Here are a couple of stories related to taking a stand on principles concerning DRM:

In Cory Doctorow’s latest editorial for Publishers Weekly, Doctorow sets his sights on the iPad and bangs the “DRM Is Evil” gong for all he’s worth. He talks about Apple’s infamously restrictive policies that promulgate device lock-in, and warns against publishing e-books for such a restricted system:

Think about what that kind of control means for the future of your e-books. Does the company that makes your toaster get to tell you whose bread you can buy? Your dishwasher can wash anyone’s dishes, not just the ones sold by its manufacturer (who, by the way, takes a 30% cut along the way). What’s more, you can invent cool new things to do with your dishwasher. For example, you can cook salmon in it without needing permission from the manufacturer (check out the Surreal Gourmet for how). And you can even sell your dishwasher salmon recipe without violating some obscure law that lets dishwasher manufacturers dictate how you can use your machine.

I’m certainly not going to disagree with Cory about DRM being an ineffectual annoyance that only ends up ticking off consumers. (In fact, I would probably have to admit that Doctorow’s attitudes on DRM have largely shaped my own.) However, I think he’s muddling the issue by talking as if only DRM-restricted e-books can be made available for the iPad—or else conflating the restricted app store with restricted e-books.

As my reviews of the last few days show, iPad reader apps exist for a number of formats—some restricted (iBooks, Kindle), some not (unencrypted ePub or MobiPocket). Just because your books can be read on the iPad doesn’t mean they have to be published through (or solely through) Apple, in a restricted format. I read my Baen books on my iPad and iPhone all the time.

On a related note, animator Nina Paley is taking a stand against movie DRM by declining to host her movie, Sita Sings the Blues, on Netflix’s video-on-demand service. (We previously covered Sita Sings the Blues here.)

Paley is declining a $4,600 offer from Netflix because Netflix’s movies are streamed with DRM and Netflix refuses to allow her either to forego the DRM or to place a bumper on the film explaining where it might be downloaded for free. Paley takes a stand for her principles in this case, just as she did when she chose to release the film under a Creative Commons license.

For now, people will just have to obtain Sita by visiting the vast Internet outside of Netflix. Most of the Internet still isn’t enclosed by Netflix, or Amazon, or iTunes. Most of the Internet is still Free; I’m doing what little I can to keep it that way. I’m sad to lose the potential viewers who may have found Sita through Netflix’s electronic delivery. But maybe some of those Netflix subscribers will discover the rest of the Internet because of my tiny act of resisting DRM.


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