ENTRIES TAGGED "DRM"
New Canadian copyright legislation takes effect, an author helps pirate his book, and studies show computers topping preferred ereading platforms.
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
Justices hear first sale doctrine arguments, DRM frustrations reach the mainstream, what the Penguin-Random House merger means.
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
“First sale” doctrine arguments begin
The US Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on Monday in Kirtsaeng d/b/a Bluechristine99 v. John Wiley & Sons Inc. This isn’t a sexy case, but it’s a very important one. The case, which I’ve covered here previously, involves textbooks that a student purchased in Thailand and resold in the US. David Kravets reports at Wired:
“The case tests the so-called ‘first sale’ doctrine, which generally allows the purchaser of copyrighted works to re-sell or use the work without the copyright holder’s permission. That’s why used bookstores, libraries, GameStop, video rental stores and even eBay are all legal. But how the doctrine applies to foreign-purchased works — the so-called gray market — has been a matter of considerable debate.”
Kravets provides a nice overview of the case, and notes that though it mainly deals with physical goods now, as digital goods (for various reasons) can’t be resold, court rulings will have far-reaching effects into the future when digital goods can be resold — waters companies like ReDigi are testing.
The immediate implications for physical goods resale are important to note. Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes:
“Without ‘first sale’ doctrine in place, content companies would be allowed to control use of their goods forever. They could withhold permission for resale and possibly even library lending — or they could allow it, but only for an extra fee. It would have the wild effect of actually encouraging copyrighted goods to be manufactured offshore, since that would lead to much further-reaching powers.”
Washington, DC lawyer John Mitchell, who has defended students in cases similar to Kirtsaeng, wrote in an email to Mullin that the stakes in this case are high. Mitchell writes:
“There are millions of people living in poverty or near poverty in this country. They scarcely buy new shoes or new clothes, instead shopping at Goodwill Industries or other establishments catering to their needs. They buy used cars, used phones, and used computers. For the person who always buys new, for whom price is not a big factor, the next ‘point of distribution’ is probably the trash. (And, yes, there is case law supporting the right to take copies intended for the trash, clean them up, and resell them.) ‘First sale’ protects those downstream individuals who will never buy new and who would otherwise be left out.”
Mullin’s in-depth look at the case, the case history and what’s at stake is this week’s recommended read.
Trusting customers, what happens if you don't, and indexes for discovery
- Some common sense, please? — Joanna Cabot asks to be trusted and treated like a real person. Is that asking too much? We don’t think so.
- And if you don’t trust us… — We’ll take matters into our own hands. Ars Technica shows how to protect your ebook investment and, yes, it means removing the DRM.
- Don’t forget the index — Our next free TOC webcast takes place on November 9. Pilar Wyman will talk about why you should open your indexes to improve discoverability. Don’t miss it.
It should be less about Amazon and more about going direct
Call me skeptical but I feel the merger between Penguin and Random House is less about creating “greater scale” and more about simple consolidation in a shrinking industry. Which organization is more likely to create the truly innovative, disruptive products of tomorrow’s publishing industry: a behemoth like Penguin Random House or some start-up working out of the proverbial garage? My money’s on the latter.
And if it’s really all about creating scale to deal better with Amazon, well, how big is big enough? Aren’t either one of those operations already large enough to manage Amazon? If not, are the two combined really going to make a difference there?
I’m not convinced the way forward for the big six is to get even bigger so they can push back on Amazon. The real solution is to create another distribution channel so they’re not as dependent upon Amazon tomorrow as they are today. It’s called a direct channel and none of the big six are making much progress building one out. Yes, it requires a strong consumer brand. Yes, it means they need to build a site that offers compelling reasons for consumers to buy from it rather than Amazon, which is no small task. And yes, it also means they need to abandon DRM.
Instead of just merging I’d rather see one of the big six stand up like this small publisher and say “we’ve walked on eggshells for far too long…it’s time for us to get serious about building that direct channel and not worry about how our existing channel partners will react.”
What happens when DRM-free only applies to direct sales?
I had a very enlightening conversation today with a small publisher who shall remain nameless for the time being. More on their secrecy in a moment… They’re thinking of going DRM-free but with a couple of twists.
First of all, they’re thinking of only going DRM-free with their direct sales on their website. They’ll instruct Amazon and all the other retailers to keep using their DRM model. This publisher figures they can use this as a way to make the direct sale more appealing to customers. They’ll also give direct customers all formats. So the selling proposition is, “Buy from Amazon and be stuck with their DRM limitations; buy direct from us to get all formats for all devices and avoid vendor lock-in.”
Secondly, they plan to include a watermark in those direct sale ebooks that says something like “bought from xyz”, where “xyz” is the name of the publisher. I’m no fan of watermarking but I like the logic they’re using on this. By saying the word “bought” they hope to trigger a reaction from pirates the content and serve as a gentle reminder that this content really isn’t being distributed for free. More importantly, since this watermark will only appear in the direct sales copies they’ll be able to determine whether their DRM-free content is what ultimately winds up in the wild.
Since I’m not naming names you can tell they want to keep a low profile on this for now. My contact at this publishing house told me they’ll reassess this in the coming weeks and they might be willing to share some of their results with us here at TOC.
Stay tuned for more…
How one Amazon customer became an outlaw and doesn't know why
Here’s a story that ought to raise your blood pressure. It brings to life the worst fears of anyone who’s amassed a large collection of ebooks.
Linn, an Amazon Kindle customer, suddenly discovered her entire collection has been wiped clean. When she inquires about the situation Amazon gives her vague answers like:
We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.
That’s the extent of it though. No information is provided about this other account and why Amazon has connected Linn’s account with it.
Martin Bekkelund provided Linn’s story and he cites the incident as “DRM at its worst.” I’m not sure it’s really a DRM problem as much as it is an ownership problem.
We know when we buy ebooks from Amazon, B&N, etc., we don’t really own those products; we’re simply licensing them. As a result, the door is left wide open for the retailer to come back and wipe them out as Amazon did with Linn.
This is why I believe we need to shift our industry thinking from ebook licensing to ebook ownership. We may never know all the details surrounding Linn’s case but it’s yet another example of why some people are skittish about ebooks and only willing to buy them when prices are extremely low.
At the very least Amazon owes Linn a much better explanation of why they wiped her content and not refunding all the money she spent on her ebooks.
Pitching print, side effects of DRM, and a Frankfurt road map
- Ditch digital — That was the goal of these pitches from the land Down Under.
- DRM’s unintended consequences — Have you ever thought about the impact your DRM decision has on the visually impaired? You should.
- What to do in Frankfurt — Use this handy dandy flowchart to get the most out of your book fair experience next week.
Open platforms and services will lead to ebook marketplace disruption
What would you think of a start-up who offers the following?:
- Selling ebooks in a model where one simple transaction gives you access to all formats (e.g., PDF, mobi and EPUB).
- All those ebooks are available in a completely DRM-free manner. There’s no social DRM applied either.
- Every ebook can be quickly and easily side-loaded to the device of your choice. Got a Kindle? No problem. All purchases will be sent right to it. Same goes for Nooks, Kobos, etc. No more awkward installations with USB cables.
- No restrictions on reselling your content or loaning it to someone else. Are you finished with that ebook and have no plans to ever open it again? Why not resell it or pass it along to a friend like you’d do with a print book?
- Enabling and, more importantly, encouraging publishers to have a direct relationship with their customers through this retailing platform.
Sounds too good to be true? I don’t think so. Here’s why…
One of the benefits of working at O’Reilly and being chair of our TOC conference is that I cross paths with countless industry start-ups throughout the year. I’m seeing evidence that many of today’s publishing industry challenges, particularly the closed, proprietary systems that are forming all around us will soon be met with some very cool and disruptive open alternatives.
What would that mean for a platform like the Kindle? Nobody’s knocking Amazon off the mountaintop anytime soon but these open-minded start-ups are going to make things very interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the elements of the start-up outlined above are in place before the end of 2013. Then it’s just a question of tying them all together.
P.S. — If you’re attending TOC Frankfurt on October 9 you’ll get a first-hand look at some of this. I can’t share the details just yet but in a few short weeks you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you haven’t registered yet do so now with this code and you’ll save 20%: TOCPartner20TSpeaker
O'Reilly responds to the IDPF's request for comments on a new form of DRM.
In this open letter to the IDPF's Executive Director, Bill McCoy, O'Reilly GM & Publisher Joe Wikert explains why a DRM-free approach is far better than any "lightweight" DRM option.