If you’re distrustful of DRM—not to mention Google’s current plans to sell online viewing privileges for books, rather than actual files—you’ve got a new reasons for your concerns. Google Video’s store is shutting down, and the aftermath won’t be pretty.

“After Google takes its video store down, its Internet-based DRM system will no longer function,” reports Ars Technical. “This means that customers who have built video collections with Google Video offerings will find that their purchases no longer work. This is one of the major flaws in any DRM system based on secrets and centralized authorities: when these DRM data warehouses shut down, the DRM stops working, and consumers are left with useless junk.” Although Google will be giving refunds, there are catches detailed in the Ars piece, and if nothing else, this still serves as a dramatic example of the ephemeral nature of DRMed content of all kinds, especially books.

How the devil can we take e-books seriously as medium if we might not even be able to access them 20 years from now? With examples like the above in mind, is it any wonder why many people hesitate to buy DRMed e-books? I continue to believe in the potential of social DRM as a compromise—social DRM doesn’t jeopardize future access—even though the best “protection” is none.

Needless to say, assuming there weren’t legal obstacles, publishers could help matters by allowing circumvention of DRM for nonpirate purposes such as backup. Dream on, eh? Same for Washington allowing circumvention for typical users.


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