New ebook DRM isn't just easy to break, it makes no legal sense


For a while I've assumed that the countless typos and punctuation errors in the ebooks I've bought from Amazon and Google have been exactly this kind of scheme. The joke rings true - "how can you tell a pirated ebook from a legit one? The pirated one has fewer typos"


The defendant would have to make a motion of some sort. A judge cannot make a decion that something is simply BS when the defendant is a no-show.


It would have to rise to the level of actual text. It wouldn't even have to be visible to the naked eye, just a bit of code.


I've heard the term used more specifically in the context of 'trusted computing' for methods of identifying systems that are supposed to be 'trusted', in the sense that their behavior obeys restrictions specified by the design of the trusted system; but which have been compromised(eg. a blu-ray player whose AACS device key has been obtained, and which is supposed to be blacklisted from all future releases); but not in the more general sense of detecting leaks that are not desired; but are not architecturally prohibited(as, say, copying an mp3, which may be watermarked but has no DRM mechanism attached).


The scheme slightly changes punctuation and/or substitutes synonyms

Make me think of a couple of things:

(1) I taught for a physics professor who wrote the textbook being used in the class. He complained that the online homework system would change the numbers that students might see as a way to stop cheating ... but this would lead to physically unrealistic situations. (He completely avoided the online homework system, but I taught for a different professor who used it ... I spent a lot of time catching mistakes in the online problems.)

(2) I remember listening to the commentary of a movie where the writer/director was talking about an awkward scene where the same word gets repeated multiple times by the two characters. The writer mentions trying to explain to whoever was dubbing the movie into other languages that synonyms should not be used because the repetition was the point of the scene.

I could imagine writers getting annoyed at the intentional errors introduced because it either (1) made something really wrong or (2) removed some of the meaning from a particular scene. What about situations where a student cites a quote in a book for a report, but the teacher has a different version? If this process is done automatically, I can also imagine it screwing up quotations within a book or changing well-known phrases in older books.


To be fair, the point of creating DRM software isn't to prevent piracy, but to sell DRM software. I think it's a novel-enough-seeming idea for copyright holders to get interested, and that's why it was created.


I like the ebook DRM scheme best where they put something like "Personal copy of "buyer's name" into the book, right next to the page numbers in the page footer. This doesn't involve cumbersome crypto DRM that requires special plug-ins or readers to access and makes the buyer aware of the added risk of sharing his copy with others.

It makes the buyer aware that he owns a personally licensed copy and it creates some level of burden to remove this visible watermark before sharing his copy.

Still there are legal ways to share ebooks (let's say, lend your ebook reader device to a friend) and just locating someone's copy circulating on the net shouldn't be grounds for suing. In other words: such DRM schemes should not put the buyer in the position where he has to prove that he did not willfully make the copyrighted works available for download.


Actually, the rampant typos are almost certainly the result of crummy OCR (optical character recognition) and/or crummy file conversion. Files for print products, where you want stable pages going to the printer, versus files for eBooks, where you want to allow page breaking based on screen size or user-chosen font size, don't play well together. That's why I pretty much only buy fiction in eBook form, since the mathematical/technical books are generally unreadable.


I don't see the problem. We should encourage publishers to move from real DRM to this kind of scheme. Is it an easily defeated system? of course it is. It doesn't have to be watertight. All it has to be is something that will keep piracy in check by making non-techies less inclined to upload their purchased books to Pirate Bay.
I mean, look: using this scheme you get a book you know you can read anywhere or even sell to a third party (assuming said third party keeps it to himself). It doesn't hamper readers in any way. And seriously, the scenario in which someone steals your laptop or phone and then goes to upload your books is far-fetched at best. Thieves don't care about your media collection.

For those who worry that this might introduce errors int the text, well, ebooks are basically a bunch of XHTML files with some metadata and other files. It is trivially easy to instruct the variance-introducing process to change things that are only visible in code view and don't code for any visible difference in the end product, such as multiple space characters, random line breaks , introducing random tags that don't code to visible text, etc.


However, who d'you think is most likely to get it in the neck from this?


I like these too. I have a bunch of ISO specs registered to my employers's competitors. Not that we don't have our own copies we paid for, but it was easier to find them on Google than our own system.


Agreed. I think this is quite fair and might even work for video and audio too. I would much rather have a video with a subtle "personal copy of Jeff Atwood" in it that I can play on all my devices, forever, rather than one I can play only on a specific device for a limited time until it is obsolete.


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