Does DRM Prevent Piracy?

Back in April 2012, Tor books decided to abandon DRM schemes and begin releasing all of its books DRM-free. A year later, in 2013, Tor summed up its approach to piracy and the results after a year (emphasis added),

But DRM-protected titles are still subject to piracy, and we believe a great majority of readers are just as against piracy as publishers are, understanding that piracy impacts on an author’s ability to earn an income from their creative work. As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.

The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern—and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community. And a year on we’re still pleased that we took this step with the imprint and continue to publish all of Tor UK’s titles DRM-free.

At least one company gets it.

I’d Rather Buy Your Book, But…

Jason Davis over at Teleread noted a Guardian story about authors and publishers demanding an anti-piracy campaign focused on ebooks (suggested slogan: home taping is killing the publishing industry.) Davis goes on to note four ways in which he believes the publishing industry is itself largely responsible for ebook piracy.

I couldn’t agree more. A couple weeks ago I read a review of a new book in a series that sounded like something I’d be interested in. I’d never read anything by the author, however, and wanted to grab an ebook of the first book in the series. Alas, for whatever reason, the author’s books are not available in ebook form, period.

Which means it took me about 3 minutes to find an excellent epub version of the book, transfer to my ereader, and begin reading. I know, rights agreements, agency pricing, blah blah bullshit. I’d have gladly paid for a DRM-free version of the book, but since publishers have decided that the best approach is to make it as difficult as possible for me to give them my money, I’m not going to lose any sleep over keeping the money.

Maybe someday the publishers will get it, but given the music industry’s continued intransigence, I doubt it. It’s so much more satisfying to wave a fist in the air and bitch that home taping is killing the publishing industry than it is to adjust your business model to changing conditions.

Whatever. This year I’m going to buy about 100 paper and ebooks. If some publishers and authors would rather have me spend that money on someone else’s books, I’m more than happy to oblige.

Libraries Are Killing the Publishing Industry

GoToHellMan recently published a hilarious parody of publisher complaints about piracy Offline Book “Lending” Costs U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion,

Hot on the heels of the story in Publisher’s Weekly that “publishers could be losing out on as much $3 billion to online book piracy” comes a sudden realization of a much larger threat to the viability of the book industry. Apparently, over 2 billion books were “loaned” last year by a cabal of organizations found in nearly every American city and town. Using the same advanced projective mathematics used in the study cited by Publishers Weekly, Go To Hellman has computed that publishers could be losing sales opportunities totaling over $100 Billion per year, losses which extend back to at least the year 2000. These lost sales dwarf the online piracy reported yesterday, and indeed, even the global book publishing business itself.

From what we’ve been able to piece together, the book “lending” takes place in “libraries”. On entering one of these dens, patrons may view a dazzling array of books, periodicals, even CDs and DVDs, all available to anyone willing to disclose valuable personal information in exchange for a “card”. But there is an ominous silence pervading these ersatz sanctuaries, enforced by the stern demeanor of staff and the glares of other patrons. Although there’s no admission charge and it doesn’t cost anything to borrow a book, there’s always the threat of an onerous overdue bill for the hapless borrower who forgets to continue the cycle of not paying for copyrighted material.

The whole thing is hilarious and well worth reading. Keep it in mind the next time you read one of those idiotic “piracy cost X industry $Y hundred million.”

Go, Roger, Go

So Roger Friedman is this sort of bottom-feeding entertainment writer who Fox News has been syndicating for awhile. Finally he does something useful and posts a review of the leaked and torrented unfinisd print of the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie, and he’s got entertard bloggers calling for his head. Typical of the genre is Josh Tyler’s junior high school-esque rant,

What’s strange and incredibly frustrating for someone attempting to retain his site’s independence, is that if you slap big corporate ownership on something, it instantly elevates it to respectable institution. Maybe we indie-sites deserve to be treated like gutter rats, but if we do then so do the big corporate, mainstream print and internet crowd which spends so much of its time looking down its collective nose at the rest of us.

Never has that been more evident than today when Fox News reporter Roger Friedman posted a review, on FoxNews’s website, of the recently pirated, illegal copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Take just a moment to let the implications of that sink in, and then while you’re at it consider this: The normally fractured, opportunistic, greedy, independent online community has shockingly, united as whole, and refused to review the film. Not only has almost every even marginally respectable website and blog refused to review it, most have come out with strong commentary against the viewing of it, decrying the illegal downloading of Fox’s upcoming summer blockbuster as blatantly immoral. Some have done so even in the face of backlash from their generally pro-piracy readers. In response Fox’s hard-working public relations departments have issued statements asking for the online community’s support, praising indie-run sites like this one for coming out against the illegal pirating of Wolverine, and asking us to stand up and refuse to download or discuss it.

. . .

So who caved? Not the internet crowd, not the independently owned bloggers so often decried as the scum of web society. Fox’s own FoxNews. The same Fox begging for sympathy over the pirating of their big movie. While the hard working (and well-intentioned) 20th Century Fox PR staff asked for restraint and cooperation, on the other side of the company someone decided to take advantage of the buzz on their film to greedily increase traffic to their website while at the same time, by their willingness to run a review from someone who illegally downloaded it, further promote the spread of the very Wolverine downloads which Fox claims are bankrupting the movie industry. Worst of all, Roger Friedman not only illegally downloaded the movie and then reviewed it publicly, he then all but endorsed the idea of others doing the same saying: “I did see Wolverine on a large, wide computer screen, and not in a movie theater, but it could not have played better.”

ROTFLMAO. See what Friedman did is what real journalists do. Whether Fox or anybody else likes it, “Wolverine” is out there and people are watching it. Whether or not its any good is something people like myself are curious about and even an early version can help clarify that issue.

Tyler’s “see no torrent; hear no torrent; speak of no torrent” acquiesence with Fox is absurd. Maybe if he wants “indie” film websites to be taken seriously, he might want to put a stop to the public fellating of Fox’s public relations department.

Personally, I hail Roger Friedman for doing something that apparently these “independent” sites would never think of doing — going beyond being a simple extension of big studio public relations departments.

Update: A commenter over at ScreenRant sums up my thoughts on this,

Michael J said,
April 5th, 2009

Roger Friedman has a set of brass ones. Good for him for not being a toadie of the film industry. Unlike 99% of the so called critics and film websites.

Indeed.

Pirates of the Amazon

Pirates of the Amazon is/was an interesting experiment that quickly got a cease-and-desist letter from Amazon.com. For a day, however, the site hosted a Firefox extension that assisted the user in pirating works for sale at Amazon. As TorrentFreak put it,

An add-on for the Firefox browser called ‘Pirates of the Amazon’ makes it possible to shop at the Amazon store but leave without paying a dime. Instead, on Amazon product pages the add-on integreates links to ‘free’ copies on The Pirate Bay.

. . .

When the add-on is installed, it integrates a new “download 4 free” button into the Amazon product page when the same article is also available via The Pirate Bay. It works for CDs, DVDs, games, books and basically all products that can be converted to a digital format.

Now that is an interesting mashup. As TorrentFreak noted there are plenty of Greasemonky scripts out there that do much the same thing for Last.FM, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc. It’s not like it is rocket science to do this with Greasemonkey.

If you’re curious, TorrentFreak is maintaining a backup of the Firefox extension here.