Get involved with the EFF and the other organizations like the Free Software Foundation. Protest the restrictions on you.
May 6 is the official day of protest against DRM. Tell somebody else. Put a sticker on your laptop. Hand them a flier or give them a Defective By Design sticker.
Find out More
- DRM - Electronic Freedom Foundation
- Kindle Information
- J.A. Konrath on self publishing
- PDF of DRM Stickers to print (Avery 5160 address labels)
- Poster Print and post, please.
-  Kindle and Nook Formats
- Kindle used a format called mobi (called AZW for DRM restricted books) and more recently a proprietary format called KF8 (Kindle format 8) which in both cases are intended to keep books from being shared or even converted to be read on a competitor's ebook reader. Nook uses the epub format, but also generally adds DRM for the books it publishes.
-  Authors and Royaties
- Author J.A. Konrath has written extensively about the publishing industry and how it is possible to write and self publish a book (mainly through Amazon, as it turns out) so that he makes much more per copy than he would with a traditional publishing contract.