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A new form of DRM? Oh please.

Posted June 18, 2013 by Anne

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A recent article in the The Guardian discusses a new form of DRM being proposed:

“The new ebook digital rights management (DRM) system would, reported PaidContent, change certain words in the text of a pirated ebook – “invisible” could become “not visible”, for example, and “unhealthy” become “not healthy” – so that an individualised copy could be traced” 

All of our books at Momentum are DRM-free, and we made this choice because as ebook readers ourselves we want our books to be as accessible as possible, meaning that legitimate users should be able to read the books they have paid for on whatever device they choose to read on. DRM restricts valid use of property, and we respect the reading community too much to put in place obstructions to an enjoyable book experience.

Tor dropped DRM around the same time we did last year, and Tor UK’s Editorial Director Julie Crisp recently announced their findings one year in, saying that not only did they not see an increase in piracy, but also that it helped to establish Tor as a publisher that listens and understands their readers, and that “we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community”.

Proposing a new form of DRM for books, particularly one that directly interferes with the words of a text, is utterly redundant and out of date. As John Birmingham says, “Every book I’ve ever published in electronic format has been pirated. Every single one. And they all had DRM. It didn’t protect me from piracy and it won’t protect publishing in general. The best protection is to make your work as easily accessible as possible, everywhere, all at once, at the same, reasonable price. Is it possible? Nobody really knows, but we’re gonna give it a hell of a shake to find out.”

Other authors echoed Birmingham’s sentiments in the Guardian article:

Lloyd Shepherd “believes the only ways to tackle book piracy are cultural and economic. “You address it culturally by banging away, year after year, on how creators are people earning a living who should be compensated fairly – authors have a big part to play in that, by being present in social media and book forums, by being very obviously human beings capable of being damaged and not faceless entertainment ‘brands’,” Shepherd said. “You address it economically by taking a long, hard look at issues like ebook availability in international markets – the old geographic rights model has been fatally undermined by international data networks, and the licensing regime has to react to that.”

The award-winning Nick Harkaway, author of Angelmaker, was less concerned about textual changes, suggesting that it would be “pretty simple” to find words which could be switched, “unless you’re talking about a work of staggering poetic precision”. His problem would be “much more visceral”.

“I hate with a fiery passion the idea of making the text spy on the reader,” he said.

Harkaway called the new system “a clever technical fix and “a very silly idea”.

“The whole concept is forlorn because filesharing – piracy is a crime of violence and horror, filesharing is more like fly tipping – may not actually do any harm, and some evidence suggests it helps sales,” he said.

“The criminalisation of the reader is probably not the best model for the publishing industry generally, and it creates an adversarial relationship which increases the likelihood of copyright infringements; what one program can do, another can inevitably undo, and this particular version of the system raises the possibility of a ‘scrambler’ filesharing program which randomly alters additional words so that any subsequent court case must acknowledge the possibility, however faint, that the text did not, in fact, come from a given person but merely looks that way because of the scrambler – producing ever more garbled versions of the text.”

Momentum author Nathan M. Farrugia agrees, “if pirates are better at distributing your ebooks than you are, then you’re doing it wrong. The best way for publishers to fight piracy is with convenience.”

The only way to limit book piracy is to make your books as accessible as possible; globally available at a reasonable price. DRM is not the answer.

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And thank you to Craig Hildebrand-Burke for bringing the Guardian piece to my attention.

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Release day. Stalin’s Hammer. Sort of.

Posted November 1, 2012 by John Birmingham

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So, today is the day that Stalin’s Hammer: Rome drops into the e-book shops. Or at least it does everywhere but America. I found out about two weeks ago that my US publisher wants to hold on to the title until January or February next year. Originally they were even looking at holding it back until midyear, but my sad face changed their mind.

It’s still not ideal. When we sat down to plan how we’d approach the e-book market, the guys at Momentum and I agreed that there were a couple of minimum conditions we needed to meet. A price so low there was no barrier to purchase. At $2.99 I think we’ve done that. No DRM so that readers could store and carry their copy of the book however they damn well pleased. Tick. And simultaneous global release, so that somebody sitting on their couch in, say, Kansas City, Missouri, would have no reason to be pissed because they can see the book is available, but not for them. This is one of the main drivers of piracy.

“Well, I wanted to give those assholes my money, but they refused, so…”

This was originally posted on John Birmingham‘s Cheeseburger Gothic. To read the rest of it, head on over there.

To buy Stalin’s Hammer: Rome, click through for your choice of retailers via the book page.

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So We Dropped DRM – What Does That Actually Mean?

Posted May 30, 2012 by Joel

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As some of you might already know, we announced yesterday that we’re dropping DRM (digital rights management) from all of our books. The chatter on social media last night and this morning leads me to believe there’s still a bit of confusion about what DRM is, what it’s for, why we chose to drop it and what it actually means for you – assuming you are someone who might buy or want to buy our books.

What is DRM?

First of all – what is digital rights management? Basically, it’s a type of software that limits what you can and can’t do with a legitimately purchased piece of digital content. It’s used on everything from computer games to music, movies, books and television episodes. It’s the reason why when you rent a movie from iTunes you only have 48 hours to watch it, and it’s the reason why when you buy a book from Amazon you can’t copy it to your Sony or Kobo e-reader. 

However, DRM is not the same thing as territorial rights. Territorial rights are to blame when you try to buy an ebook from a store and you get the dreaded ‘This book is not available from your location’ notice. It’s also what stops Australian users from using US services like Hulu, Pandora and, until recently, Spotify. Typically, content publishers buy a licence from the copyright holder that gives them the right to make that content available in particular ways within a particular geographical territory. Digital retailers of all kinds can usually work out where you’re buying or viewing content from and block you if they don’t have the right to make it available to you.

Does territorial copyright make sense on the internet? Not particularly. But ultimately it’s not just up to publishers to solve the territorial rights problem – if authors and agents want their books to be available to the world they need to make those rights available to content publishers and many still don’t.

Happily at Momentum we’ve worked extra hard to make almost all of our books available globally. In other words, our authors have licensed their books to us to sell them worldwide. This has been the case since we launched in February.

What is DRM For?

This might seem like a fairly obvious question with an obvious answer, but it’s actually kind of complicated. DRM ostensibly exists to protect a creator’s copyright – it stops readers from tampering with a file, copying it, converting it into other formats and even stops illegitimate users from opening or viewing a file. This is why publishers use it and it’s also why many authors still want it applied to their books – they are afraid that without DRM their books will be copied without limitation by anyone who gets their hands on it.

In practice, however, DRM is relatively easy to remove from a book. This is why piracy of books and other digital content is so rampant – it only takes one person with a working knowledge of how to remove DRM from a book to make it available to the entire world for free. In other words – DRM is extremely bad at doing its main job.

Given that this is so, what else is DRM for? DRM stops readers who buy their ebooks from one retailer transferring their purchase to an unapproved reading device. For example, you can’t read an ebook with DRM on it from Apple on your Kindle, and you can’t read a Kindle ebook on your Kobo Touch. So the answer to that question – what is DRM for? – becomes clear. The purpose of DRM is to encourage readers to buy their ebooks from a single source.

So Why Are We Dropping DRM?

At Momentum we have a commitment to accessibility. As I mentioned earlier, we’re working hard to make our books available globally. All of our books released so far are available for under $10, and most of them for $5 or less. Ensuring that you can buy your books from wherever you want and read them on whatever device you want is part of that commitment.

Dropping DRM is not about encouraging piracy. Piracy is a reality of the digital era, and this situation is extremely unlikely to change. Some people are always going to pirate content and spread it around without permission. Let me be clear, here – this isn’t something we support. Authors deserve to be paid for their work. But we believe that the best way to fight piracy is to remove the barriers to purchase – make books cheaper, make them available everywhere and to any reader from any platform.

What Does Dropping DRM Mean For You?

The simple answer is: not all that much. You can still buy our books from all the same places for the same prices. Come August, however, if you want to read your Kindle book on your Kobo or your iBookstore book on your Kindle – you can. We’re still working with our retail partners (and in talks with others) to make our books available in as many places as possible – but that’s a separate issue to our decision to drop DRM.

So if you are thinking of buying our books, I urge you to encourage your friends to buy books from us. Most of them are the cost of a cup of coffee (or two), and they can buy and download them while waiting for the bus. Ultimately dropping DRM is an experiment – if it proves to be successful, then we’ll keep doing it.

And we really want to keep doing it.

If you have any questions about this change, please sound off in the comments and I’ll answer them as best I can.

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Momentum Drops DRM!

Posted May 29, 2012 by admin

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MEDIA RELEASE:

MOMENTUM BOOKS, Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital-only imprint, today announced that by early August all its titles would be released without DRM. DRM – digital rights management – is the software used on digital content to prevent casual copying by users.

‘The problem,’ said Joel Naoum, Momentum’s publisher, ‘is that DRM restricts users from legitimate copying – such as between different e-reading devices. We feel strongly that Momentum’s goal is to make books as accessible as possible. Dropping these restrictions is in line with that goal.’

The move by Momentum follows recent announcements by sister company Tor in the United States and the United Kingdom. Momentum is the first imprint of a major Australian publisher to drop DRM.

Momentum’s director, Tom Gilliatt, comments, ‘Momentum was set up to innovate and experiment. The decision to drop DRM is absolutely in keeping with this role, and shows once again Macmillan’s global commitment to be at the forefront of digital change and development.’

John Birmingham, who will be publishing a series of novellas with Momentum in late 2012 said, ‘Every book I’ve ever published in electronic format has been pirated. Every single one. And they all had DRM. It didn’t protect me from piracy and it won’t protect publishing in general. The best protection is to make your work as easily accessible as possible, everywhere, all at once, at the same, reasonable price. Is it possible? Nobody really knows, but we’re gonna give it a hell of a shake to find out.’

Nathan Farrugia, whose bestselling novel The Chimera Vector was released by Momentum in May, said, ‘One of the main reasons I signed with Momentum was their willingness to ditch DRM – something that very few other publishers would do. But I think if pirates are better at distributing your ebooks than you are, then you’re doing it wrong. The best way for publishers to fight piracy is with convenience. I’m excited to see Momentum HULK SMASH DRM.’

About Momentum

Launched in February, Momentum is the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Momentum have now published over forty titles, including Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read’s series of memoirs, Greig Beck’s fantasy horror Valkeryn and Lindy Chamberlain’s autobiography, The Dingo’s Got My Baby. All published titles are available globally and at highly accessible prices.

If you have any further questions about this change, please contact Joel Naoum on 02 8021 0705 or on info@momentumbooks.com.au.

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