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?

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Filed Under: audiobooks, copyright, drm


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  1. identicon
    Overcast, 4 Mar 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Just bought a book after reading some of it on Google books the other day.

    I bought something that was 'free' - because in my opinion, the hard copy of the book offered more VALUE than just reading it on the web. I can relax and read it anywhere, rather than staring at a screen.

    These companies could gain a lot of ground by releasing lesser quality copies of the media/software for FREE themselves.

    They could release a game that lacks in game music, scales down graphics, restricts online play, and on...

    Giving people a taste of the game, yet leaving more to be desired by buying the full version. This would put a crimp in the 'hacker' market, as people wouldn't be looking for 'cracked' games - they could just download a more 'limited' version for free. If they choose to go with the 'lesser' product - so be it.

    Kinda like the difference between radio and buying the music prior to the 'web'.

    Sure - you could always listen to music for free on the radio, and much of it, you would never buy. But obviously a LOT of people do buy the full copy.

    If radio is successful in bringing new content to the 'masses' how much more so could the internet.... If the companies quit being so anal about it.

    I guess the saying is true: The tighter they clinch their fist, the more sand slips through their fingers.

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