Defective by Design

Librarians Against DRM

Submitted by JoshuaGay on Thu, 2011-03-31 15:16

In 2008, the DRM Elimination Crew stood on the steps of the Boston Public Library (BPL) and demanded that they Kick DRM Out (1, 2). The DRM technology got into the BPL through a contract with the company OverDrive, who uses DRM (on most titles) to control how and when people can read ebooks. This setup essentially moves control of the library's digital collection into the hands of the publishers and intermediary companies like OverDrive that do the dirty work of implementing DRM.

Back then we found that librarians were somewhat disgruntled with this setup, but, unfortunately, few librarians were willing to take action to get DRM out of their libraries. However, a recent move by the publisher HarperCollins may have just pushed many such librarians over the edge by demanding a 26-checkout limit on many of their titles (i.e., a title can only be checked out 26 times to patrons before it is removed from the library's digital collection and it needs to be re-purchased).

One reaction to this demand of HarperCollins is a call for a Readers' Bill of Rights, and the creation of powerful graphics and logos that create solidarity for Librarians Against DRM. The Readers Bill of Rights currently makes the following demands for readers:

  • Ability to retain, archive and transfer purchased materials
  • Ability to create a paper copy of the item in its entirety
  • Digital Books should be in an open format (i.e. you could read on a computer, not just a book reader device)
  • Choice of hardware to access books (i.e. in 3 years when your device has broken, you can still read your book on other hardware)
  • Reader information will remain private (what, when and how we read will not be stored, sold or marketed)

If a publisher wants to meet these minimum requirements, they will have to get rid of DRM.

Readers, librarians, and authors need to make their voices heard. DRM leaves readers and librarians helpless and divided. If we do not ban DRM from our libraries and our lives then we can and should expect publishers such as HarperCollins to strangle libraries so as to gain as much of a profit as possible.

We need to watch out for each other and make sure that people are not getting suckered into notions of "fair" DRM. For example, Amazon offered an ebook "lending" service, and treated it as though it were some novel invention — see our article ''Lending: A solved problem" — but what is more, as soon as individuals began collaborating to make wide use of this paltry concession, Amazon shut them down.

With the Day Against DRM just around the corner, we are encouraging people to come up with actions that can be done locally. If your local library uses DRM, that would be a great place to start.

If you are interested in participating in the 2011 Day Against DRM, here are two simple steps you can take to get involved:

Login