Defective by Design

Weekly DRM News

Submitted by sarahmac on Tue, 2009-08-11 08:58

Hi, I'm Sarah Adelaida and I am working at the FSF this summer as part of a newly launched internship program. I will be posting new DRM news each week. If you'd like to know more about me read my letter of introduction. If you see stories we should mention here, please let me know.

Studies show that economic justification for DRM is wrong

The Chief Economist for PRS for Music, Will Page, has published a study that shows that P2P sharing helped raise music consumption in the UK. Here are a few highlights from the study:

  • The UK Music Industry was worth £3.6bn ($5.9bn USD) in 2008, up 4.7% on 2007. Combined business to consumer revenues (live industry and recorded music retail) grew 3%, making up 75% of total industry value;
  • More complex business to business revenues (from collective and direct licensing, advertising, sponsorship) grew by 10%, reaching £925 million and contributing 25% of total industry value;

Page's study supports with what many other studies surrounding the music industry show. For example this Canadian study conducted in 2007 found that file-sharing helps music sales. Here are some highlights from that study:

  • For every 12 P2P downloaded songs, music purchases increase by 0.44 CDs. That is, downloading the equivalent of approximately one CD increases purchasing by about half of a CD.
  • No relationship between P2P file-sharing and purchases of electronically-delivered music tracks (e.g., songs from iTunes).
  • Roughly half of all P2P tracks were downloaded because individuals wanted to hear songs before buying them or because they wanted to avoid purchasing the whole bundle of songs on the associated CDs and roughly one quarter were downloaded because they were not available for purchase.
  • Only the effect of illegally downloading music that is not available for purchase influenced music purchasing, with a 1% increase in such downloads being associated with nearly a 4% increase in CD purchases.

These studies show that DRM doesn't help music sales, so why do companies continue to claim it does?

The Associated Press DRM update: Restricting public domain material

The Associated Press will claim you owe them a licensing fee if you use more than four words from one of its articles, even if the words didn't originate from one of their articles, says James Grimmelman. He went to the AP's "reuse options" site to pick out a quote. He picked a quote from Thomas Jefferson, a quote that was clearly in the public domain already. The AP told him that Jefferson's quote would cost him $12 to use. They also also had restrictions on how this quote could be used: it must be used exactly as written, it must have the AP's copyright footer in its entirety attached, it cannot be used involving anything with "political content" and he can't use the quote if "his words in any manner or context ... will be in any way derogatory to the AP." Does anyone else find it ridiculous that the AP is charging licensing fees for public domain material and putting restrictions on how it's used?

New Sony Shredders: DRM is still a problem

Sony is releasing two new wireless ebook reading devices by the end of the month. Unfortunately, because they still use DRM, they'll continue to shred your ebooks. The devices allow users to purchase ebooks outside of the Sony store in Adobe or EPUB file formats, and Sony will offer over 1 million public domain ebooks for free from Google in their store. While I am happy that Sony is allowing people to buy their ebooks elsewhere now, and making public domain material accessible, there still appears to be a lack of widespread DRM-free ebooks -- their store is still heavily focused on DRMed titles.

Some publishers continue to believe that DRM is in their best interest despite many investigations showing that DRM harms everyone. I came across a bookseller's blog that illustrates this very problem: "Make no mistake, I am NOT a fan of DRM, but as a bookseller I am more or less forced into selling DRM protected books... So if I want to sell the latest titles from the big publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster or Harper Collins I have no choice." Since many publishers demand DRM on their ebooks, most booksellers inevitably will comply with the publishers in order to compete. But it is still important to recognize that nobody is forcing them to do so -- even though the publishers are pushing to have DRM on their material, it is still within the booksellers' power to refuse to sell DRM-infected material.

The fact also remains that many large companies actually are just as happy as publishers to slap DRM on their ebooks. As long as publishers are pushing for DRM and as long as booksellers agree to use it, your freedoms will continue to be ignored and there won't be very much of a DRM-free alternative out there for your ebooks.

You can help change this by signing our petition demanding that Amazon abolish DRM from their ebooks!

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