Monday, December 21, 2009

Should e-Books Be Copy Protected?; New York Times, Personal Tech Blog, 12/17/09

David Pogue, New York Times, Personal Tech Blog; Should e-Books Be Copy Protected?:

"The issues involved with copy protection haven't changed. They're the same on e-books as they are with everything else. Namely:

* Publishers are terrified of piracy, whether it involves music, movies, software programs or books. Everyone remembers how Napster made music easy to duplicate and freely share. Publishers argue that the music industry was badly hurt, and never really recovered.

* Their first reaction, therefore, was to install nasty copy protection of the type you describe, with limits on which brand of player would play a song and how many gadgets you could copy it to.

* In time, everyone realized the silliness of this exercise. It inconvenienced only the law-abiders; the software pirates had plenty of simple, convenient ways to duplicate the songs anyway. So eventually, the music publishers agreed to let Apple, Amazon and others sell non-protected versions of their songs. (That's a reversal that I still find mind-boggling, although of course I'm thrilled.)...

In other words, I'm torn right down the middle. On one hand, yes, copy protection hurts consumers.

On the other hand, yes, unprotected books at this stage would be easily and wildly pirated -- the barriers to staying ethical would be so low, people would pass around books like they forward e-mail jokes -- and it would cost the book industry dearly.

On the other other hand, music files are no longer copy protected, and the music companies haven't gone out of business.

Maybe, then, the publishers should try an experiment like mine. Maybe they should release a couple of Kindle or Nook books without copy protection and track the results. Maybe that way, we could bring this discussion out of the hypothetical and into the real world."

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