Of DRM and Libraries

In a fit of quite shocking lazyness, I give you are reply to a post on the LUGRadio forums where I am replying to Chris (CBHWorld) who I met at LRL (Hi) with a hat that I am most envious of 🙂 who could see a justifiable use of DRM for a library style distribution of content. I know where he was going but I believe that the digital model does not fix this and the bit that is important is the stuff about how we have had book DRM before and it did not work :

You can’t compare digital distribution to a library concept, with a library you actually borrow a physical object with a physical production cost and the crucial part is that there is only one copy involved, with digital distribution you are using an exact digital copy with many versions involved. You are not moving a single file between computers so it exists in the one place, you are copying it to many places, perfect identical copies.

A physical book does not have DRM, you can read it anywhere without restrictions, a book is an open format, a book can be easily duplicated with the correct equipment (sheet feed scanner and a printer) the difference is equipment availability and cost of duplication. It is the duplication costs of digital media that blows the business models to shreds and the response is to try and make it so that you cannot copy their copies…

We had the equivalent of book DRM before, anyone else remember the activation codes for computer games? You used to get (back in the old C54 / speccy days) tables at the back of the game handbook, usually with symbols and a number code after it and every time you loaded the game it displayed a set of symbols and then you had to look it up and enter the number before you could play the game. The DRM equivalent is that they printed these chart on dark brown paper in black ink and were very difficult to read and they did this so you didn’t just photocopy the code pages.

All that happened was that it took ONE person to break it by manually copying it out and then photocopy the non-DRM version. Also the non DRM version was better as you could actually read the damn thing. In the end they just gave up that tactic as it didn’t work, they also found that a game that was easy to copy sold more (hell MS built their company on it, not games but home copying).

The only difference between that “book DRM style” and the modern DRM software is the ability to soak it in something to make it blow up in your face after so many days. The only thing is with every tactic like this, the pirated copy is better than purchased copy and that is why DRM doesn’t work socially and for end users.

Most home users would not be breaking DRM, they don’t have to, they can just download it without the DRM from the internet where it was put by one person who did. All they are doing is pissing off their users.

edit : linky to discussion on the spangly new LUGRadio forums. Good job that Trig 🙂