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With tools like these, DRM won't stop pirates or anyone else

Like it or not, push-button removal of ebook DRM is getting closer to reality.

Calibre screenshot
A screenshot of the Calibre ebook management system. Plug-ins can be added to the system to remove various forms of DRM.

Last week, Brian O’Leary, founder of Magellan Media, spoke out against DRM: “Any good pirate can strip DRM in a matter of seconds to minutes.” Now, Wired magazine proves it with a brief how-to on stripping DRM from Kindle books, borrowed from Apprentice Alf.

Remember DVD Jon? He set the DVD free and created Double Twist to strip DRM from music with a single click. He’s still around, and his company does much more today. And that’s just one organization championing the open source format. My mom still won’t be stripping DRM from her ebooks, but it certainly looks like easy-to-use tools are on the horizon.

TOC: 2011, being held Feb. 14-16, 2011 in New York City, will explore “publishing without boundaries” through a variety of workshops, keynotes and panel sessions.

Save 15% off registration with the code TOC11RAD

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Comments: 4

  1. Most DRM systems are still using passwords for security and so are trivial to break for your average hacker. Others use plug-ins which can be easily circumvented with other plug-ins as shown above. Publishers are always after the Nirvana of security – don’t install anything on the desktop yet make it secure. Well it does NOT exist and never will do. Interoperability just makes the whole situation worse. However, DRM has never been claimed as being uncrackable. The whole point of using DRM is to make it difficult for copies to be freely circulated around the Internet. Should that not be the right of the Publisher? Users are always going on about their rights, but what about the rights of the person or company that has put in a large amount of time and investment in creating their works. Don’t they have rights too?

  2. “_Closer_ to reality” ? I am doing this now, thanks to a simplistic google. I’ve done it twice so far, on the (purchased by me) Kindle versions of books that I already have (free, from the publishers) as dead-tree desk copies for courses that I teach. They are partly for my edification, and largely for my convenience, and I am philosophically opposed to distributing such things, but…. I doubt that my students would have many such scruples, if they had Kindles in the first place. (And I’m going no further down that obvious track, think it up yourself if you must.)

    I don’t favor restrictions such as DRM, but I do think authors deserve fair compensation. Value-added extras are one approach, but I don’t think that’ll carry the load. I wish I had an answer; if I did, I’d become a publisher.

    It’s a brave new world.

  3. If you can make, you can break it. So can others with some technical experience.

  4. I’ve said this a number of times before: Instead of DRM, use steganography. Stripping DRM off quickly becomes a priority for any user that wishes to use their media in anything but the strict set of actions allowed by the publisher, such as, for example, reading the book on another platform.

    No. What you care about is being able to enforce copyright laws against the people doing the seeding. That means being able to embed a difficult-to-remove, but largely invisible transaction ID in media prior to download. Don’t worry if a user shares his DRM free music; he’ll quickly be up on charges, because once it’s visible in the wild, you’ll be able to download a copy, read out the transaction ID, and nail the infringer to the wall.