DRM-Free Doesn't Mean Copyright-Free
from the everybody's-doing-it dept
The death of audio DRM continues apace, as major book publishers begin following the lead of record labels and phasing out copy protection on audio versions of their books. It seems they're learning what we (and a lot of other folks) have been saying for years: DRM doesn't prevent piracy. All it does is annoy customers and limit the value of your products. One thing the New York Times gets wrong in the above story is the idea that these publishers are "abandoning copyright protections." The Guardian made a similar error, saying that Penguin's audiobooks would be "copyright-free." But of course, DRM isn't the same as copyright. Infringing copyright is just as illegal with DRM-free audio files as it is with copy protected files. This point may actually become a major headache for content companies. They've spent the last decade trying to conflate DRM with copyright. This was always misleading, but a lot of people bought it. Now that they're changing their minds and abandoning DRM, they're going to have to spend a lot of time explaining that DRM-free music is still copyrighted, and pirating it is still illegal.
The other interesting question is when content producers in other content industries will start paying attention to the no-DRM trend in the audio market and move towards phasing out DRM for themselves too. We're rapidly approaching the point where almost every major audio firm offers their content in downloadable, DRM-free formats. (Of course, they've always sold content in the DRM-free CD format) But at the same time, the Kindle was launched just last year with DRM restrictions, and Hollywood has stubbornly clung to DRM for its high-definition video products, despite the fact that that hasn't worked either. How bad do things have to get before these guys start paying attention?