Dracula_1958_cThe Electronic Frontier Foundation is preparing a petition to a government agency, and is asking for DRM horror stories to help it make its case. In particular, it’s looking for cases where someone in the USA bought something that had digital rights management on it, the DRM was not or inadequately disclosed, and it caused problems down the road.

Maybe you bought an ebook thinking you could use it on a rival ebook reader, or a game that you thought you could play on a friend’s console, or a movie you thought you could take with you overseas, or a device you thought you could get repaired by a business of your choosing, only to discover that you had bought something with DRM that prohibited something you reasonably expected you’d be able to do.

It has a form for people who are willing to go on the record with their stories to fill out. Bear in mind that this is on-the-record, and it asks for your name, so it would probably be best not to admit to doing anything illegal, like cracking the DRM that caused you so much trouble. Nonetheless, I’m tempted to say a thing or two myself.

I’ve been bitten by DRM a time or two. The Liaden books I bought from Embiid, for example, or all the books I bought at eReader and Fictionwise that Barnes & Noble couldn’t transfer over. (And I want to say a little more about that in a separate post, in fact. Watch for it.) And there are a lot of people in the UK who are being bitten by that problem right now, thanks to Barnes & Noble killing the Nook store over there, though of course the EFF is only looking for USA stories for its petition.

The one thing that gives me pause is that the EFF is looking for stories where the DRM was either not or inadequately disclosed. It’s been so long since I started buying e-books (in 1998!) that I don’t really know anymore, but I’m honestly not sure I ever didn’t know there was DRM on the e-books I bought. I’m tech-savvy and Internet-crazy enough that I would have found that out from the very beginning. It’s just that I wanted to read them, so I bought them anyway.

But again, I have to remember that I’m far from the average e-book consumer. The average e-book consumer wasn’t an early adopter, doesn’t think about stuff like this, and invests heavily in the Kindle because it’s push-button simple. Maybe some average e-book consumers do feel they’ve been taken unaware by DRM. (Though I still suspect the vast majority simply don’t care, because they’re happy in Amazon’s ecosystem.)

In any event, if you’ve got an American DRM horror story and feel like sharing, go fill out the EFF’s contact form. And if you feel like saying something about it here, too, we’ll be interested to hear it!

(Found via BoingBoing.)


  1. My own DRM horror story goes like this: I was developing a Java ME game at a former employer, and it turned out that my own phone (a Nokia E51) wouldn’t let me share our own software internally, among the company’s own employees, for testing purposes. We had to use all kinds of alternate methods, none of them remotely as convenient as Bluetooth.

    It was blatantly an anti-piracy measure, and just as blatantly it was restricting our own rights in our own software instead of, you know, “preventing piracy”, something our own circumvention measures showed to be impossible. But that’s what happens when you entrust a dumb machine with a job that requires a discerning mind.

    And of course this anti-feature was never mentioned in the phone manual. Because, isn’t it, why tell people what they’re shelling $$$ for?

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