Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cory Doctorow: "How to Destroy the Book": Hint: DRM

The Varsity” has an edition of a speech by Cory Doctorow, as transcribed by Jade Colbert, made Nov. 13 at the National Reading Summit (link) called “How to Destroy the Book”, with link here.

The speaker goes back to the concept of owning a copy of a book (or an “instance” of a book in Object Oriented Programming Jargon – I once got an email from a coworker about my 1997 book titled “my book” when he meant “my instance of your book”).

Yes, in the physical world, once you own the “instance”, you can lend the instance to others (as libraries do) or make physical copies for your own use, probably (although not with library books, it copying meant you would never buy a book you would normally have to pay for). (You couldn’t easily copy whole books at Kinkos, or employees wouldn’t do it). But digital rights management (DRM) has so complicated the picture, making the “purchaser” of an e-book a “licensee” in some cases (it gets complicated, as the essay explains).

I remember back in the 1960s a friend and I would tape each other’s records, sometimes: we thought that we both bought so many classical record original copies (usually at deeply discounted sale prices) that we were fair to the music industry. Taping onto a cassette for private use made some sense, because in the old days records would wear out. CD’s changed that (although CD’s might not store forever, after all).

Doctorow also talks about the international treaty negotiations in South Korea and concerns over expanding downstream liability. YouTube and Blogger, for example, could never possibly preclear every posting or video posted by amateurs. Many people don’t get this (or maybe they do).

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