Cory Doctorow talks about the recent Hachette-Amazon dispute and the dangers posed by Ebook DRM Dictators.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the bait in a “trap” of global laws that give platform companies – Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes & Noble – “the power to usurp the relationship between publishers and their customers,” said the writer, blogger, digital commentator and ‘copyright activist’ Cory Doctorow in a powerful keynote address at last week’s third Writing in a Digital Age conference in London,
organised by the Literary Consultancy.
He likens it to a lock which, rather than protecting our content, is the root of something darker. “Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and won’t give you the key, that lock is not for your benefit,” he said.
It’s a situation that has put chains around the major publishers, he believes. Referencing the current dispute between Hachette and Amazon, he notes that Hachette has had “the most uncompromising stance on DRM of all the major publishers. Every Hachette ebook ever sold through Amazon has been locked with Amazon’s DRM. Now, Hachette can go out and team up with all the other digital companies all at once, but for Hachette’s most loyal, most buying, hardest reading customers, Hachette is saying if you want to keep buying our books in digital form, you have to throw away all those dozens or hundreds or thousands of books you’ve bought to follow us to Kobo, to follow us to Barnes & Noble, to follow us to Google Play, to follow us to Apple.
“Or you have to maintain two parallel sets of reading infrastructure, two different libraries you search, two different apps that you use, two different rooms effectively in your digital life where your books live…”
He imagines what might have happened if Hachette had not used DRM. Then they could “ship a custom version of Calibre or another ebook reformatting app…and they could offer discounts on their titles with Waterstones, or WHSmith or Google. And they could say: ‘For as long as Amazon is screwing with us, our books are half-price everywhere else – and here’s a tool to liberate yourself from the Amazon jail so you can take your books with you to a less abusive retailer’.”
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