Archive for February, 2007

Steve Jobs: “Eliminate Music DRM!”: So, What About eBooks?

A provocative thought piece by Steve Jobs today, arguing that the industry as well as consumers would benefit from the elimination of DRM on music sold online. It’s covered here by Forbes.
Whether or not this is an entirely serious proposal or more in the way of a smokescreen for Apple’s refusal to license its Fairplay [sic] DRM to other device and music store vendors is open to debate. And Jobs pointedly limits his discussion to music, where as he points out more than 90% of the sales of digital content are entirely DRM free CD audio. DVD videos have a sort of DRM with copy protection and region coding, and physical books arguably have this as well given the inconvenience of scanning paper.
Nevertheless Jobs has clearly elevated the DRM debate to a new level. His offer to stop selling DRM protected music altogether on the iTunes Store, if the top four music companies agreed to eliminate the DRM requirement, certainly raises the ante. As a consumer and advocate for maximum access to information, I hope that the “Jobs Principle” that DRM hurts content publishers as well as consumers spreads, not just for music but for other forms of content. For eBooks, I really like the “social DRM” approach of The Pragmatic Programmers, who “stamp” PDF eBooks with a “For the Exclusive Use of …” and the name of the purchaser. Given that they are making more than 30% of their total sales on eBooks, far more than any other traditional publisher, it’s hard to argue that this approach is infeasible.
Adobe is committed to continuing to supply DRM technology in our solutions as required by our publisher partners. We will continue to work to make DRM as seamless as possible for end users, while also protecting rights holders from piracy or unauthorized use, and we are poised to deliver some innovative new capabilities in this regard.
Yet, I would like nothing more than to have DRM technology just fade away. After all the main challenge we have in digital publishing is to get it adopted by mainstream consumers. And the main challenge 98% of book authors and publishers have is to get people to be aware of their books, not to prevent piracy. So my challenge to print publishers and authors: why not support “social DRM”, rather than heavyweight DRM? If that’s a direction you are willing to go, Adobe will back you up, 1000%.