DRM Screws Users Again: eBooks About To Disappear Due To DRM Provider Shut Down

from the don't-buy-anything-with-DRM dept

Around here, it's basically preaching to the choir, so most of you probably recognize this already, but buying anything with DRM on it is basically asking for trouble down the road. The latest example? An eBook seller named Fictionwise has realized that one of the companies that provides DRM for some of its books has announced that its shutting down at the end of the month. Because that DRM has to check in with an authentication server that's no longer going to be there, everyone who "bought" (really: incorrectly thought they bought) eBooks that used this DRM will discover that the books they paid for no longer work (Update: as noted in the comments, this DRM doesn't authenticate every time -- just any time you try to move the content to a new device. Also, Fictionwise is working to get replacements and has done so for many of the eBooks impacted already). It's as if a publisher could retroactively erase the text from within a physical book that you bought. Since Fictionwise is just passing on the eBooks from third party aggregators, it has no means of replacing the "disappeared" eBooks. Has anyone found any thing that DRM is actually good for yet?

Filed Under: drm, ebooks
Companies: fictionwise


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  1. identicon
    Johnny, 9 Jan 2009 @ 1:13pm

    Useful DRM

    Valve has done a great job on building out valuable features into their Steam DRM platform. There was a previous article that mentioned that EA turned to Steam to appease members of their audience who were upset over the restrictive DRM attached to the boxed version of Spore. Steam lets you buy a game online and download it from any computer as long as you install the Steam client. You can install your games on as many computers as you choose, but only one instance of the install can be used at any given time. You don't have a disk which represents your license to own a game, so there's no chance of physically losing the digital goods you have purchased. You don't have to plan ahead of time to bring a copy of your disk for a game... you can install it on any computer you happen to have access to on a whim.

    Unlike in the case in this article where the DRM server went away and users are screwed, the license agreement for Steam purchases states that if they do decide to shut down, users will be notified and given the ability to download stand-alone installers for all their games. If they decide to stop maintaining their DRM, they're giving their customers an alternative. I assume they recognize that if they did not provide this guarantee, then they would lose some business.

    The Steam client also has useful features like the ability to communicate with your friends, to see what game your friends are playing in realtime, the ability to see what games your friends own and to purchase games as gifts.

    There are a couple drawbacks. You lose the ability to sell your license to a game after you're done with it. For me, this is a non-issue. I like the idea that several years from now if I decide I want to go back and play an old game, I have the ability to do so with no hassle.

    You also lose the ability to play some games if your computer has no internet connection available, Spore being one.

    I consider myself to be a Steam fan, which means yeah, I'm a fan of a DRM app. I give my guarantee that I'm not a shill. I have no professional relationship with Valve.

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