Monday, May 18, 2009

Copyrights, Content, and Digital Rights Management

Not to go to far down this rabbit hole, but there's an aspect of copyrights and digital rights management that was on my mind earlier today. I was thinking about some articles that I had been reading, helping a friend that's working on a project for her MBA program. Specifically, I was thinking about writing a blog post talking about one of the articles and thinking about how to cite and credit the author. Somewhere in that process, I began thinking about how I came to read the article -- the method of transmitting that content to me. That's when this thought struck me.

Remember Books? Consider books in the era of DRM...
How many times have you read a book, then loaned it to your friend (or visa versa). While only one copy of the book was purchased, it's entirely possible that it may be passed around to several readers. Somehow, despite the author's loss for not having sold a copy to each reader, the book business has managed to hang around for several hundred years. It's survived through the advent of radio, television and the Internet (maybe). It's survived that crazy, no-profit content sharing system -- libraries. What's more, even in the face of little or no profits potential profits to authors, people still write books.

Depending on which direction you're looking at it from, there are certain aspects surrounding the debate of content and rights that can border on the absurd. While it's probably pretty easy for a pro-DRM industry spokeman to shred some of the parallels with books and libraries, consider this recent contrasting example from the digital world.

In a recent TechCrunch (I think) post, I read where some group that publishes to the Kindle, (Amazon's Wireless Reading Device), changed their permissions when it comes to text-to-speech. So, while the Kindle is capable of reading and speaking the text, at least one publisher considered that a threat to their audio book business and canceled that service for their publications. Oh, and according to the Techcrunch post, it also affects any publications that you have already "purchased".

Somehow I don't see the library or the bookstore retroactively canceling a characteristic of the item that you just bought. There's a lot more food for thought down this path, so I'll let you wander and snack as you see fit.

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