Latest Stupid DRM Idea: Ebooks With Corrupted Texts That Vary By Customer

from the control-above-content dept

It is extraordinary how companies have failed to grasp three basic facts about DRM: that DRM only needs to be broken once, and it is broken everywhere, thanks to the Internet; that DRM is always broken at least once; and that once DRM is broken, anything still with that DRM is effectively worth less than zero -- since copies freely available online never have DRM. Despite these inconvenient truths, copyright companies continue to hope that there is some magic technology that will "protect" them from the pirates. Here's the latest forlorn attempt to do that, as reported by paidContent:

Germany's Fraunhofer Institute is working on a new ebook DRM dubbed SiDiM that would prevent piracy by changing the actual text of a story, swapping out words to make individualized copies that could be tracked by the original owner of the ebook.
This kind of fingerprinting is hardly new: it's used for music, and also for documents where people wish to track the origin of any leaks. But as paidContent points out:
in music files, these types of changes are a lot less notable than a machine rewriting a book, which is why it's unlikely that authors and literature friends would embrace SiDiM.
That's because the fingerprinting involves tampering with the integrity of the work -- imagine doing this to a book of poetry. It means that customers aren't really getting the work they paid for, but a modified, compromised version. Indeed, picking up on this theme, Nick Harkaway has written a splendid piece on Futurebook.net explaining why putting DRM above text fidelity is a really bad move for the art of the book:
I think the notion of a book which is reconfigured to provide a chain of evidence in a civil proceeding against the reader is repellant. I think that is in the most perfectly Teutonic sense an un-book. Books should not spy on you. I'm fascinated by Kobo's remarkable ability to track readers' progress through an ebook, and the commercial side of me really wants that information. But the civil liberties thinker in me hates that the facility exists and loathes the fact that people aren't entirely clear on how much they're telling the system about themselves. It really unsettles me. This is far worse: the deliberate creation of an engine of observation inside the text of the book. It stinks.
Any publishers adopting this technique will be betraying the very books they purport to defend, by turning them from cherished friends into potential traitors. A far better approach for everyone, including the publishing industry, would be to offer more and better books at reasonable prices -- with the correct, uncorrupted text.

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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 3:25am

    There's a well hidden silver lining with this type of DRM.

    For example, anyone downloading a Twilight book would ultimately wind up with a better story, thanks to the re-writes performed by the DRM.

    >:]

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 3:54am

    Oh by all means bring it on. Yet one more reason for me not to buy ebooks.

    This was obviously created by people who don't have a clue about linguistics. Sometimes the slightest change will alter the entire meaning of the sentence or even the portion of a written work. But no, let's not just destroy it here, why not add punctuation to the mix?

    I'll leave the punctuation puns to people more enlightened than me ;)

     

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      S. T. Stone, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:43am

      Re:

      I'll leave the punctuation puns to people, more enlightened than me

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:31am

      Re:

      This sounds like one of the long-time standard steganographic techniques, where what's altered are things that almost nobody will notice: an extra space after a sentence, the occasional typo, etc. If so, then you really wouldn't notice it, at least not any more than you notice the accidental typos.

      It's still stupid (and stupid easy to defeat), but I'd be surprised if it was annoying.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:37am

    And on the third day buy Coke and it was good.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:48am

    Heh, imagine how much fun it will be when history books "accidentally" have key sentences rewritten to reflect a more convenient narrative.

    This could be done intentionally, and then the publisher could always go like "Oh shit, I've been caught...I mean, oops, DRM snafu".

    The potential for abuse is just too great. This should not be allowed.

     

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      dennis deems (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:12am

      Re:

      It will certainly simplify Winston Smith's job.

       

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      PRMan, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      Most history books are so far away from what happened in favor of the political correctness of the day in which it was written it's not even funny.

      Reading actual books and letters from the time period vs my kids' history books gives a vast difference (especially when it comes to figures such as Christopher Columbus.)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:51am

    Get two other peoples copies, use diff to find the differences, use the version that two copies agree on, and release the the original text.
    It would then look like the pirating was an inside job!

     

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:55am

      Re:

      Or make some trivial changes, so the two fingerprint won't match.

      Or simply run a spellchecker on the text, and release a more complete work then the publisher.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:10am

        Re: Re:

        The fingerprint is likely to be one or two changes, substitute words or punctuation, so not found by a spell check. Further random changes are unlikely to remove the fingerprint.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think that's right. Even a book of poetry has some commentary, discussion or introduction. It's not like adding "There once was a man from Nantucket..." to a Robert Frost poem.

           

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          Anonymous Howard (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you make random changes to every user's book, then you either make them so subtle that a spellchecker will find it (punctuation, misspelling) or so blatant that it will damage the book (switch words)

          The point of the fingerprint is that they can track back the specific errors in a torrented book to the customer who bought that book.

          If you alter/rip/correct the errors, you practically erased all fingerprints from it.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That is why God invented Git.
          To track different versions.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Think of the "growth" from this idea, each unique book will be a different copyrighted entity. This means tens of millions more "works" would be "created" through this system.

    In all seriousness an author who allows this to be done to their work does not care enough about it to get any money from me.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:56am

    Just believe

    Sprinkle that magic fairy dust on the book and think your happiest thoughts and ... oh crap the words in the book just became garbled.
    Oh well, second star on the right and straight on 'till morning. I'm sure we'll find our perfect DRM in Neverland.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 4:56am

    What if I wanted the limited edition that this other person has due to DRM? What then?

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:02am

    You missed the fourth, most important, fact about DRM - once broken, the DRM only affects paying customers, not pirates. That's why it's so problematic - once the DRM is broken, pirates actually have a more useful and valuable copy than the people who paid good money for the product.

    As for this system, it really does speak as to the wrong-headed obsession some people have. Publishers are willing to *corrupt the integrity of the product* in order to try and catch people who would "steal" it. If this is being done differently for each copy, it wouldn't be too difficult to correct the "mistake" introduced by the DRM (especially if a correctly printed physical version is available). Thus, we have a situation where every copy of the book has a misprint *except* for the pirated one.

    How anyone thinks this is good is beyond me. I can't help but wonder how much money media companies have wasted over the years trying to screw their own customers in fear of piracy, let alone the lost sales resulting from those moves and refusal to offer customers what they actually want.

    Oh, and before we have people claiming again that watermarking, etc. is not the same as DRM - it is, it's usually just softer in its approach and reactive instead of trying to be proactive.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:14am

      Re:

      The fact that many books that are only available in hardcover format (no ebook alternative) and yet you can find the "pirate" ebook version of them is also rather telling. However this may save time for the pirates. If the changes are different for every copy then you only need 3 of them to be sure of what's original and what's changed.

      Much less time spent making it available for everyone, your customers annoyed and pirates still having a drm-free experience.

       

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        PaulT (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:15am

        Re: Re:

        Yep, it's a failed attempt at trying to force certain types of sales, but the pirate copy always provides an out for customers who don't follow the predetermined path. I'm a Stephen King fan, but his latest book Joyland is stated to be print only, not eBook. It's available to pirate. I don't want a physical book, I want Joyland to be among my collection when I decide what to read next, or to be able to pick it up when I decide I want it, even if I'm nowhere near a bookstore. So, I'm just not buying it yet, I suspect others will just download it regardless.

        His choice, but the intended action ("get your ass to a *real* bookstore!") is not going to be the result for me or many others.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 3:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          He might as well have said "get yourself to a monastery and have them handwrite a copy for you..it should only take 2 or 3 years".....

           

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    Mark Murphy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:29am

    "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

    "That's because the fingerprinting involves tampering with the integrity of the work"

    That depends on your definition of "integrity" and the type of the "work".

    For example, take this paragraph:

    "Any publishers adopting this technique will be betraying the very books they claim to defend, by turning them from cherished friends into potential traitors. A far better approach for everyone, including the publishing industry, would be to offer more and better books at sensible prices -- with the correct, uncorrupted text."

    This is nearly the same as the concluding paragraph of this post, with two word changes. The meaning of the paragraph, IMHO, is not substantially changed by those two word changes... but, then again, I am not the author of that paragraph, and so I am unqualified to make that claim.

    If the book publisher works in concert with the author -- such as, for example, a self-published author -- it is eminently possible to come up with a laundry list of such synonym pairs and locations, where swapping between those words would not materially harm the work, but would represent bits to be toggled. Only the author will know which circumstances are safe to toggle without wrecking the meaning. And, of course, this will not work with all types of "works". Non-fiction will be easier than fiction, which will be easier than poetry.

    So long as, in the eyes of the author, the integrity of the work is not compromised, using synonym toggle bits as a form of "soft DRM" is not significantly different than other forms of watermarking (e.g., steganographic insertion of identifiers into images), except that it is more reliable (e.g., not going to be wrecked if somebody tinkers with the images, such as by converting a book into another book format).

    The point of "soft DRM" is to allow authors/publishers to more gently handle copyright infringement. Soft DRM of this type does not stop buyers from moving the book between devices, or from printing the book, etc. Mostly, it's there so that if a copy is distributed sans license, the author/publisher has some idea of who did it, so they can take appropriate steps.

    And, once again, the "appropriate steps" will vary in severity, ranging from simply preventing that person from buying more books (akin to a shopkeeper refusing entry to those who have shoplifted) to full-on legal action. If you think that a lawsuit is an over-the-top response, that's an issue with the lawsuit, not with the "soft DRM" that enabled it.

    So, IMHO, a blanket statement that this "involves tampering with the integrity of the work" is unsupportable. It may involve tampering, if the changes are made without author approval and if the changes do materially change the meaning of the affected passages. IOW, changing some words does not necessarily result in "corrupted text", any more than proofreading and editing the author's original words results in "corrupted text". Corruption is possible, but not a fait accompli.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:16am

      Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

      "It was the superior of times, it was the lowest quality of times"

      Dickens would be proud, and the meaning of the words is essentially the same! OK, that's hyperbole, but I don't see how any author can wish others to be tampering with their words, and that sure as hell involves reducing its integrity.

      If the author's involved, perhaps less so. But to come up with thousands or hundreds of thousands of variations that can uniquely identify a leak while retaining the meaning of the work, to a degree with which the publisher and author are both happy? That's a shitload of wasted time, money and effort, especially if a corrected non-watermarked physical copy is available. Surely that's better spent working out how to make customers more willing to buy?

      "The point of "soft DRM" is to allow authors/publishers to more gently handle copyright infringement."

      But if it comes at the cost of the work itself? Not a good thing. That's even without considering the risk of false positives, the ease with which it can often be removed or obfuscated, etc. It's preferable to obtrusive DRM for sure, but it's never going to stop piracy.

      "IOW, changing some words does not necessarily result in "corrupted text", any more than proofreading and editing the author's original words results in "corrupted text"."

      Editing a book requires individual discussion and human interaction. This won't, or if it will you have a hell of a lot of pointless work. It's not going to be pretty if it's going to be useful, IMHO.

       

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        Mark Murphy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

        "But to come up with thousands or hundreds of thousands of variations that can uniquely identify a leak"

        128 to 256 synonym pairs would be more than sufficient. Each represents an individual bit and can be flipped in combination.

        "That's a shitload of wasted time, money and effort"

        Speaking as an author, coming up with 128 to 256 synonym pairs would take me a couple of hours, tops. Remember that the algorithm involves not only the word flip, but the *specific* word flip. So, you come up with a pair of synonyms ("foo" and "bar"). Do a global search on the book to confirm which occurrences of "foo" can safely be switched to "bar" or vice-versa.

        "Surely that's better spent working out how to make customers more willing to buy?"

        Oh, I'm not saying that authors/publishers should be ignoring this. But you make it sound like this algorithm is rocket science, and it's not.

        "the risk of false positives"

        With 128 to 256 bits for the identity, a false positive (of the form where somebody tinkered with a copy to change the synonyms) is vanishingly unlikely. Tinkering with the book and toggling a synonym will make the book untraceable, but the odds of such a toggle happening to identify some other buyer is really tiny.

        "the ease with which it can often be removed or obfuscated"

        Somebody with two copies of the book could readily create a third copy that is untraceable. Few book readers would bother. Any DRM solution is toast in the face of a determined attack, and I'm not arguing otherwise.

         

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          techflaws (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:16am

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          128 to 256 synonym pairs would be more than sufficient. Each represents an individual bit and can be flipped in combination.

          Dude, are you selling this snake-oil? Which author would compromise their work like this? We've been over this (can't find the posting here on TD).

           

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            jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:38am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

            I'll have to back up Mark Murphy on this. It's totally doable and it won't compromise the text in any way if it's done smartly.

            But it's also a waste of time and money because any determined pirate could easily get around it by comparing texts.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:57am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              " won't compromise the text in any way"

              Says you.

              Technical books (math, science, medical, software, etc) typically have examples which show how a problem can be solved, bare in mind that many problems can solved via different methods and many professors give more points for use of the more efficient method. Are you suggesting that the educational value of these examples/texts would not be compromised by making each one unique? This is simply ludicrous.

               

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                jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 23rd, 2013 @ 1:50pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                The text on the technical info wouldn't change. You would change text in an introduction. Something like...

                "In this chapter we'll discuss how the physics works"

                to

                "In this chapter we'll cover how the physics works."

                That is not compromised text.

                But to do multiple variations on this really is a waste of time and effort.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2013 @ 5:56pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                  Quote:
                  "In this chapter we'll discuss how the physics works"

                  to

                  "In this chapter we'll cover how the physics works."


                  Fine that one works, now say that book sold a million copies, you just need to come up with another 999.999 such changes for that text, how many of those will make sense?


                  Here, how many changes that don't change the meaning are possible against the many changes that will make no sense at all?

                  This is about making thousands or millions of changes to the same texts so they can be unique, it will cause problems, specially in text books which you need everyone to be on the same page.

                  There are programming languages that use spaces for parsing purposes, there are texts that are specially tailored for other purposes, the EICAR string comes to mind.

                  Can you imagine people in a literature class trying to read a text were everyone has a different version?

                  For the vast majority of people there will be no problems, for educational purposes this is just terrybuhl.

                  To achieve the massive number of changes necessary it will not be ONE MINOR change those texts will have to change THOUSANDS OF TIMES so get your example and try to come up with thousands of variations for that phrase there and see what it will result in.

                   

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                    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:44am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                    The math is pretty simple. By changing only 20 words, you can make over 2 million variations in a book. That's all it takes - 20 words.

                    I'm not saying it's a smartest thing to do, but it's totally feasible and unless you already knew the book had been marked, you'd likely never know the difference. The book would not be radically altered.

                    Then again, if you're selling 2 million books, why are you worried about piracy?

                     

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              I have a problem with the "if done it smartly" part, you are talking about publishers, you know it won't be smart.

               

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              techflaws (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:57am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              It's totally doable and it won't compromise the text in any way if it's done smartly.

              And who decides how it's done? The author, the editor, the software?

              And how can you cripple an artistic expression "smartly"?

               

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                John Fenderson (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                And who decides how it's done? The author, the editor, the software?


                In his proposal, the author would decide what words would be used, and where, and they would be altered by software.

                It's not a brain-dead idea, but a better, easier, and less intrusive idea would be to use steganographic techniques to embed information using subtle formatting changes rather than word changes.

                 

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                  techflaws (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:29am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                  Which will be stripped in no time by converting to RTF or ASCII and back after doing a spellcheck.

                   

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                    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:05am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

                    Yes, but all of the proposals about this kind of thing, even Mr. Murphy's, are trivial to strip out. That's one reason it's stupid.

                     

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 3:10pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              Yes but then all we need to do is ensure the next generation of kids grow up unable to read or write.......oh wait..thats already (c) the obama administration :(

               

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          PaulT (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:26am

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          "128 to 256 synonym pairs would be more than sufficient"

          Pairs which will achieve the number of variations I mentioned. So, yes, we agree. The difficulty isn't the maths, it's the risk of changing the meaning of the text.

          "Do a global search on the book to confirm which occurrences of "foo" can safely be switched to "bar" or vice-versa."

          Depends on what you mean by "safely". Most authors use specific words for a reason, and the meaning or implications of a word can be changed by the context or placing. It's much more complicated than simply picking a few synonyms out of a thesaurus, if the author cares about their art.

          "But you make it sound like this algorithm is rocket science, and it's not."

          I'm not saying that the algorithm is complicated in itself, but it requires special care and attention to avoid disrupting the reader's experience and enjoyment of the end product. This either requires a lot of extra pointless work, or an admission that the publisher cares less about its customers than the fear of people who might be "stealing", neither of which is a good thing.

          "With 128 to 256 bits for the identity, a false positive (of the form where somebody tinkered with a copy to change the synonyms) is vanishingly unlikely"

          ...making it all the more problematic if someone is falsely identified. I'd also say that the risk of things getting changed to a valid fingerprint of another user is far higher than with audio or other digital fingerprint. This isn't about bits and encryption, it's about words that people can notice just by reading the same page from 2 different books. That's not even considering the fact that eBooks exist for many books that have no digital version to begin with (i.e. as long as printed books exist, pirated eBooks can exist without ever touching this DRM).

          "Somebody with two copies of the book could readily create a third copy that is untraceable."

          So, what's the point of the DRM in the first place? I mean, look at the movie industry. Most leaks tend to come from the studios or disc pressing plants, etc. rather than the public. Most books could easily be leaked in an untraceable format before the book's even released if it's this easy, the day of release at worst.

          "Few book readers would bother."

          Same point. If most people aren't bothering, and those who do will find the DRM trivial to bypass, what's the point of the time and effort put into creating and maintaining it for every title published?

          "Any DRM solution is toast in the face of a determined attack, and I'm not arguing otherwise."

          Well, at least we agree on that point, but I think that makes it even less valid to alter the very product you're buying in a noticeable way to create the DRM.

           

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          Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          All this seems like the wrong approach. It would be easier to just add three or four images/graphics to the file as cover art or whatever and then watermark the images by tweaking a random pixel. Doesn't even have to be on or off, could even change a shade.

          Plus, who is going to go to book club and discuss excerpts from the book to be surprised that what was well written in one text read like garbage the other participants text. Read alongs in school...that will be fun.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:52am

          Quote:
          Somebody with two copies of the book could readily create a third copy that is untraceable. Few book readers would bother. Any DRM solution is toast in the face of a determined attack, and I'm not arguing otherwise.


          A few is just what it takes, besides is trivial to compare two blocks of text, using command line tools or GUI diffs.

          Exhibit A:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meld_(software)

          Every programmer and a lot of lawyers have the need to find differences in text to track the different versions of documents(e.g. sources and drafts) they produce, that is why there is a lot of programs to do just that.

          Quote:
          With 128 to 256 bits for the identity, a false positive (of the form where somebody tinkered with a copy to change the synonyms) is vanishingly unlikely. Tinkering with the book and toggling a synonym will make the book untraceable, but the odds of such a toggle happening to identify some other buyer is really tiny.

          Theoretically tiny but not impossible and the more the book sells the more chances goes up that it could happen just by chance, don't bother you that an innocent person could be wronged? or protecting books is more important than anything else?

          Quote:
          Oh, I'm not saying that authors/publishers should be ignoring this. But you make it sound like this algorithm is rocket science, and it's not.

          If you don't ever care about the meaning of the words you use than yes is not rocket science, if the words have specific meanings in one paragraph only and not the rest, to catch it takes rocket science level knowledge
          to program it into a system that can catch those things.

           

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      Ninja (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:21am

      Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

      True enough. But let us say you intend to sell 500.000 copies of that ebook. You'd need 500.000 iterations of such DRM which would mean the author would be forced into providing quite a few modifications that would not corrupt the original sense of the title. Sure if the author is up to the task then it's ok.

      However as I understand, the system is automated. What you are proposing here is some sort of human input from the author to avoid the errors that could arise from such system. As far as I can understand there is no such thing other than some modifications made by the system being shown to the authors so they can evaluate if it works well.

      So while you have good points I don't think the article is in the wrong at all.

       

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        Mark Murphy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

        "which would mean the author would be forced into providing quite a few modifications that would not corrupt the original sense of the title"

        As noted in another reply, 128 to 256 distinct word flips would be more than sufficient.

        "What you are proposing here is some sort of human input from the author to avoid the errors that could arise from such system"

        Bingo.

        "As far as I can understand there is no such thing other than some modifications made by the system being shown to the authors so they can evaluate if it works well."

        Or the authors coming up with the 128 to 256 occurrences themselves. That's not especially hard, and I say that as self-published author.

         

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        cpt kangarooski, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:47am

        Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

        But let us say you intend to sell 500.000 copies of that ebook. You'd need 500.000 iterations of such DRM which would mean the author would be forced into providing quite a few modifications that would not corrupt the original sense of the title.

        You'd need no less than 19 word pairs in the entire book; that would cover over 500,000 individual versions. Really, you'd want more -- not just because there's a chance the book will sell well necessitating a bigger number of identifiers, but also because you'll want to save some of them for parity so that if only a few are changed, you have some idea of what they were originally. The previous poster's suggestion of 128 to 256 word pairs seems reasonably reliable (despite the overall scheme being despicable).

        It is still corruptible by comparing enough different versions together and then randomly scrambling the choice of words in the word pairs used, but remember that even then it is a problem if you have a DRM-respecting reader which will phone home to make sure that whatever the watermark is, it is tied to your account. Whether it is someone else's or just scrambled up, it would know to block you; if it claims to be legitimately tied to you, your account at wherever you got it from would indicate the purchase, and if there were no record of a purchase, it would know it was pirated. Scrambling the watermark (if successful) can hide the origin of the pirated version, but still not be of much help to readers in an overly locked down environment.

         

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      techflaws (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:12am

      Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

      And, once again, the "appropriate steps" will vary in severity, ranging from simply preventing that person from buying more books (akin to a shopkeeper refusing entry to those who have shoplifted)

      This will do wonders for their bottom line: actually preventing customers from buying their product. Simply genius!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:30am

      Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

      So the new integral is a summation of all the possible versions that could exist?

      That is integrity sir or a kind of integrity,

      About responses, well the DRM is directly responsible for actions that it triggers that is why is being put in place also but not limited to, access deny, mistaken identity, people trying to report lost and stolen books so they can get their asses covered, less people buying to not have to deal with the harassment, family fights because of lending, misplacement or something else and so many other crap that could happen.

      This type of DRM fails to account for the many, many, many forms that books find their way somewhere.

      Would people donate books to libraries?
      Would people freak out for losing a book?
      Would people freak out if anybody but them use the book?

      I don't think people will take serious steps to secure a book even if they get in trouble with the law, more probably the minute somebody tries to enforce those it will create a fierce backlash once people realize that anything they do is criminal because of copyright.

      This is why it won't work, books will still find their way to pirate channels regardless.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:29am

      Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

      A best seller could sell a million copies. To track individuals to discover the original "sharer", you'd have to plan for a million unique changes. I doubt any author could make a million unique, but inconsequential changes to their work.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:50am

        Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

        You don't need a million unique changes. 20 binary options will get you over a million unique variations. If you are willing for one or more changes to have more than two options, then you don't even need that many.

        A reduced example:

        Original text:
        The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

        I can create Sixteen variations with just Four change points.
        Quick can change to Speedy,
        Jumped can be changed to leaped,
        Lazy can be changed to Slothful
        Dog can be changed to Mutt.

        That could result in "The quick brown fox jumped over the slothful dog." Or "The speedy brown fox jumped over the slothful mutt." Or "The speedy brown fox leaped over the lazy mutt" And so on.

        If an author doesn't consider any of those changes to alter the integrity of the statement, that allows for sixteen different combinations of change, but he only had to come up with four individual alternatives.

        Now, the whole thing grows exponentially. Every new change point, if given only one alternative, doubles the number of possible unique variations. If I have a work with just 200,000 words, it shouldn't be hard to find 30 points to make acceptable binary variations and be ready to sell a billion unique copies.m

         

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          PaulT (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:26am

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          The hilarious thing is that you've just proven the problem with this scheme rather than defending it.

          The entire point of the phrase you quoted is as a typing exercise, where it contains all letters of the alphabet. Your suggested alternatives do not. So, while its understandable, the underlying purpose and meaning is lost - the exact complaint in this thread.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:38am

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          You have destroyed the integrity of the work; it is meant to contain every letter of the alphabet at least once.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

            The DRM is not meant to be used on typing exercises. The debate over integrity refers to the semantic meaning of the sentence.

            In other words, the integrity of the sentence has little to do with what keys you hit when typing it out, but with its ability to relate the activities of a particularly agile vulpine with respect to a canine of diminished work ethic. And, as far as I know, there is little, if any connotative change in any of my suggested variations, let alone any denotative change. The only way the semantic meaning is destroyed is if the lazy dog were actually a purebred rather than a mutt.

            That I chose a sentence that has significance other than its semantic meaning is immaterial. I simply chose that because it was the first that came to mind that provided sufficient opportunities for variation. Given time, I could easily compose another example.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:18pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              I think you're missing the point. You chose a random sentence and made a bunch of dictionary equivalent substitutions to demonstrate the principle. Should have no effect on the meaning, significance, or usefulness of the sentence, right?

              Only your particular choice completely destroyed the actual utility of that sentence, which derives from it's precise form rather than its meaning. Automated deployment of this scheme will run afoul of that too. It's just ironic that you demonstrated the problem yourself.

               

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              PaulT (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 12:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

              "The DRM is not meant to be used on typing exercises."

              Then why did you use one as your example?

              Here's a perfect opportunity to prove whether you're an idiot troll or someone with an honest argument. An honest person will admit they were wrong, and either move onto a refined argument or admit that the opposing party does have a point and that there's a real problem with this kind of DRM.

              An idiot troll, on the other hand, will attempt to deflect the argument, pretend he wasn't wrong at all or start calling names and whining like a fool.

              So, which are you? Are you an honest person who can admit that he chose a poor example and that the opposing party may have a point? Or a troll who lives in his own fantasy world and acts up when reality intrudes?

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 3:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Integrity" not necessarily compromised

          Except that defeats the whole point of the sentence which is to use every letter in the alphabet...which is analogous to destroying the meaning behind the work....

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:29am

    That's the worst idea I've seen in a long time. 2-3 people lets a computer compare their books and they leak a version that doesn't match any of their versions. -> Person 4 gets blamed. *facepalm*

     

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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:45am

    You could look at each spot where a change might be bade as on bit.Make a change for a one, not make the change for a zero. If the goal is to identify each copy uniquely, you need a lot of possible change spots. Sixteen spots would allow for up to 65535 copies, which is probably a small run for an ebook. Will it be possible to find sixteen or more spots to change? Maybe. It will really dependva lot on the nature of the book.
    Will it be possible to remove this tracking? Certainly. I'd even call it trivial to remove. Given several copies of the book,with different changes, a simple script could identify and correct the changes in seconds.

     

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    jameshogg (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:47am

    Well there you go. Piracy is the root cause of not just creative industry disaster, but NSA spying.

    Apparently.

    False reductionism is so transparent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:47am

    It is highly amusing that only pirates would have original copies of the text.

     

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    Chris Kellen (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:56am

    This makes me so happy to be an independent author with complete control over my books. If any publication site tried to inflict DRM like this on me without giving me a "turn it the hell off" option, I'd drop that distributor like third period French, as the saying goes.

    If any of the "big guys" decide that this is a good idea (I can only imagine John Scalzi's reaction!) I guess I'll be reading more Baen books again...

     

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    raf (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:58am

    The thing I think is lost on the publishers is how sweet a deal they've made for themselves by preventing people from loaning each other books. You buy something for your kindle and your roomy has to either buy another copy or use your kindle to read it...the increase in sales by preventing loaners more than makes up for any losses due to piracy as far as I can tell.

     

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      techflaws (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:20am

      Re:

      You buy something for your kindle and your roomy has to either buy another copy or use your kindle to read it

      Or strip the DRM and read the unencumbered version.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Sale versus Readers.

    Why are so many book publishers so fixated on preventing piracy, as they have never had one sale per reader. Libraries, lending to friends, and second hand sales have always been an important part of building fan base.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:07am

    I hate to point the obvious but for a watermark to be identifiable it needs to be unique, if you mess with it in any way it becomes useless, so pirates instead of having to get one copy, get two and mix the two creating another. With time they will be able to detect what it changes and they can even create undo routines to "clean" the work.

    Further this assume the owner of the ebook, book or whatever is the one making available somehow, when in practice it could be anyone in his house, a friend a family member, a thief.

    This means people who lose books will be running to a police station to report lost books so they aren't liable for future problems in the future?

    Is there a place to report that you sold the book to somebody else and from that point on you are not responsible for it anymore?

    Oh well, who cares is not going to be functional anyways so who cares?

    Is not like it will stop anything, the moment someone gets the bright idea to really enforce such thing it becomes visible and that is when people get mad, really mad.

     

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    r_sarvas, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:08am

    This concept is not new...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canary_trap

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:18am

    This kind of "protection" would be incredible hard to deafeat.

    Say, like buying two copies and mix up some of the exchanged words to create a brand new "identity".

     

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    Dan Tobias, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:25am

    Now books will read like spam messages, where the spammer ran the text through a thesaurus to produce a word salad of vaguely similar meaning that can better get through spam filters.

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:26am

    Just say no!

    I refuse to purchase ANY media that is DRM-encumbered, especially ebooks. I can't do much about DVDs, although I can break their DRM (including region codes) easily enough with FOSS software, so I can make backup copies. This is also why, due to the Sony root-kit fiasco, that I will NEVER purchase another Sony product, and I have in the past owned a Sony TV, dual cassette deck (still), mini-disc recorder/player (still), and more. DRM? Not in my house! To that end, I will NOT purchase any Sony DVD or CD... and BluRay? Furgeddaboudit!

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:34am

    Broken in 10-minutes or less

    Given for publishers to be able to track exactly who put their copy up it would require the changes to be minute and completely unique, and given the existence of word editing programs that are able to highlight the difference between two(and one would assume three or more) texts, get three copies, find the change that two of them don't have, and this moronic DRM is fixed in a matter of minutes.

    Bravo publishers, bravo. You may have spent who knows how much time and money coming up with* your new DRM to annoy the crap out of any potential customers, all while lowering the value of the legal/official version, but at least you made it trivially easy for anyone to get rid of it.

    *or more likely licensing it from someone laughing all the way to the bank

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:02am

      Re: Broken in 10-minutes or less

      Given for publishers to be able to track exactly who put their copy up

      All it will do is identify which credit card bought the book. It may be purchased for sons and daughters going to college, where they may lose a device, or lend it to a friend.
      The purchaser is not necessarily the leaker, just like the account holder is not necessarily the pirate.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:37am

    I, for one, am thrilled that we are finally developing a virtual version of Jorge Luis Borges' Library of Babel. Non-DRM protected versions of this text available online for those unfamiliar with the reference.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:39am

    Ooh. Could make for interesting twists each time you re-read the book. Imagine the new editions of Harry Potter:

    "Ron killed Dumbledore."

    "Hermione killed Dumbledore"

    "McGon"McGonnagal killed Dumbledore"nagal killed Dumbledore"

    "Filch killed Dumbledore"

    "Dumbledore killed Filch"

    etc.

     

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    Mr. Oizo, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Not a novel idea and easily dismissed.

    Buy three different versions merge the changes at random and be done with it.

     

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    Wilson, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:01am

    You don't really have to change words or punctuation. You could take advantage of Unicode to simply replace random characters with others that look exactly alike. As long as the reading software supports it, there's no impact to the content.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:10am

    Piracy

    And to think that authors used to complain that pirates didn't care about the integrity of the text:

    Here is Martin Luther:

    Now, the damage might still be
    sufferable, / were it not for the fact that they
    handle my books so wrongly and infamously. For
    what they do is to print these in such a hurry /
    that when they come back to me, / I cannot
    recognise my own books! / Here something has been
    omitted, / there something is displaced, / there
    again the wrong word is printed, / and everywhere
    one sees a lack of revision.


    Now it will be the offical version that has the errors!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 7:14am

    If each copy of an original work is different, that makes it a derivative work and therefore a unique copy with a unique copyright. IIRC, if one wants to seek damages for copyright infringement, one need to register said copy with some government entity which of course involves a fee. E-books are already over priced, this will do nothing to make them more attractive to the potential customer.

    This form of DRM relies upon the tracking of each copy to the person who purchased it. How is this done? Mandatory registration, CC number, SSN ? None of these are a good ideas and certainly they would lead to unintended consequences.

    Trying to rationalize such draconian measures is an exercise in futility. There is no benefit to anyone except those who sell DRM, which may become an acronym for Dumb Regressive Megalomania

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:05pm

      Re:

      IIRC, if one wants to seek damages for copyright infringement, one need to register said copy with some government entity which of course involves a fee.

      Sadly this has not been the case for a long time now. Copyright is now automatic without registration. It's the source of a lot of problems, including the cultural tragedy of orphan works. IIRC, registration does give you the ability (in the U.S.) to seek statutory damages ($$$$$) rather than actual damages ($).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:02am

    Contrary To The Claims Of Grandstanding Politicians, Child Porn Is Very Difficult To Stumble Onto Accidentally

    Trouble is you can easily apply this technique without interfering with the fidelity of the text.

    I would be as simple as adding a double space between works, or starting some pages having the first like offset or centre justified and some not./

    On a page by page basis it would be impossible to tell the difference, and the text is exactly the same.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:03am

    Trouble is you can easily apply this technique without interfering with the fidelity of the text.

    I would be as simple as adding a double space between words, or starting some pages having the first like offset or centre justified and some n0t.

    On a page by page basis it would be impossible to tell the difference, and the text is exactly the same.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:12am

    what is it actually going to take to make all these people/companies/industries see that the best way of encouraging sales and the buyers to return for more is to offer the items at prices no one can refuse! surely it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that selling loads of things at a low price, making a good turnover of items and cash is much better than trying to charge a lot for something, have only a few sales, have a small turnover and even smaller amount in cash, does it? to try to blame anything and everything, anyone and everyone for the lack of turnover, then do the worst thing possible, DRM your product, blaming 'piracy' for the failure to sell is lunacy, plain and simple!

     

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    Ozz Exonar, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:18am

    Anyone every read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin? He goes into great detail about borrowing books and then staying up all night copying them by hand so he could keep a copy for himself after he returned the original. This became so tedious that he later started the first public library in the United States. If our founding fathers didn't see anything wrong with this practice, why exactly is it considered infringement to make a personal copy?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:47am

    How easy is to defeat this DRM?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-way_merge#Three-way_merge
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Com parison_of_file_comparison_tools

    - Get 3 copies of any document.
    - Search the differences using a diff-text app.
    - merge it automatically.
    - voila, DRM gone, distribute that to any pirate channel.
    - Start grinning.

     

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    sorrykb (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:04am

    So, in future, if I want the true version of a book, I'll have to get a pirated copy. Great marketing there, geniuses...

     

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Ring! Ring!

    Pirate: Hello?

    Publisher: Good morning, Mr. Pirate! We meet at last!

    Pirate: What the fuck are you on about?

    Publisher: Our book, Mr. Pirate - Mr. Fluffy's Hoppy Adventure - you bought a copy of it on Amazon and it had secret DRM in it. When it showed up on TPB, we analyzed the text and determined it was your copy. You're the original seeder! At last we have the tools to find the pirates! And it's you, Mr. Pirate!

    Pirate: Mr. Fluffy's...what was the name again?

    Publisher: Are you nervous, Mr. Pirate? Can't remember? Is that going to be your defense? The title is Mr. Fluffy's Hoppy Adventure, as you well know.

    Pirate: It rings a faint bell...oh yes. I bought it for my daughter. She thought it was a piece of shite, although she's too polite to say it as such - derivative tripe, I believe, was her expression. We left it on her reader when we sold it.

    Publisher: Sold it? You bought a license to read it, Mr. Pirate - didn't you read the Terms And Conditions Of Sale?

    Pirate: If by reading you mean clicking through all the crap between ordering it and actually getting it, then yes, I read it.

    Publisher: We have you now, sir. By admitting that, you acknowledge your understanding that you merely bought a license to read the book.

    Pirate: Ah. I see your point now. Well then, I sold my license to read your book to some other poor soul. Now kindly fuck off.

    Click

    Publisher (to empty phone): But we had him! HAD him! GODDAMNED FIRST-SALE RIGHTS!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:14am

    Could take the DRM ebook and add your own "changes" to screw up the comparison to the "authorized" version...?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Seriously hackers are like the Borg you cant beat m. Here is what will happen.

    *Buy ebook anonymously via VPN
    *upload to web

    *wait for enough copies of one book to do analysis. Find out what is being changed.
    *Adapt

    The problem with every single DRM scheme is you HAVE to give a person who buys a product, the product at some point in your twisty turny DRM scheming. Because of this simple fact DRM will never work. Only reasonable pricing will work (ahem Apple stop your price fixing)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Just a Thought.

    With this scheme they have to keep multiple copies on servers, or they risk being temporary out of stock if demand outstrips the generation process. Some of the publishers will love it, ebooks that behave like physical books, including limited numbers in stock.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    No such thing as a "correct" version

    If, as suggested in comments above, the author were to be actually complicit in this, generating the synonym pairs, there would no longer be such a thing as THE correct version of the text. It would not meaningfully exist.

    And if the expression can be freely varied, while preserving some semblance of the meaning, just what is it that's copyrighted?

     

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    ChrisH, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    The great success of DRM seems to be the erosion of first-sale rights, both in people's minds, and in the courts. Look at how a court used "usage & resale restrictions" to conclude that a product was licensed and not sold in the AutoDesk case.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_v._Autodesk,_Inc.#Ninth_Circuit.27s_Analysis
    We read Wise and the MAI trio to prescribe three considerations that we may use to determine whether a software user is a licensee, rather than an owner of a copy. First, we consider whether the copyright owner specifies that a user is granted a license. Second, we consider whether the copyright owner significantly restricts the userís ability to transfer the software. Finally, we consider whether the copyright owner imposes notable use restrictions.

    That DRM is easy to defeat technically seems like a small reassurance in light of its greater legal and PR effects.

     

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    Demosthenes Locke, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association at one time was considering a "poison the well"-type project they called "Shades of Grey" (no relation to the terrible book). This project would deliberately distribute corrupted ebooks to ruin the experience of pirating it, with the hopes this would convince book pirates to buy the real thing to see it in pristine form.

    They don't have to. So many non-sanctioned ebooks are so rife with misspellings and errors, it would never be noticed.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:59pm

      Not to mention the other problem with that idea...

      Namely, did it ever occur to them that those pirates that were sampling the ebooks, to see if they were any good, would take one look at the crap that they were putting out themselves, and rather than go 'well that was crap, I better shell out some money to see if the real version is any better', instead go with 'well that was crap, and if that's a good indication of their work, I think I'll be avoiding this author in the future'?

       

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    Matthew Cline (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:26pm

    For non-fiction, replacing a word with a synonym that doesn't change the meaning might not be too bad. But with fiction or poetry... Well, as Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:13pm

    So basically they want to throw us back to the middle ages when the only books available were priest/monk scribed copies of the bible each with their little idiosincrqocies? Way to move technology forward.


    How illuminating!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 3:00pm

    Not actually 'corrupted' text...but a fabulous excuse for censorship:

    You release a book claiming Obama has been using drones to murder US citizens, and hey presto the DRM changes murder to 'watch' and 'US citizens' to 'terrorists'.........

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 3:01pm

    Side effect: each book would be 'unique' therefore a single sale, so statutory damages would only apply to one potential sale.

    The other books are different works as they contain different text......you haven't pirated those AT ALL :)

    suck it Authors guild etc......

     

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