Digital Rights Management: To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question…

DS 051-4x6

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/02/21/how-much-more-would-you-pay-for-a-drm-free-version-of-an-ebook/

While reviewing some articles on the Digital Book World site, I came across this snippet from Jeremy Greenfield.  I was intrigued by the topic and had to read more.  His initial premise that customers would pay more for a DRM free version of an e-book as opposed to a version that has DRM controls inserted, was a complete surprise to me especially based on the comparative costs ($5.99 for the DRM free version versus $4.61 for the version that has DRM inserted).  Is not having DRM worth an extra $1.38 for the paying customer?

DRM:  Akin to KGB?

What is DRM anyway?  The definition seen on, no other authority than Wikipedia, is this:

Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of controversial access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale. DRM is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that are not desired or intended by the content provider. DRM also includes specific instances of digital works or devices. Companies such as Amazon, AT&T, AOL, Apple Inc., BBC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function are to circumvent content protection technologies.”

This seems like a perfectly logical set of circumstances to me.  The seller is trying to protect their copyright on the Intellectual Property that the consumer has purchased.  The consumer, in purchasing the product, has purchased the ability to use that product in the way intended for the content, for self-entertainment or any other purpose that reading a product would entail.  The consumer has not purchased a license to take that electronic product and use it in any way they deem acceptable to themselves.  The version with DRM should be fine for anyone in the buying public who has no plans to parse and disseminate the content contained in the e-book.  I seriously doubt people are wringing their hands waiting to get an e-book so they can split it up and re-use it in combination with other DRM free titles they have on hand.

Control is bigger than PRICE?

The real reason that the buying public would embrace DRM free e-books for a higher price is simply a matter of control.  The level of control that an outside entity would have over their content on their device is just enough to make the public opt for higher costs in return for no “Big Brother” shadowing their e-books.  We’ve seen this outrage before when Amazon pulled e-books off Kindles some years back.  There was a public outcry due to the fact that no company should be able to unilaterally take a perfectly good product back from consumers after they have purchased this content and have it all set up on a Kindle.  It was not even the title in question that Amazon deleted, it was the fact that they could do this without notification.

In Conclusion

This debate will continue to rage, but I predict the eventual winner will be the e-book with the DRM installed.  In the final analysis, price trumps all other issues and will make the market move in the direction of lower e-book costs, as happens with products all the time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Digital Rights Management: To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question…

  1. Don – sort of agree with your conclusion, but one area of DRM you haven’t touched on is geo-blocking – this practise frequently denies customers outside the UK, Europe and the US from legally downloading digital content, because the rights holders for those territories haven’t figured outbwhonor how the digital content will be sold or licensed in other markets. In the days of print publishing and vinyl records, this was also an issue, as authors/musicians and publishers/record companies negotiated different territorial deals; but it sort of made sense with physical product, and the need for local sales and distribution channels. Although parallel imports and other “grey” areas soon began to undermine these market restrictions… and anyone who does not have a code on their DVD player to unlock region-based discs has not been keeping up! In the digital age, geo-blocking means that e.g., iTunes Australia does not stock items easily available in other iTunes stores (don’t get me going on price discrimination between markets!); and some digital rights holders (such as Australia’s Bigpond) won’t stock content unless they know there is a big enough local market for it… as a result, consumers (even if they were willing to pay for content, with or without secondary DRM) cannot legitimately access it, and thus inevitably resort to file-sharing and other less-than-legal means. I understand that regulators are looking into geo-blocking as a potential breach of antitrust law, so we’ll no doubt see some changes…

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