Archive for the ‘DRM’ tag
E-books may have opened up a whole new medium for enjoying the world’s literature, but the DRM technologies they’re often coupled with have also imposed new restrictions on the way that literature is shared. Enter Unglue.it, a new site from New Jersey-based Gluejar that uses crowdfunding to pay authors to “free” their work as e-books published under a Creative Commons license.
It’s up to rights holders to start an Unglue.it campaign for an already-published book they own the rights to, including setting the amount required and a deadline by which time that needs to happen. Book lovers, meanwhile, can visit Unglue.it to browse through the site’s active book campaigns; if they don’t see one for a book they care about, they can add a title to the Unglue.it wishlist. Either way, just as on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, participants can pledge toward a campaign’s goal amount, and they pay only if the target funding goal is achieved. When a campaign succeeds, Unglue.it will deduct a commission of 6 percent of the funds raised. Then, the book is published electronically DRM-free, meaning it can be shared and read on any device for free worldwide.
Since the site’s launch in May, one book has already been successfully “unglued” on Unglue.it and will be published soon. There are currently four other active campaigns on the site. Authors and rights holders around the globe: time to set your own creative works free?
Spotted by: Murtaza Patel
Apple last night clarified ongoing issues with corrupted apps on the iOS and Mac App Stores, saying that it was related to a problem with its DRM servers and that the issues only affected a “small number of users.”
But Instapaper founder Marco Arment, who was the first to report on the corruption issues with his app, says that Apple may be downplaying how many users have been affected. He notes that with Instapaper alone, more than 20,000 users were likely affected by the corruption on July 3.
Given that there were well over 120 apps affected by the issues (that we know of), and the number of users faced with corrupted apps could reach in the hundreds of thousands. That’s nowhere near the hundreds of millions of consumers relying on Apple’s app stores, but it’s not an insignificant number either.
Apple’s general strategy with issues like this is to downplay their severity. Remember that Apple spent a long time denying the antenna problems on the iPhone 4, before it finally relented and offered a free case program to appease consumers.
While the problems could have been much worse, the fact that it took Apple several days to identify and fix the issue remains a knock against its unified app ecosystem. If one thing goes wrong in Apple’s infrastructure, it breaks big.
Still, by maintaining its app stores Apple can insure a certain amount of app stability and convenience for installation and updating. The company last night kicked the first Trojan app out of the App Store, which is significant because it’s managed to keep malicious apps out of its stores for so long. Android, meanwhile, has had issues with malware apps for some time now.
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Apple said on Thursday that it had “rectified” an issue with an App Store DRM server that was causing newly-updated applications to crash on launch.
Just a quick update on the issues plaguing Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores: Apple has now informed developers that it’s aware of the problem and is working on a resolution. For background, a serious problem has been discovered in the iOS and Mac App Stores which has been causing apps to immediately crash after users update to the most recent version. This is now day three of the problem, and Apple had yet to respond to the situation until this afternoon.
You can read about the app crashing problem in detail in our earlier post here, but the short of it is that corrupt app store binaries, and possibly some problem related to Apple’s FairPlay DRM, is at the root of these mysterious crashes.
According to our developer sources, Apple has now responded to numerous complaints in its Developer Forums with a brief statement posted by username “iTunesConnect.”
The statement reads:
“We are aware of the issue related to apps crashing after update. We are currently working on resolving the issue. Stay tuned for updates.”
Apple has also reached out to developers via email, again responding to the issue with a fairly generic statement. The email included a phone number to call, and, according to a developer who was able to reach a support representative, Apple informed him that it is aware of the problem and now has a dedicated team looking into it. This new team will be sending out additional information to developers via email shortly, this person was told.
We’ll update as we learn more.
E-books. Again. Amazon and the DOJ vs. Apple and “The Big Six.” The future of reading. A breathtakingly stupid David Carr piece in the New York Times, which thankfully someone else took down paragraph-by-paragraph, so I don’t have to. Elsewhere, an awesome quote which I want to cheer with the force of a million choirs of angels:
I am completely unmoved by the argument that if Amazon forces traditional publishers to sell books at lower costs, then the publishers will go away and we won’t have books anymore. Hogwash. The publishers built for a printed books world may go away, but their digital native versions will replace them.
Yes, it’s time to trot out that obligatory William Gibson quote again:
A middleman’s business is to make himself a necessary evil.
There’s certainly more than enough evil to go around here: Evil But Smart, represented by Amazon and its oppressive Kindle monoculture, vs. Evil And Flailingly Inept, aka Publishing’s Big Six, whose “pig-headed insistence on DRM on ebooks is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder,” to quote Charles Stross. (If you question their evilness, bear in mind: “Five of the six major publishers of trade books either refuse to make new e-books available to libraries or have pulled back significantly over the last year on how easily or how often those books can be circulated.” Having attacked public libraries, publishers presumably will next go after motherhood and apple pie…)
Their battle may sell popcorn but is really neither interesting nor relevant. Remember that Gibson quote: Mere evil is insufficient for middleman success. You need to be necessary. That’s a lot harder.
Let’s go back to the basics. (Context: I’ve had four novels published by major publishers, one by a small press, and a graphic novel published by DC/Vertigo.) This, to oversimplify, was the publishing pipeline for most of the last several centuries:
author ? editor ? copyeditor -? designer ? typesetter ? printer ? distributor ? wholesaler ? bookstore/library ? reader
Note how many of those stages are susceptible to digital disruption. Copyediting and typesetting are increasingly algorithmic and automatable, as is design, if you’re willing to limit yourself to a few templates and find your own cover image. Distribution and wholesaling were erased by the Internet. On the other hand, you still have to get an e-book to a reader’s device, and someone still has to take their money.
That’s where Amazon comes in. This is their system, if you self-publish:
author ? Amazon ? (optional) DRM ? device ? reader
Today, the absence of copyediting, design, typesetting, and above all, editing, means that will be one seriously amateur-hour book … but the first three are increasingly algorithmically replaceable. Clearly Smart & Evil has the long-term advantage –
– but wait! As the tedious ebook battle of evil vs. evil continues, a shining new force has arisen, a champion of liberty, justice, and common freaking sense! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you none other than Harry Potter.
No. Seriously. This DOJ thing is actually completely irrelevant, but Pottermore, now that’s interesting. You see, here’s the Pottermore model: DRM-free, directly downloadable to your Kindle, from a non-Amazon source:
author ? Pottermore ? device ? reader
Obviously, JK Rowling can and does pay for the best copyediting, design, and typesetting in the world, and her books have already been edited by capable Big Six editors; but the important thing that Pottermore highlights is that neither Amazon nor publishers are a necessary evil.
True, publishers also provide marketing (although precious little, for most books) and the imprimatur of quality (you’ve read some bad published books, but you have no idea how much better they were than most of what festers on publishers’ slush piles.) But is there any reason other than history and momentum that editing, copyediting, design, typesetting, marketing, and quality assurance live under one corporate roof? Small presses already do an excellent job of all of these things, frequently by outsourcing them. So what’s so necessary about the Big Six, in an era of shrinking advances, when their biggest names can and will pull a Pottermore and start to sell books themselves? Very little indeed.
However. Amazon is equally unnecessary. And if Stephen King or Tom Clancy or someone of that bestselling ilk goes to Amazon and demands the same treatment as Rowling, Amazon can no longer say “we don’t do that” or “that would be far too technically difficult.” They do do that. They already implemented it. And now that they’ve set this precedent, it’s only a matter of time before Capitalized Names everywhere start demanding that Amazon extends that most-favored-literary-nation status to them, too.
The Big Six may be doomed, but now that Amazon has broken the seal on external sites selling DRM-free Kindle e-books, that DRM-laden monoculture will go down with them. Meaning that finally, after years of thrashing, readers will finally get what they have wanted all along: DRM-free e-books sold by Amazon and anyone else who wants to sell them. Three cheers for Harry Potter, and a billion points to Gryffindor.
I don’t think Louis C.K. is headed to Austin next week. He’s not a fan of social media and openly admitted on Conan the other night that he only has a Twitter account to sell his performances. That tactic has so far worked well for him. Social media fueled his successful experiment to bypass studios and sell a stand-up special online without any DRM nonsense — a model others like Jim Gaffigan are also now using.
The video is after the jump but in short C.K. feels people are living their life through twitter. Social media has replaced real life. You know these people: something exciting could be happening and instead of enjoying the moment, they’re live twitting the event to their 32 followers. Nobody takes in life unless it comes through *this*, he says. I agree. That’s part of the reason why I’m avoiding the SXSW social media circus next week.
Etc: The DRM for Apple’s iBooks is now circumventable, but that the news was broken 5 days ago and barely made a blip highlights how little it matters for most users.
The DRM for Apple’s iBooks is now circumventable, but that the news was broken 5 days ago and barely made a blip highlights how little it matters for most users.
The Digital Reader
For people who have been doing just one thing for a long, long time, it’s amazing how many content distributors get things so catastrophically wrong.
These last few weeks brought us quite a few unique situations, including the launch of Apple’s iBook Author software as well as a number of announcements from the studios to withhold streaming rights for Netflix viewers. Cory Doctorow points to a particularly delightful bit of DRM making the rounds in publishing right now, something that will be familiar iTunes users who found their real names embedded in music files a while back.
In a column at Publishers Weekly, he writes:
If there is anything that exemplifies the delusional nature in some publishing boardrooms today, however, it is the phrase “social DRM.” For those unfamiliar with the term, social DRM is another name for an unencrypted e-book that has the purchaser’s name (and often contact information) inserted in it, via some kind of digital watermarking. The idea is that e-book customers will be reluctant to share their e-books around if they know that their name and information will travel with the books, either because they don’t want to be shamed for being patient zero in a widespread epidemic of unauthorized copying, or out of fear of legal reprisals from publishers should a copy with their name on it show up on the Pirate Bay.
The delusion of publishers isn’t in their belief that social DRM will keep people from sharing. The real delusion lies in the use of “social DRM” in connection with the marketing and sale of e-books. Recently, I discovered some publishers actually advertising their use of social DRM.
Social DRM and release speed-bumps are, in the end, as laughable as SOPA/PIPA, CSS, Kindle encryption, and all of the DRMs and “road blocks” that came before them. The only real DRM – digital rights management, in its purest sense – is a reasonably-priced product sold everywhere in the the world quickly, easily, and, in the case of media like books and shows, the ability to be shared. Amazon and B&N clearly know this, and the gaming industry is learning. Music distributors have had this truth foisted upon them and they seem to be accepting it – with some hiccups – quite gamely. However, books and movies are still fighting the endless fight, attempting to make Amazon, Netflix, and other distributors bow to their will just as, once upon a time, book sellers and movie theaters went along with their harebrained schemes just to stay in business.
Piracy is a huge problem, but it’s a problem that’s solved through distribution, not DRM. As Paul Carr notes, “people who illegally copy books on a large scale, for personal profit, should be buried up to their necks in sand until ants eat their lungs from the inside.” End of story and replace books with anything created by a person who loves to make art.
The books/discs and mortar stores worked because in any town anywhere in the world, a kid could walk down to the local Buzzard’s Nest or B. Dalton or Barnes & Noble and plunk down $12.95 for a cassette of Duran Duran. These days, that same kid can get the cassette for nothing. The key, then, is to supplant that model through fair and easy pricing world-wide, ensuring less “effusive” but similar revenue streams. If I can buy a bestseller with one click on the Kindle, I’m far less likely to steal it.
To be clear, this is a 36-year-old’s view of the landscape. There are plenty of folks for whom the prospect of spending $12.95 or $10 or even $0.99 on an album is not feasible. But you don’t sell to those folks. You sell to your customers and hope the rest of the world becomes potential customers.
This is the tipping point for DRM. We are at a stage where our devices are so divorced from the actual plumbing of content distribution that to download an MP3 or MP4 will soon be as alien to coming generations as sliding a punch card through an IBM reader. You could argue that this is already true in that Kindle and iPhone owners can get music and books instantly, without understanding the format, the methodology, or networking. Whispernet, for example, is a perfect book distribution system. It works anywhere, it works with one click, and it is so ridiculously easy that you forget you’re spending money.
As much as free software folks bemoan the loss of the general purpose computer, in a few years our experience in consuming content will be mediated beyond recognition. Distributors and artists can do it the right way – at a fair price that will ensure folks will actually pay for content – or the wrong way by putzing around with release dates, ridiculous pricing differentials in different markets, and consistent dedication to the false church of DRM.
Het is nu 12 dagen geleden dat komiek Louis C.K. zijn grote experiment startte. Op die dag maakte hij het voor iedereen mogelijk om via zijn website zijn laatste theatershow te downloaden. Voor een klein bedrag, kon je in het bezit komen van deze opname. Niks geen moeilijke poespas, geen DRM rechten, simpelweg 5 dollar via Paypal overmaken en de show is van jou. Een eerlijkere handel bestaat er niet. Lees meer
Louis CK is known for pushing boundaries in his comedy, but with his recent online special, “Live at the Beacon Theater,” the wildly popular comedian is also embarking on new territory for entertainment distribution.
Typically we’d have to wait for a new DVD, CD release, or cable network special to get new material from a popular comedian. But with Live at the Beacon Theater, CK is offering it on his website for just $5 with no digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.
Purchasing the special allows you to stream it twice in your browser, or download it twice as an unprotected MPEG 4 video file. Once downloaded, you can view the special as much as you want, put it on your smartphone, or even burn it to a DVD.
CK paid for the production and online distribution of the special himself, and he says that if this release goes well he may offer more content in the future. While it probably cost CK quite a bit to put this project together, he’ll likely recoup his expenses quickly since he doesn’t have to share the profits with anyone.
CK also preemptively asked his fans not to download the special illegally: “Look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.”