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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Filed Under: corrupted text, drm, ebooks
Companies: fraunhofer institute


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 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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