On DRM and Why I Don’t Use It

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For many people, the presence of DRM on a book or music file probably isn’t a determining factor in why they purchase it. If it were, there would be a lot less of it out there. As an author, I was given a choice about putting DRM on my writing. I chose a big “no”, because I disagree with DRM at every level. Here’s my reasoning:

DRM supposedly makes piracy more difficult or even impossible, thus resulting in higher sales.

This is false from the start. Ever since the VHS the content industry has tried to prevent copying. It has never worked. Nothing has actually put a dent in “piracy”. Unauthorized reproductions still exist and always will. It’s a given. There is also no evidence that “pirates” would pay for the content anyway. There’s no proof these are lost sales. If you go to any torrent site, you can find all sorts of media — most of which were “protected” by DRM. There’s nothing gained by DRM, at all — so there’s no reason to use it. But are there reasons not to?

In a word, YES.

As a consumer I know DRM sucks. Something goes wrong, and I end up wishing I had pirated the damn thing because then at least I could use what I paid for, the way I intended to when I paid. Each time this has happened, I’ve been more hesitant to buy from that company again. In the end, DRM stops nothing, and only inconveniences legitimate customers — and potentially drives them toward piracy. Because, after all, if they don’t respect you as a customer, why should you respect them? My time isn’t free. Time fighting with broken DRM, or worse, trying to recover media which requires a remote service which is no longer in use… that’s time I could be doing things I enjoy. I don’t enjoy fighting with paranoid algorithms.

In a perfect world, everyone who reads my work would buy my work. Not because I am greedy, but because I put a lot into writing, and my wife puts a lot into editing it. The more I make writing, the more I can make time for writing — eventually, maybe even doing it full time — and then I can make (and sell) more. For me, a buy is a great thing. If the choice is “they buy and read” or “they don’t buy, and read” I’d prefer the first. But if the choice is “they don’t buy, and read” or “they don’t read” — well, to be honest, I’d rather the former there, too. I’d rather be read than not, even if I don’t get paid. I’d hope, though, that if my stuff is worth reading (which takes considerably more time than the time it would take to earn $0.99), that someone would kick some pennies my way. But if not, hey, maybe they’ll at least let me know what they thought, or tell others, or like it enough to buy something else I’m peddling.

If someone does decide to buy my work, I certainly don’t want to burden them with crap technology that’ll make it harder for them to enjoy it. What kind of customer outreach is that? “Oh hi, thanks for your money, here’s a royal pain in your behind. Enjoy!”

No thanks. I don’t use DRM, and I never will.