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. icon
    PaulT (profile), 21 Jun 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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