What the blind can do that you can’t: Crack DRMed e-books without risking jail
November 24, 2006 | 3:04 am
My buddy David Faucheux lost his eyesight decades ago but still managed to get a library science degree and start up a fine audio blog full of book reviews and commentary. Problem is, e-books tend to be useless to David. You know why: DRM—so often the enemy of text-to-speech readers for the blind.
Now this just might be about to change, with the Library of Congress letting blind people bypass DRM when “all existing ebook editions of the work” contain it. Read the nuances in a ruling from James Billington, Librarian of Congress.
So how long until Congress also allows us sighted folks to crack DRM for backup purposes or conversions into other formats? Imagine all the thousands of dollars people have invested in, say, DRMed Adobe books—only to see them useless on a Sony Reader or whatever is the proprietary format du jour. Obnoxious, proprietary DRM is one of the great hazards for the e-book industry, and those hazmat suits in the photo from a protest are entirely appropriate.
The new LOC decision also contained other DMCA exemptions in areas ranging from education to computer games, where obsolete formats abound. Notice that last one? Mightn’t the same concept apply someday to e-books? I hope so.