Tor/Forge going DRM free

I don’t normally post more than once in a day, but there’s been some pretty huge news in publishing today. I heard talk about it being a possibility – Amazon is all about trying to eliminate the middle man, and I keep thinking, wait, isn’t Amazon the middle man?

Cory Doctorow, an activist for copyright law has some thoughts:
http://boingboing.net/2012/04/24/tor-books-goes-completely-drm.html

And so does John Scalzi, who’s published by Tor and directly affected by it:
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/04/24/torforge-to-go-drm-free-by-july-immediate-\
thoughts/

As a customer, and an e-reader owner, I think this is great. From the beginning, my biggest reservation in buying an e-reader has been that I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into a single reader, and not be able to share a book with my husband. I mean, if I buy a paperback, I read it, then my husband reads it – that’s legal – but if my husband buys a Nook and I have a Sony e-reader, I can’t put that book on his e-reader. We’d have to buy another copy, and if they’re charging just as much for an e-book as a paperback, that’s just unreasonable, imho.

As an author, I think it’s cool too – my own future potential customers will get more bang for their buck – there’s no reason to pay the same for a different format if you don’t get the same rights over it. I understand charging the same for an e-book as a paperback – there are fixed costs of editing and formatting that go into both a paper book and an e-book, and my understanding is that the cost of producing the two isn’t that significantly different. But if the customer doesn’t get the same value from the end product, that’s not right.

As far as piracy – DRM is a joke. DRM has never stopped piracy, it’s too easy to strip. If people are going to pirate, they will pirate, and a bit of software isn’t going to stop them. That, and not having DRM on your work doesn’t invalidate your copyright. There are those who’s defense of DRM consists of “I want to make sure people really know that they shouldn’t be stealing my work.”

They know. That defense is assuming that people downloading illegal content don’t know that they’re doing something illegal, or they do, but the message hasn’t been made clear enough. I think it’s dangerous to start implying that an author who’s work is not protected by DRM has less of a claim on the copyright than one who’s work is DRM’d. Because it absolutely is. It’s equally illegal to share copyrighted material whether it’s DRM protected or not, and Tor has made it clear that they will be going after violators just the same as they always have.

Because DRM isn’t about piracy. It’s about locking customers into a reader made by a particular middle man provider, so that they can’t go buy books from someone else. Tor/Forge doesn’t make e-readers, so they have no vested interest in forcing customers to buy products locked into a particular device. They just want to sell books.

So I’m hoping to see this become a trend.

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