DRM: A Petition To Unlock E-Books

This is a petition.

It asks the White House to take a position on how consumers get to interact with their e-books. This is in response to the White House coming out in favor of allowing consumers the ability to unlock their own mobile devices. The petition does not demand or incur some kind of an automagic fix. It merely asks that the White House will take a favorable position on the issue.

This is the text of the petition:

The White House recently came out in favor of allowing consumers to unlock their own cellular telephones. We are asking the White House to apply the same laws and provisions to ebooks.

The purchase of a book, whether online or not, is a purchase, not a license. Digital books should be legal to read on any device that supports standard text files. Legally purchased digital books should not self-destruct, expire or disapper [sic], except under conditions of damage or obsalescence [sic]. Within reasonable limits, book purchasers have the right to lend or give books to friends, charitable organizations and libraries. Finally, libraries should be permitted to lend ebooks under the same rules as physical books.

We ask the Obama Administration to champion the rights of readers to own their ebooks.

I am not a fan of DRM.

It restricts competition in the e-book space. It throttles readers. It helps ensure that readers never own their content but rather, license, or in a sense “rent” it. Imagine buying a physical book and being told you can only read it in a certain room or at a certain point of day and that any point the bookstore owner can come tromping into your house and make changes to the book or snatch it out of your hands and return it to the store without even explaining himself.

DRM by itself is not a great evil, but its implementation is often a terrible thing. (On the software side, look no further than yesterday’s release of Simcity, whose DRM is so inept it’s making it hard for users to even play the game they just bought in a flurry of release-day excitement. Many professional reviewers have had to lower their originally glowing reviews, and now the game is getting savaged in the open marketplace by pissed-off users.)

I saw a comment on Facebook that said this would just make it easier for pirates.

Here’s the thing: pirates aren’t particularly hampered by DRM.

They know how to get rid of it.

Its very existence is an excuse for them to try.

Further, this means that if you or I want to simply crack the DRM and use the e-book as we’d like to, it means we’re going to be labeled as pirates. Which is not particularly endearing.

DRM encourages piracy.

As I’ve said in the past, DRM is the Empire’s tool. And I’m Leia telling Tarkin, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

DRM: The Devil’s Restrictive Manacles. Or something. Shut up.

Let’s allow readers the freedom to control their content. It needs a shitload of signatures in the span of a single month, and the only way that happens is if we fling it about wildly and widely.

Please sign and spread the petition.

I don’t know that it’ll change shit, but you never really know until it’s done.

(Thanks to @nvbinder for setting up the petition.)