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DRM - Digital Rights Management Issues


Digital Rights Management for ebooks is a difficult one to solve. Have no DRM and ebooks are open to mass distribution and replication. Implement DRM and many corporate firewalls mean corporate buyers cannot download the book through their firewall. So just what is the answer.

Let's look at a typical scenario:

A business owner finds a book on something to help their business and pays for an ebook - excited to get the information so easily and instantly. Their euphoria is short lived after paying their money and receiving the download link, to find that their corporate firewall prevents them downloading or opening it at work.

No problem - they will simple email it home or download the book on their home computer. The content is just what they need, and they want to discuss it with their operations manager, so want to be able to print out chapters at home. However, their inkjet printer is slow and expensive so they create a print file to transfer to work - but the DRM prevents this capture.

And so it should - even print books are not permitted to be copied for distribution without permission from the author - but the computer environment has trained users to believe anything digital is freely distributable. However, this is a typical experience that leaves many people reluctant to purchase another ebook.

Other issues with DRM include:

  1. Hardware systems supporting digital vaults fail - restricting access to books
  2. Verification systems go out of date leaving no way to access the product or replace it
  3. DRM cracks are almost immediately available - however, DRM cracking software is only accessible and useable by a minority.
  4. Password protection requires support for lost or changed passwords

In spite of this, piracy of digital media is rampant in China, Korea and Russia, undermining the revenues of authors and publishers.

If we look at how other media has/is handling DRM, we find that:

  • Music from iTunes is now virtually DRM free.
  • Adobe has developed a Content Server as a DRM provider. It does require a piece of ebook software [as does iTunes] called Digital Editions and is supported by PC, Mac and Sony eReader. One can expect other ebook readers to follow.
  • Amazon's solution is the Kindle reader - a rather hefty investment, but supports access to a wide range of media
  • DNL formatted eBooks

Incidentally, according to a recent search, iTunes DRM was never cracked. Adobe DRM should also be be pretty hard to crack.


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