Here Comes (DRM for) Everybody

Just came across an Ars Techina article on DRM and e-textbooks. It reminded me of a recent situation I found myself in.

This summer I bought, read, and enjoyed Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody. Finishing chapter five I soon realized that several parts of this book deserve the attention of my high school technology classes. I set out to buy a digitized version at but was disappointed to find out that if I bought a copy, the Digital Restrictions Management would prevent me from using the book in useful ways with my students.

I wrote to explain the problem and they directed me to Penguin Publishing. Penguin Publishing said the DRM is on “all” of their ebooks and exists to “protect authors”. They stated that they wouldn’t sell me a copy that I could use with students in the ways I needed. Resulting in this “protection” was a canceled $26 US transaction and 60+ minds not exposed to Shirky’s ideas.

I wonder what Clay Shirky thinks of being “protected” this way. I also wonder if Penguin Publishing asks authors to opt-in to this “protection”. After all, if the intent is truly to protect authors, then each author should be free to request that Penguin Publishing distribute their ebooks with or without DRM. That is, they should be free to decline the offer of “protection”.


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3 Responses to “Here Comes (DRM for) Everybody”

  1. Fair Use! Says:

    When you asked for a DRM-free copy did you explain to them that you were a teacher and what you want to do with it? Or did you just ask for a copy without context? Maybe if you tell them your situation they will understand and let you buy what you need. It’s worth a shot anyway.

  2. Peter Says:

    Even if my situation was not educational, DRM is unacceptable but yes, I did mention it. They said “And unfortunately we do not make exceptions for schools or teachers at this time.”

    But if they genuinely see this as “unfortunate” then they should change this as they are in a position to do so.

  3. Igor Says:

    Well it seem like fair use in this case would have been either making photocopies of the chapters from the book that you bought or again digitize (scan) the chapters from your book and distribute them to your students.

    I also bet that almost all of them will download the book using some kind of p2p technology if you just mentioned the title and author during your lecture ;-)

    So in the end DRM just doesn’t work at all, and is a means to and end of protecting failed and old fashioned business models on the expense of consumers.

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