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OPLIN 4Cast #283: DRM on a diet

Posted in 4cast

At the end of last week, there was an interesting development among ebook publishers. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), which includes several major publishers, issued an invitation to talk about “Lightweight DRM.” Current ebook Digital Rights Management is anything but lightweight; the protective ebook encryption is so heavy you can’t read a Kindle ebook on a Nook, for example. But consumer unhappiness seems to be pushing a change.

  • ePub standards body proposes new ‘lightweight’ DRM for ebook platform interoperability (The Verge/Bryan Bishop)  “The new ePub DRM would offer a standardized approach, providing enough protection to deter casual file sharing without causing so much hassle as to be inconvenient to users. The proposal calls for a password-based solution that would work on a device even if no internet connection was present — or if the ebook distributor themselves no longer existed.”
  • IDPF proposes less-restrictive DRM standard (TeleRead/Chris Meadows)  “The problem I see with this idea is, who exactly is going to use it? [Bill] Rosenblatt points to vendor lock-in as one of the problems with current DRM implementations, but from the point of view of the vendors (who are the ones who actually decide what DRM they use) that’s a feature—exactly the opposite of a problem. And up to now, copyright holders have seen restrictiveness of DRM as a feature as well. Who’s going to make them move to something lighter?”
  • EPUB Lightweight Content Protection: Use cases & requirements (International Digital Publishing Forum/Bill Rosenblatt)  “Finally, heavyweight DRM has generated significant resistance from consumers and consumer advocates, particularly in paid content business models, and this resistance has increased over time. Consumers object to intrusion (…), the technical and user experience glitches that are more likely to appear with more complex technology, and restrictions on content usage that correspond to usages of physical products to which they are accustomed (or which should be allowed by law).”
  • e-Books may take a page out of digital music’s book (Ars Technica/Megan Geuss)  “It seems more people will buy e-books if they can transfer them between devices, or if DRM was easier to understand. At a recent conference held by the Digital Public Library of America, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle answered an audience member who asked ‘what will it take for publishers to nix DRM?’ ‘Wanting to have a business at the end of the day?’ Kahle answered sarcastically.”

Library lending fact:
The second use case in the IDPF statement of requirements outlines a process for borrowing an ebook with lightweight DRM from a library, reading it on one device, transferring it to another device, and sharing it with a friend.