DRM, Why Own When You Can Rent?

So, I read this article about a woman from Norway who had her Amazon account suspended by mistake. With that, access to her Kindle library went away as well. Now all this turned out fine, Amazon realized their mistake and reinstated her account and access to her books. But it got me thinking overall about the whole issue of DRM and the fact that any of your electronic purchases (e-books, music, games…etc.) are not really yours, you’re just paying for permission to use these things at the pleasure of the company you purchase them from and they can be yanked from you with no warning if the company so pleases.

DRM is an attempt at stopping piracy of electronic content (not working out very well, but that’s another post). It limits what you are able to do, such as lend or copy files, with the media you have purchased. Now for most people DRM is in the background and doesn’t directly affect your enjoyment of your media. You purchase your media, you download it to your device and away you go. But lets say you want to move this media to a device that is not directly married to whatever account you “purchased” your media from.

I’ll use a movie I got recently. I purchased a Blu-ray bundle with a digital download from iTunes. I also have a few portable devices, android phone, an older iPod touch and a Nook Tablet. All these devices are capable of playing the file format that is downloaded from iTunes. However because of DRM, I was unable to transfer this movie to any device other than my iPod touch (with very small screen) to take with me on a trip I took. I either had to deal with that or take a bulky laptop on the drive (I was the passenger). Without DRM I could have taken the movie I had purchased with me on any device I owned.

There is also a new problem that will start coming up, and likely will end up in the courts to get it solved, and that is leaving digital content to your next of kin. In the past with physical collections they would be passed on, in the digital age it’s looking like your DRM library will just go into the ether as from my understanding anyway, the license you “purchase” belongs to you and only you. You can’t leave it to someone else. Even while you’re alive you violate TOS and DRM rules if you let someone else use your accounts, so what will happen when you die.

The real problem with DRM is that it hampers the people who follow the rules and does absolutely nothing to stop those who do break the rules. We had to create something to stop piracy, so we’ll do this. Next time you get the chance do a search for ways to break DRM and you’ll find lots of tutorials on how to do it.

All DRM is accomplishing is turning you from being the owner of physical things to being just a renter of “ethereal” things. That is as long as you play by the rules and you don’t accidently get your account suspended.

I will suggest a couple things. Anything you purchase with a device, always keep it on that device. Don’t store it in that company’s cloud. Always try to keep a back-up on your own computer of the files you purchase. I’ve found by searching for methods to back up your Kindle or Nook on Google you can find them. Especially with Kindle and Nook, they both have apps that you can get whether on iPhone or Android that allows you access and the ability to download your purchases to those devices as well.

So, until next time…..


Originally published October 30, 2012