Mon
Apr 29 2013 1:00pm

One Year Later, the Results of Tor Books UK Going DRM-Free

Tor Books UK DRM-Free one year laterOn April 25, 2012, Tor Books UK announced that it was making all of its ebook list DRM-free. There’s still a lot of debate and interest in the topic. I recently wrote a piece about the subject for Publishers Weekly which I’ve replicated here.

We made this decision in conjunction with our sister company in the US, for our shared brand imprint. It was something that we’d been exploring for quite a while and a move that we felt committed to for our particular area.

For those who don’t know what DRM is, it’s a copy protection or access control to digital content that’s applied to ebooks. Many publishers and retailers use it and it’s a complex and controversial issue for copyright holders and consumers with passionate arguments for and against.

For our particular readership, we felt it was an essential and fair move. The genre community is close-knit, with a huge on-line presence, and with publishers, authors and fans having closer communication than perhaps some other areas of publishing do. Having been in direct contact with our readers, we were aware of how frustrated many of them were by DRM. Our authors had also expressed concerns at the restrictions imposed by the copyright coding applied to their ebooks. When both authors and readers are talking from the same page, it makes sense for the publishers to sit up, listen and take note—and we did!

We know, that our readers are earlier adapters of technology, the first in-line to experiment with new formats, new reading experiences and new devices. In part it’s the nature of the genre—a pushing of boundaries and imagination and it’s what we all love about the area. For us, we felt a strong sense that the reading experience for this tech-savvy, multi-device owning readership, was being inhibited by DRM leaving our readers unable to reasonably and legally transfer ebook files between all the devices they had. DRM was an irritant taking away the flexibility and their choice of reading device and format, the very things that made the ebook so desirable a format to begin with.

We had discussions with our authors before we made the move and we considered very carefully the two key concerns for any publisher when stripping out the DRM from ebooks: copyright protection and territoriality of sales. Protecting our author’s intellectual copyright will always be of a key concern to us and we have very stringent anti-piracy controls in place. But DRM-protected titles are still subject to piracy, and we believe a great majority of readers are just as against piracy as publishers are, understanding that piracy impacts on an author’s ability to earn an income from their creative work. As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.

All of our authors including bestsellers such as Peter F. Hamilton and China Miéville were incredibly supportive when we asked them to consider removing DRM from their titles. All of them signing up without hesitation to a scheme which would allow their readers greater freedom with their novels.

When we made the announcement there was an immediate reaction from the media. The Guardian explained how ‘Tor rips up the rulebook on digital rights management’ and the BBC featured a long article with arguments from both sides, drawing links with the music industry’s experience of the transition and highlighting that “the key difference with the music business is that the book trade can see what mistakes the record labels made and avoid them.”

But the most heartening reaction for us was from the readers and authors who were thrilled that we’d listened and actually done something about a key issue that was so close to their hearts. They almost broke Twitter and facebook with their enthusiastic responses. Gary Gibson, author of The Thousand Emperors tweeted: “Best news I’ve heard all day.” Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer, called it “a visionary and dramatic step . . . a victory for consumers, and a red-letter day in the history of publishing.”

China Miéville called the decision “a game changer” and long-time anti-DRM author and blogger Cory Doctorow praised the decision on both the Guardian Technology Blog andboing boing, the blog he co-edits: “I think that this might be the watershed for ebook DRM, the turning point that marks the moment at which all ebooks end up DRM-free. It’s a good day.”

And Charles Stross, author of the Merchant Princes series, recently said “I'm happy to see that Tor have gone DRM-free with their ebook editions. DRM doesn’t impede pirates, but it subjects honest customers to a monopoly tightly controlled by the owners of the DRM software, reducing readers’ freedom and hampering competition.”

We had readers contact us directly explaining how “DRM is anti-customer” and how pleased they were by this “forward thinking step.”

The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern—and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community. And a year on we’re still pleased that we took this step with the imprint and continue to publish all of Tor UK’s titles DRM-free.


Julie Crisp is the Editorial Director at Tor UK.

This post originally appeared on the Tor Books UK blog.

43 comments
Stefano S.
1. Stefano S.
This is a great news. A few weeks ago I decided to start reading The Weel of Time and I could easily find all the 15 volumes in good pirate copies but thanks to TOR's DRM free philosophy I bought them on Amazon knowing that I can easily and legally use them on another reader if I should abandon my Kindle.
William Carter
2. wcarter
Going DRM free is a decision I'm glad Tor made in both the U.S. and U.K.

Speaking for myself, I have strong objections to piracy and do not participate in it at all, but I'm more likely to purchase a book from a publisher that does not DRM it's content so I don't have to worry about losing it or only being able to use it on a single device.

If I like an author, I will buy his or her books. Even if I discovered them first in a library at no cost. The why is simple-- I want to keep enjoying said author's books and they certainly deserved to get paid for them.

I think within two or three years Tor will have a noticable increase in digital sales compared to publishers who continue to use vendor lock-in methods.
William Carter
3. wcarter
@Stefano S.

If you ever happen to run across pirated copies of books online, please report them to the author or whatever publishing company they should be from.

I know a lot of authors, and am a reporter myself. That sort of thing is a direct threat to the livelyhood of any writer, and is one of the main reasons so many publishing companies continue to insist on DRM in the first place.

As long as the problem exists DRM will make ebooks less convienent for we the customers.
Stefano S.
5. Stefano S.
@wcarter
You are right, I don't agree with piracy too or I would have not commented here leaving my email :) What I was trying to say is that DRM free books are an incentive to buy original.
William Carter
6. wcarter
True, true. I think most people are more likely to go the legal route to buy something when any exists.

I really only mentioned it becuase some people are hesitant to take the additional step of reporting specific incidents of piracy.

My guess is they may get nervous that they will get accused of looking for pirated copies (Basically one of the reasons police departments have anonymous tip lines for other types of crimes).

Hope you enjoy the Wheel of Time!
David Scotton
7. Kaxon
@wcarter I think you're kind of missing the point of this whole thing. Piracy can never be stamped out, it's completely impossible when we're talking about something that's so easy to make a digital copy of. Reporting it won't stop it, and DRM doesn't hinder it in the slightest. All DRM does is inconvenience the customers who actually paid money, and lock them in to a specific vendor (such as Amazon). The key to minimizing piracy is to NOT inconvenience your customers, and many people will willingly support authors... this is what Tor realized when they went DRM free.
Stefano S.
8. Questionable
@Kaxon Spot on. I don't want to store physical books (especially hard covers) and I have a pre-Kindle e-ink reader that makes reading DRM ebooks a nightmare.

I'd rather not pirate books - even with the option of paying by buying a useless DRMed copy - so now I only read those published by Tor. There are a few other authors I miss but there's enough good stuff here to keep me going.

I can guarantee they've got at least a few extra sales from this move.
Nick Hlavacek
9. Nick31
I'm glad (but not at all surprised) to see that going DRM free is working out well for Tor. Thank you for your commitment to your readers!
Stefano S.
10. David W.
With a title containing the word "Results," shouldn't there be, well, results? What was the impact of going DRM-free? Can you attribute any increased sales to that decision (or the marketing of said decision)? Did you recognize any greater loss of sales to piracy? Did piracy increase, stay constant, or decrease? Are there any results to speak of, or is this entirely a marketing (and not operational) post?
Stefano S.
11. A.Beth
They answered the penultimate question, @David W. "As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year."
Stefano S.
12. thorfiemo
I'm a reader in the US & as a result of Tor going DRM free, I have bought several Tor ebooks in the past year, most of David Weber's Safehold books, and part of LE Modesitt's Recluce series. Since I am on a limited income, I only buy ebooks that are priced similar to mass market paperbacks. I have been buying ebo0ks since 2000, mostly from Baen, and now from Tor, as well as several small publishers that publish DRM free ebooks.

As a result of the change, you have at least one new customer.

Thank you
Jason Lotito
14. jasonlotito
Just want to throw this out there, that even though I prefer hard cover books over ebooks for pleasure reading, I appreciate Tor going this route, and I'm more apt to pick up a Tor book *because* it's a Tor book, and knowing of this.

And I can assure you I'll continue to purchase Tor books because of this.
Stefano S.
15. Loerwyn
What has the true result been, though? Nothing. It's all well and good saying there hasn't been an increase in piracy, but what you want is a *decrease*.

Call me cynical, but this DRM-free move for Tor has been nothing but a vapid, thin, and ultimately pointless exercise with the sole motivation of garnering what is, really, free publicity. Has anyone actually looked at the UK store? When this move first happened, the UK store was broken. It was a mess, prices didn't make any sense - in fact, the store claimed to only support a few devices and sold titles at the RRP of the MMPB print editions, or in a few rare cases at a higher cost. Looking again recently, the store is still as easy to navigate as a forest in the dark.

There's no point going DRM-free if you're not going to have an accessible, consumer-friendly store with wide support for a variety of readers and devices. Going DRM-free but only openly stating support for the Kindle (as it did at launch) is a rather pointless exercise.

And I was frankly staggered to see Tor get all the praise for this move. Haven't Baen been selling DRM-free ebooks in a multitude of formats at a below-RRP cost for years now? Heck, Baen even made a number of their books free for readers to download (although this number has shrunk slightly since a deal they made with Amazon went into effect - but with the upside of increasing royalties to authors).

Simply put; Tor have done absolutely nothing to change anything in any real sense with this move. The only thing they've done, really, is be the first of the big publishers to make this move. But they haven't backed it up, they haven't been consumer-friendly about it (i.e. have a simple, clean, accessible store), and really it's just a bit silly.
Irene Gallo
16. Irene
Tor’s DRM-free ebooks are availble wherever ebooks are sold -- iBooks, Amazon, Powells, Kobo, etc. -- you do not need to go through a specific portal.
Stefano S.
17. JennT
I work in bookselling. I read a lot of books, and typically have two to five started at any point of time. I learned a long long time ago how incredibly easy it is to strip DRM from an ebook. I have a reader that is fairly uncommon in the US, so sometimes I had to do it to my legitimately purchased ebooks and advanced reader's copies simply to make sure I could view them on my device.

I'll say that I've absolutely made the decision to purchase Tor's ebooks over other publishers in the past year because of your decision to remove DRM. I read on three different computers, two devices, and my cellphone. I don't bother with ebooks over print books simply because the archaic DRM means that I can't read the way I want to. Without it, I've been enjoying reading my Sandersson and Scalzi on all of my devices instead of waiting until our store got in a used hard copy of what I wanted.

DRM is obnoxious. And the people who are going to steal it anyways know full well that there's still going to be a way to steal it regardless of how hard someone makes it for their legitimate paying customers to use their own books. It's time to stop penalizing customers. Thanks for paving the way!
Stefano S.
18. linuxuser
i'm a software engineer and get DRM-free (technical) books from oreilly.com .
Vendors like Apple, Amazon, Google and B&N don't meet my needs. Hence i'm pleased that Tor have met the need for more DRM-free reading material (joining Baen). I find Kobo is a convenient place to buy books. Well done and Congratulations! Tor.
Stefano S.
22. Stephen Heath
Because of this policy I have been exclusively buying Tor ebooks for exactly the reasons mentioned... I want to be able to use my books on any device I change to in the future rather than be locked in. Although, admittedly, I think 3 of my top 5, and 6 of my top 10 authors were published by Tor.

However, the big problem I have is finding other authors with DRM free ebooks available from Tor... I'd kill for a simple "coming soon" list (rather than trying to read through the blog) or even better, a complete list of titles available... the blog is great for the occasional find, but when I'm in the mood to go find a new trilogy for a weekend away, it's not that easy.

Secondly, I'd love if you guys took a page out of the blu-ray publishers book and offered versions with the hardcopy + ebook as a package (costing more than just one, but less than both as seperate purchases)... sometimes at home you want to curl up with a paper book, sometimes while travelling you want a library with you that weighs a pound :)

Thanks again!
Irene Gallo
23. Irene
Hi Stephan,

If you go to our coporate site, you can view all our catalogs there. Just lcik on the Tor or Forge ones, those will all be DRM-free books when they come out.
Steven Lyle Jordan
24. Steven Lyle Jordan
Glad to see Tor do what I, as an independent author, have been doing for the past 7 years.
Stefano S.
25. Joshua R
I second the idea more publisher's need to look st Tor as a model for publishing. DRM is simply bad for business and punishes the legitimate paying customer. DRM does absolutely nothing to stop the criminal. Even more simply put DRM can be equated to any other foolish law based around intellectual property or even physical property ownership; in that criminals do not obey laws in the first place which makes them a criminal. That such laws are foolish in that those who appreciate the the creator's work in the first place will and do pay for them, as it is how we show are appreciation for said efforts. I also echo that Tor should adopt a physical + virtual model price as I know I would personally be interested.
Stefano S.
26. Julez
I grew up in a very small town, with very little money.


The only epic fantasy books my library had were ages old, and the stand outs were the narnia series and the wheel of time.

When I was a teenager I downloaded a torrent called "Top 50 Best Fantasy Books" And it was like a godsend to me. I didn't really see the morality issue in it, since if I was in a bigger town I could realistically have rented them all through the library.

I've now added many of those authors to my list, and buy any new books they release now I am established and can afford to do so. Also the increases technology and ease of purchasing ebooks via kindles/ nooks make life much easier.


I'm not condoning piracy, but it's personally turned me onto about 50 great authors I might not have ever heard of, and attributed to me buying many of their books :)

(More on topic, I agree that this is great so users have the freedom to enjoy the book on any medium they can enjoy it through)
Stefano S.
27. chaddai
DRM-free is definitely the way to go : it simplify the whole chain and allows a customer to enjoy his ebook as he wishes. DRM never did anything against piracy as is once more proved in this case, it is simply irrelevant when any DRM scheme can be bypassed in two clicks.

Tor made the right decision, the only sane decision in fact, and as such, earned a part of my loyalty : when I look for new books or authors, I give priority to Tor (or Baen) published ones.

Pirate copies won't disappear with repression and suppression, unless we're willing to go the way of a police state (which I am not) but the impact of pirates on the ebook business can only be reduced as a whole by establishing trust between consumers and publishers and making ebook use as easy and robust as possible.
Stefano S.
28. AndyM
I've very happy Tor has made this decision, but are they going to tell the retails that previously purchase ebooks that were DRM-laden and now DRM-free can be made available to the purchaser?

I've purchase many L. E. Modesitt Jr. books from Kobo, some before and some after the switch to DRM-free. The one purchased after are DRM-free for me in my library, but the ones purchased before are still DRMed even though they are selling them DRM-free.

Kobo told me that until TOR tells them to make these earlier purchases available DRM-free, I still need ADE to download them.

So my question is: Is Tor going to tell the retailers to make all our previously made purchases DRM-free? Because if not, we still need ADE.
Dan Stoner
29. danstoner
Great job TOR! Hopefully the other publishing and media companies will follow. If I ever try to publish a novel I will definitely be looking for partners who support DRM-free distribution.
Stefano S.
30. Bob Robertson
I'll take the opposite position from the rest of the posters here, and laud the copying of books (and music, and movies) as the way that culture spreads. Culture is the shared experiences of individuals, and copyright interferes directly with culture itself.

Notice that the people in this discussion all point out that they COULD get the materials by copying, but CHOOSE to buy them, to support the authors. #26 Julez is a perfect example. Without his deliberate violation of copyright, he would not have benefitted from these wonderful works, and the authors would not benefit from his patronage now.

His statement "I didn't really see the morality issue in it" is very instructive. Morality had nothing to do with his acquiring the books by copying, it was all about access. Once he became a productive individual himself and realized the benefits of our shared culture could he choose, and he makes a moral choice now to share the benefits back with the authors as those author's works were shared with him.

Culture benefits from copying, human beings benefit from culture. Copyright enforcement destroyes it.

Yes, there might be a book not sold because it was available through copying. Or the library. Or a used book store. But the author's work, being shared, being read, is far far better than being restricted.

Fame may be fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
Ryan Szrama
31. Scarvye
"But the author's work, being shared, being read, is far far better than being restricted," says the person who feels entitled to another human's productive output on their own terms.

Just because you want to erase a legal principle to suit your vision for the spread of human culture doesn't make the legal reality disappear. Lack of access to someone else's work does not entitle one to steal it, nor must every person who creates something subscribe to your opinion that their work is better free and pervasive than limited and profitable.

And I'll chime in with the others... I was expecting to see an announcement of an increase in sales. That, not the decrease of piracy, is be the kind of result that will encourage other publishing companies to follow suit.

(And since I'm entering into an age old Internet debate with a named individual, it's only fair that I name myself. I'm Ryan Szrama, and I approve this message. ; )
Alexander Gieg
32. alexgieg
@31: Modern copyright law is a minor element in the history of makind. Libraries and authors existed for millenia before copyright was invented, and everyone the world over thought having one's work copied by others was the highest level of honor. But when finally, finally technology advanced to the point of making copying easier, those in charge saw it and thought how... inconvenient... that would be. And copy restriction arised, and morality was inverted, so that what once was good became evil, and what once was evil became good.

Think: dictatorial and censorhip-prone governments the world over would love nothing more than if unbreakable DRM and unavoidable GRM were the standard widely and globally imposed over every single intellectual work. For example, Iran: how would freedom loving Iranians access the very, very heretic US thought? The US forbids Americans from having commerce with them, directly or indirectly. Iranians cannot properly purchase any US intellectual product, neither that which is "only" for fun (but promotes awareness of alternative lifestyles anyway) nor that which explicitly helps them fight tyranny. If they get it at all is by practicing civil disobediency against both their home country, by reading that which is forbidden in there, as well as agains the US, by accessing that which US officials deem they should be forbidden from seeing. Perfect DRM coupled with perfect GRM would help sustain Iranian restrictions against freedom of thought much better than the Iranian government itself ever could. In fact, they'd be able to point at it and say: "See? It isn't us who don't want you to get it! It's them!". How convenient wouldn't that be?

That's the problem with copyright maximalism: to protect commercial interests it implements legal tools that result in serious political consequences.

Here's a better and much easier alternative: those who can and will buy, you serve to the best of your possibilities so that they always prefer to buy. This is what Tor is mostly doing, as no matter how easy it is to get their works for "free" most people out there still prefer to purchase them through official channels. Simply put, it feels right to do so, and most people go with that. As for those who cannot (in the strong sense of the word), consider them all members of a huge library and either don't worry about them or try to get some tax benefit or something to compensate for them. Finally, about the middle ground of those who can purchase but don't unless they have no alternative, yep, you lose some minor revenue from them you'd otherwise get, but global culture as a whole benefits. The net effect is positive, worth the minor loss of control, and everyone can go to bed with clear consciences.
Ryan Szrama
33. Scarvye
"Modern copyright law is a minor element in the history of mankind," is what I call a red herring. It has no bearing on the present legal reality despite anyone's happiest daydreams of yesteryear. Young or old, copyright is today's law along with many others I'm sure you'd disagree with.

"Morality was inverted, so that what once was good became evil, and what once was evil became good."

Incorrect. Not only do I question your history, it is the legal reality that has changed, not the moral landscape. (And I'd argue it has more to do with the printing press and literacy rates than with mankind's sudden depravity.) You can decide for yourself whether or not breaking that law is an immoral thing to do - I obviously think it's pretty clear cut, since it involves illegitimately procuring something I would not have the legal right to own. Since the law presently grants authors copyright of their material, they are free to control their creative output how they see fit, not how you wish they saw fit.

Thus, if they have legal ownership of their own work and you procure and redistribute that work in a manner they do not approve, you have violated their legal right. To break this law is to transgress the law against the author, not simply to make a statement against an illegitimate legal development, a "minor element in the history of mankind."

This is such a spurious debate, however, because no one would make the same argument defending a thief who hopped in Brandon Sanderson's backyard (chosen hypothetically, as I'm currently enjoying The Way of Kings reread) to pinch some of his veggies. Food is much more important to human flourishing than science fiction - and it's similarly a bigger part of probably any people group's culture. If he cross breeds a fine heirloom tomato, I don't automatically get to go take some of his seeds (but he gets so many from each tomato, right?) because I'm human and deserve to be able to grow any time of tomato any human breeds.

You might not like that the law grants him the same right to protect his words and choose to have them distributed how he sees fit (right along with the veggies I'm guessing he doesn't sell at farmer's market), but that doesn't mean "morality has been inverted." And let's face it - since I'm guessing Brandon doesn't farm for his food, his words are his food, his writing his gardening.
Alexander Gieg
34. alexgieg
The argument is in no way so clear cut, specially because legality, morality and justice aren't correlated. Here are three points to consider:

First, copyright grants an individual possession over all other's property, in that everyone the world over are prevented from using the material goods they legitimately worked to purchased and came to possess in the way they see fit, and even though using them would result in $0 victimless crime. This goes from absurdist to fun when one looks at how the industry makes bogus arguments about profit losses that feel very close to this joke I heard a while ago: The husband arrives home later, panting but smiling. The wife asks what happened, and he says he arrived later at the bus stop and, although he ran after the bus, it went away, but that he was happy because he then decided to walk home and in so doing saved the bus fare. The wife criticizes him, for had he ran after a taxi instead of a bus he'd have saved even more. So, no damage, no crime, which at least is recognized in that copyright infringement is almost nowhere a crime, but only a civil matter.

Second, that the law is defective in that while it grants a right, it fails to establish a corresponding duty, making it unbalanced. No, with every right must come a duty, and with a right to restrict copies must come a duty to make available copies for a proper fee, a copyduty. Failing in his copy duty, as is usually the case with GRM, the copy rights holder should see his right temporarily suspended, there where he isn't fulfilling his duty, until he does.

There are other imbalances such as with duration maximalism, a.k.a. the way Disney brib... lobbies for extensions whenever Mickey is almost entering public domain. Both things violate the social contract, and thus it becomes morally proper to react.

Finally, the fact of the matter is that the law already allows people to use copyrighted works in many ways the author might disagree with. Radio can play any song it wants and pay in bulk. Libraries can lend any book they own to as many people want to read it. People can share the (physical) intellectual goods they own with anyone. DRM is an attempt to workaround this, and as is the case with the Internet, it ends up workarounding these workarounds. So, the law hasn't updated to include in such arrangements the parallel nature of digital sharing as opposed to the serial nature of physical sharing? Well, global culture is making it adapt no matter how much it doesn't want to or how many it punishes for doing what comes naturally to almost everyone. The Internet is the ultimate library. It's the supreme toybox, basically the same our mothers point to and say "You should share your toys!" (and where are those who tell their children "Sharing is wrong, you must never share!"?). Once the powerful lobbies preventing this recognition from happening get disabled by cultural forces beyond even their lobbiestest of powers, some radio-like scheme will be devised to properly compensate authors under a sharing culture. Too bad until that day civil disobedience and the pain of the innocent it'll be.

And thus the culture battles proceed.

By the way: if you haven't read Cory Doctorow, one of the authors mentioned in the article, seek some of his books. They are all highly fictionalized accounts of some of the points I make, showing, as the excellent distopic author he is, the unwanted consequences positions similar to yours can bring about if/when sufficiently strengthened.
Nosey Parker
35. mizparker
As Joe Biden is wont to say, "BFD!" Baen Books has been DRM free for the better part of fifteen years, and proved that there is very little, if any, loss to piracy. They also have a huge FREE library of older books and parts of some series. It is for those reasons and those reasons alone that when I buy a real dead tree book or an ebook, I buy it from Baen. I don't think I'll change my buying habits now. How many sales do you think that you did NOT make in the last 15 years because many of us techie types refuse to support ANY business that uses DRM in their content.

I sure hope you banked all the money you made with your DRM poisoned ebooks. I really don't believe it was altruism that made you switch, it was, in fact, the obvious fact that you were losing sales to Baen and others who did not poison their content with DRM. Karma is a beach, isn't it?
Stefano S.
36. pleased user
Kudos to Tour for this. I don't much buy paper books anymore and I never buy an eBook that has DRM unless I know I can remove it. In the last couple months I have purchased the entire Wheel of Time series electronically, and I get a warm fuzzy feeling about Tor every time I import a book and don't have to crack it. I have never and will never violate the copyright on the books I buy, but I do move them between *my* devices.
Stefano S.
37. rpacker
I agree with David W (Comment 10). I was hoping to read about what real results there have been from dropping DRM and there aren't any in this piece. You can't just say, "there has been no discernible rise in piracy", that means nothing. We need some figures, what was the rate of piracy previously, have sales increased and if so by how much, has the market widened? This is just a bit of meaningless PR.
Ryan Szrama
40. Scarvye
@alexgieg, "Copyright grants an individual possession over all other's property."

I beg to differ. It grants an individual control over the distribution of their creative work. (Hence the name, copy-right; the right to copy, in this case for the purpose of distribution.) The individual no longer legally possesses the copy they sell or give away, but they can distribute it under a license that restricts the redistribution of the work contrary to the terms under which they want the work distributed. This typically means they don't want it being distributed without financial compensation.

However, I'm an open source software developer by day, building eCommerce modules for the GPLed Drupal project. As part of the free software movement, we've chosen a license for the distribution of our code that also stipulates the terms under which our users can redistribute the code. Basically, no one is free to take Drupal and redistribute it under any other license than the GPL. The requirement isn't financial compensation, it is a "share alike" freedom.

Still, it is a requirement. The owner of our software is not free to do something with it we've decided they shouldn't be able to do, but that does not mean we retain possession of the copy of the code they have downloaded.

"While it grants a right, it fails to establish a corresponding duty."

I do not grant your point that this is a defect. "With every right must come a duty" is not an a priori argument - it must be proven. My children have the right to food, clothing, and shelter, and they have no corresponding duty to me to receive them. If I don't provide those things, the state will take my children and care for them in my stead no questions asked. (Well, my in-laws would likely take them first. ; )

That said, there is in fact a corresponding duty, just not to the benefit of the people you wish it. They do not have a duty to the people to whom they sell their creative work, but they do have a duty to the work itself. Namely, they must defend their rights to the distribution of the work if they want to continue to enjoy those rights.

"Finally, the fact of the matter is that the law already allows people to use copyrighted works in many ways the author might disagree with."

Your examples don't all support your argument. For example, with respect to music played on the radio, the original musician has entered into an agreement with their record label granting them the right to sell broadcast licenses for their music. The musician gets compensated for that and ultimately benefits from the exposure, but it happened because they enjoyed copyright in the first place.

I'm only passingly familiar w/ Doctorow, but I'll make it a point to look into him soon. As should be obvious, I'm not persuaded by the anti-copyright crowd (and certainly not by the pirate party), even though I myself am an active contributor and champion of the free software movement. I'm happy that I have the prerogative to license my creative work for the free use and redistribution of others, and I'm happy that there are laws in place that allow me to demand others who use, modify, and redistribute the code I contribute must also share it under the same license - and ideally to the same benefit of the community we participate in. : )
Alexander Gieg
41. alexgieg
@40: I'll provide you one real world example of who copyright without copyduty is a Very Serious Problem. Here in Brazil the widow of a philosopher, sole heir to his works, converted a few decades ago into a religion that dislikes his departed husband's works, and dislikes them a lot. As a result she went forth and forbade any new edition of said works, whose old editions are now a rarity.

About property, I mean this: I own a computer; I own a DVD drive; I purchased a DVD; some corporation somewhere has now control over my personal usage of said computer in respect to joining 3 things I own, and all the power of violence of the majority of the world governments behind it to make it so. Better I behave and don't dare use my fully purchased, fully owned stuff in a way they disagree OR ELSE...

By the way, when I write software it's all BSD-licensed. And my texts are all CC-BY. ;)
Ellen Herzfeld
43. EllenH
All the praise is nice, but it's only valid if you live in the right country... I live in France and can't even buy the iPad version of the stories on this site. I've already ranted about that, but to no avail. Of course I can read them in many other ways, but that is not the point. If I want an epub, I have to make it myself...

Concerning Tor books, the problem is the same. Not available on iBookstore in France. I didn't try amazon because I don't use a Kindle or the Kindle software. I don't like DRM, but I don't like to be tied to a vendor or a piece of hardware either.

Of course I could ask friends or family who live in approved countries to get the book for me, but that's "grey market" and negates the purpose of removing DRM in the first place.

What I want is a well formatted epub, readable on many platforms. Fortunately, many magazines and books have effectively gone the epub way and those I buy and even subscribe to. Some publishers even send you the e-version for free if you subscribe to the hardcover edition... Many let you choose the format or send the three main ones, pdf, epub and mobi. See Weightless books, Arc Manor and others.

There must be some hidden reason for this problem with Tor ebooks because I have never had any problem buying paper books from any country. Strange that the national boundaries should appear for immaterial books.

So, Tor, you're halfway there. Just try a little harder and you'll get my money twice since I already buy the books I like in hardcover.
Alexander Gieg
44. alexgieg
@43: This is what I call GRM: Geographical Restrictions Management. It's a subset of DRM in that it's also enforced by Digital means, and while DRM works on your device restricting the "how", GRM works on the server restricting the "who". So you're spot on when you say Tor is only halfway there, as true DRM-freedom requires full GRM-freedom.
Stefano S.
45. Slurpy
Here's another vote for a digital copy combined with a hardback.

I also wanted to share an anecdote - a few weeks ago, a friend asked me where to start on The Wheel of Time. I recommended getting the ebooks, as the entire series is a significant chunk of shelf real-estate. When he expressed reservations about DRM, I told him all Tor books were DRM-free, but he was not able to verify this on whichever e-tailer he uses, and so instead he bought used copies, resulting in no profit to Tor or RJ's family.

Maybe it's time for Tor to create (re-create? I swear there used to be one, before I got into it) an ebook store with obvious signage of this. Or at least make sure that each e-tailer has a blurb at the end of the book synopsis saying, "All Tor books are DRM-free!" Heck, even though I know Tor makes them DRM-free, that doesn't mean we 100% know that Amazon or Apple or B&N hasn't slapped their own on it. These kind of policies change all the time, and if you aren't in the right circles, it can slip right past you. A built-in e-reader store is always convenient when you are stuck out somewhere and finish a book, but I still prefer buying my copies on my desktop, so I can back up the file before transfering it to my ereader, and tor.com would be my first stop in shopping.
Stefano S.
46. SHODAN
"I'll provide you one real world example of who copyright without copyduty is a Very Serious Problem. Here in Brazil the widow of a philosopher, sole heir to his works, converted a few decades ago into a religion that dislikes his departed husband's works, and dislikes them a lot. As a result she went forth and forbade any new edition of said works, whose old editions are now a rarity."

Irrelevant. She has the right to make that decision. Her late husband may have disagreed with the decision when he was alive, but he made the decision to allow her to have control over his work. The fact remains, however, that copies of those works are still available.

That said, I have mixed feelings about copyright lasting past the creator's lifetime. I can easily see both sides of that issue.

In any case, copyright laws grant the right to a creator effective as soon as he creates the work. By your logic, if I were to write a story, which would be covered by copyright as soon as I wrote it, I would then be required to provide a copy to anyone who wants one under reasonable terms, or they would be entitled to simply take it from my computer. It wouldn't matter whether I considered the story finished, whether I was satisfied with its quality, or whether it was even intended for distribution at all. That is an idea I find incredibly offensive.

That fact is copyright exists to allow a creator to protect their work and thereby profit from it. It also conveys the obligation for an author to protect their work if they do intend to profit from it. It does not provide an obligation to distribute the work. If the author wishes to give his story away, then that is his right. If he wishes to make it freely distributable, that is his right. If he wishes to restrict access to his work, that is also his right, and if he chooses to do so, then no one has the right to simply take that story, much less distribute the story themselves.
Alexander Gieg
47. alexgieg
@46: "That fact is copyright exists to allow a creator to protect their work and thereby profit from it."

No, that's incorrect. Copyright exists for a single purpose, at least insofar as the US Constitution is concerned: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" ("useful art" meaning technology).

Sure, it's been progressively distorted over time so that at some point your understanting became the norm, but that's a fairly recent historical aberration that the Internet is justly eroding one step at a time, no matter how much copyright maximalists wish to legislate culture away. In the end freedom wins.

By the way, I find if funny when people bring sentiments and emotion into what should be a purely rational discouse. What does subjective evaluations such as finding something "offensive" has to do with anything? Besides, I am not talking about invading computers, only about publicly available content. Someone invading your computer would be trespassing and should be criminally persecuted.

Now if you want a moral argument here it is: when you contract someone to do something for you, let's say fix something broken in your car, do you keep paying him in perpetuity and/or subject yourself to arbitrary conditions set by him on how you should use your car in future? Or do you pay him for the effort employed and for the duration of him employing said effort? So, why should authors have an elitist privilege on their particular kind of work? As I see it it's perfectly reasonable for an author who spent 5 years working on a book to earn 5 years worth of wages, proportional to the quality of said work, but no more. This notion that "intellectual work" is somehow on a class apart is wholly undeserved. Work is work. Do it, get paid for it, the end. None of this nonsense of being paid, and paid again, and paid again, and paid again, and paid again... for the same piece of previous work.

The only just duration for any kind of copyright-system is that which provides this return on investment, and no more. Any more, and it's unjust with society. Any less, and it's unjust with the author. We're so far away from the sweet spot it isn't even funny.
Stefano S.
48. SHODAN
"What does subjective evaluations such as finding something "offensive" has to do with anything?"

It can directly influence how willing people are to even consider what you have to say.

"So, why should authors have an elitist privilege on their particular
kind of work? As I see it it's perfectly reasonable for an author who
spent 5 years working on a book to earn 5 years worth of wages,
proportional to the quality of said work, but no more."

Your beginning analogy is flawed. The guy repairing the car is doing work for hire. The guy writing a book might not be. The guy repairing a car is doing you a service, the guy writing the book is not .

As for your ticking clock, who's going to be the judge of how long he was working on the book? How will that be determined? Would you go by the date the file was created on the computer? If it's written by hand, would the author have to date the first page? How would you factor in development time for the story and characters before the writing even commenced, or would that be ignored?

Also, isn't it possible that could backfire on the author? Wouldn't it be posible to wait until the copyright clock has ticked away before buying the book, thereby negating the possibility of the author getting anything for his work?

It's already entirely possible for a writer to make less as a writer than he would working a full-time minimum wage job. It's not unheard of for a writer to only be able to earn a living as a writer by having a good sized record of books to get royalties from, and your idea would mean that many older works, which may be unknown if the writer didn't become successful until late in his career, could be republished by anyone and the creator would see none of that benefit while others would be profitting from his name without his consent.



"This notion that"intellectual work" is somehow on a class apart is wholly undeserved.Work is work. Do it, get paid for it, the end. None of this nonsense of being paid, and paid again, and paid again, and paid again, and paid again... for the same piece of previous work."

It is in a separate class. Unlike physical work, intellectual work doesn't always produce immediate results or returns. It may be several years before you see any returns from it. Some of those who are now considered the greatest writers in history never saw any success in their lifetime, and your idea would bring about the very real possibility that some upcoming great writers might see tremendous success in their lifetime, only to never be able to benefit from it.

What you are suggesting is something that could easily discourage creative endeavors.
Alexander Gieg
49. alexgieg
@48: "It can directly influence how willing people are to even consider what you have to say."

Let's try this in reverse then. Should I find it offensive that, after reading glowing reviews about a work, watching ads abouts that work, finding myself craving that work, when I finally go to Amazon or another e-store, money in hands, I'm greeted with a warning stating: "Content not available in your region"? Why yes, I should. And I do. As a society we've learned that not selling to someone because of his/her gender, race, ethnicity, religion, political view or sexual orientation is wrong, so how come we think discriminating on the basis of where one lives is? "Because the author doesn't want to sell to (region)" is no better an argument than "because the owner doesn't want to sell to (discrimation criteria)ers in his store".

No surprise then that I'm not quite willing to hear people arguing for this thing I call "geographism", eh? ;-)

"The guy repairing the car is doing work for hire. The guy writing a book might not be. The guy repairing a car is doing you a service, the guy writing the book is not . ( . . . )"

True enough, but most of what's culturally produced out there is work for hire, and businesses take advantage of that. I'd consider your argument valid if copyright couldn't be transfered away from the creator, but only licensed, and only non-exclusively so. As things are most restrictions come from middlemen who purchased the right, not the actual creative source, and thus become conceptually meaningless.

Besides, nothing prevents alternative modes of compensation taking into consideration late popularity. Publishers could be made to compulsorily contribute to a fund reserved for payment to creators similar to how radio does to musicians. Possible new business models abound. Only those afraid of change, hostile to progress and conservative to the bone on their settled ways of doing things fear and oppose it.

"What you are suggesting is something that could easily discourage creative endeavors."

Now, this is another level of argumentation, and luckily one on which scientific research could actually be made. It's the utilitarian approach to copyright. The idea is simply that, while as you argued it's quite difficult to measure how much work went into producing a specific piece of intellectual work, it isn't difficult to measure the aggregate production of intellectual works and correlate them with law protections. The idea is to change copyright duration and measure the effects of these changes in intellectual productivity. You'd know you're below the sweet spot at the point the output started to decrease, although in fact one could start measuring an increase as the lenght diminished due to increased prevalence of mashups and derivative works. In any case the duration after the experimenting period would remain adjustable, and governments would be able to keep adjusting it up and down so as to keep global society in maximum cultural production mode, thus benefiting the world at large.

Alas, evidently no one wants science to interfere with politics, passionate discourses and feelings of entitlement, so we're still decades if not centuries away from true scientific law making. Too bad.
Stefano S.
88. Rhyous
Fire Light by J. Abram Barneck is DRM free. He is an open source guy and also chooses to give the purchaser freedom over using DRM.

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