It’s not the DRM, it’s the inconvenience

There’s not one word about digital rights management that keeps readers from moving their purchases to another hardware platform. Why would people forego their main e-book vendor if they lose everything they bought when they switch? What does DBW think those “walls” are built out of, papier-mâché?

Teleread: Surprise! Most consumers buy e-books from a single retailer

I don’t quite agree with this. It is unsuprising that most people who buy ebooks buy them from one retailer. I buy all my ebooks from Kobo. And while I think DRM is a bad idea for numerous reasons, for both the buyer and the seller, it’s not the whole story here.

I am technically competent enough to get DRM-free ebooks of whatever I want. I could either download them for free from any number of sites, or purchase them and strip the DRM. I choose not to, mostly because I want to support content creators, and I would rather forgo the content than take it for free.

The reason I buy all my books from Kobo is that I have a Kobo ebook reader, and they store all my purchases so I don’t have to think about it. Could I get better prices and a bigger selection at Amazon? Probably. But when it comes to digital content, I just don’t trust Amazon, and I’m willing to pay a small premium to avoid them.

But to the point above – it’s not exactly the DRM that builds these walls. If I buy a book from Kobo, it just shows up on my reader. If I buy a book from Amazon, I’m not even sure what I have to do. I probably have to download the book then transfer it the reader. I might need special software from Amazon that likely doesn’t work on my Linux laptop. It’s a big hassle. Now, you could make the argument that, in the absence of DRM, this process could be just as easy for books bought anywhere as it is for books bought from Kobo, but I really doubt it would work out that way. Music has been DRM free for the most part for a while now, and as far as I know you can’t do one-click buys from your music player from other vendors.

Are you Flickr friends with the Smithsonian?

Originally uploaded by Smithsonian Institution

If you aren’t, you should be. The Smithsonian is one of the organizations, like the Library of Congress, that is using Flickr to share all sorts of images free from any kind of copyright or licensing restrictions. This makes the hippie socialist in me very happy. For $25 a year, they have unlimited storage of photos. I know the Library of Congress encourages people to tag their photos, so they’re crowdsourcing the categorization of whatever they post. That certainly saves them more than $25 a year. And this way everyone benefits because people can use the photos for whatever they want. And we all get to look at cool pictures like this one, a supernova photographed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

WalMart caves on DRM

BoingBoing | WalMart now says they’ll keep the DRM servers on forever I wrote about this when WalMart first announced that they were revoking your ability to play the music you “bought” from them, but it looks like they’ve changed their mind, just like Yahoo. Well, not quite like Yahoo, but the same idea. They’re going to leave their DRM servers on for some undisclosed additional time. BoingBoing seems to think they’ll leave them up permanently, but the press release doesn’t actually say that. Regardless, WalMart is paying real money for their mistake, and it’s always nice to see that. Except in this economy where we need WalMart to keep the entire country from going bankrupt. Then it kind of sucks.

If you buy anything with DRM, you are stupid

And there’s another in the long list of music retailers who decided to turn off their DRM servers, effectively taking back the music you “bought”.

As the final stage of our transition to a full DRM-free MP3 download store, Walmart will be shutting down our digital rights management system that supports protected songs and albums purchased from our site.

WalMart is actually telling people to burn their DRMed music to cd so they don’t lose it. This is a pretty callous way of telling customers that WalMart doesn’t care about them. I don’t really understand how there can’t be a better solution. Is it really that hard for WalMart to leave a server running that just always says, “yes, you’re authorized”? It is increasingly clear to all those paying attention that any business model that depends on some sort of DRM is doomed to fail. And those who buy DRMed goods are doomed to lose them when the seller decides not to support it anymore. Let that be a lesson – DRM is anti-consumer. Always. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either mislead or lying.

Infinite goods want to be DRM-free!

I’ve gotten into a little discussion on DRM and ebooks over at Feedbooks. If you’re interested in potential business models for authors in a world of infinite goods, hop on over there and join the discussion. Especially if you can contribute more than me (That is, if you can do more than parrot what you read on Techdirt).

Way to go, Yahoo

Techdirt | Yahoo Offers Refunds Or DRM-Free Music In Exchange For Shutting Down DRM Servers Looks like Yahoo is going to make things right for customers who bought DRM’ed music at their old store. They’ll either replace the music with DRM-free editions, or give refunds. Unlike Microsoft’s band-aid (Keeping the DRM servers up for a few more years), this is an actual solution, righting the wrong that Yahoo did to its customers by “selling” them music that could be taken back at any time.

The iPhone and the PETA Effect

Gizmodo reports that Defective by Design, an anti-DRM group, is going to clog up the Apple Genius Bar this weekend with people complaining about the restrictive nature of the iPhone. This is an idea (DRM sucks) that I totally support, but a terrible way to protest it. I mean, when I see idiots from PETA dressing up like animals or throwing blood around, it just makes me want to go on the Atkins diet. When I see’s super-obnoxious anti-smoking commercials, I want to buy cigarettes for minors. I support treating animals humanely. I support keeping kids from smoking (And encouraging adults to stop). And I support telling Apple and the rest that they’re a bunch of jerks with their insistence on DRM. But this isn’t the way to do it. The response to bad behavior is not more bad behavior. Apple’s anti-customer policies are not justification to make this much of a nuisance of yourself. Remember, when someone buys an iPhone, they’ve made a decision, based on their knowledge of the product, that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. For you, they may not. They don’t for me. And really, we all know the only thing that would make me buy an Apple product (Except as gifts for my wife, because she’s great) is if all of you stopped liking them. And yes, DRM is bad for everyone, and everyone who buys DRM-infected content or devices is making it tougher on the rest of us. But this is a free country, and that includes the freedom to make decisions based on your own relative needs and desires. Anyway, not that anyone listens to me, but I urge you to ignore Defective by Design’s request to mess with the Apple Genius Bar. It’s not the right way to protest DRM. I mean, really, does anyone think Apple cares?

Where Microsoft went, Yahoo will follow

Boing Boing | Yahoo Music shutting down its DRM server, customers lose all their paid-for music the next time they crash or upgrade

“All those years the music industry spent insisting that the only way they’d sell music is with crippling DRM attached managed to totally discredit the idea of buying music at all.”

Techdirt | Did Yahoo Not Pay Attention To What Happened When Microsoft Pulled The Plug On Its DRM Server?

could [Yahoo] seriously not have noticed the massive backlash that Microsoft received for telling people that it was turning off its DRM servers, effectively locking all the songs people had “bought” to their current computers.

I thought I’d written about it a little while back when Microsoft decided that the servers that check to see if the music you’ve “purchased” from Microsoft’s music store is legal or not were no longer necessary. That meant that all the music you thought you “bought” from Microsoft was really just being rented, and now they’d decided to terminate your lease because they didn’t feel like complying with the deal they made with you anymore. And now Yahoo is doing the same thing. All the music you “bought” from Yahoo won’t work anymore if you move it to a different computer. I’ve said this numerous times, and I’m not alone – if you pay for ANYTHING that has DRM attached, you are NOT buying. You are RENTING at the discretion of whoever is taking your money. Some people may be okay with that. I’m not.