Saturday, August 16, 2008

BPN 1191 e-Books can not be secured

The music publishers and distributors know it in the meantime: DRM does not work. E-book publishers and distributors still believe in it. So they follow eagerly very development in the field of DRM. They know that DRM-0 stands for not secured; DRM-1 is password protected, while DRM-2 contains an individual name like an ex-libris. Now they are looking closely at DRM-3, which is considered to be a waterproof security and popular; the format Mobipocket is using DRM-3 security. The Dutch foundation Authors’ Domain, a non-profit backlist publisher for Dutch literature, has tested the DRM security and concluded what it knew already: e-books can not be secured and sealed. I translate their press release freely.

The foundation used a book with the permission of the author and secured it by DRM-3. The copy is made with SS-OCR software: a combination of a screenshot technology and optical character recognition (OCR) for text recognition. The program can be downloaded by anyone from internet and used for thirty days. The program is easy to use.

It was possible to make a copy, but it was different from the usual cracking of the code. The code was in fact circumvented, but the result w the same: in a few minutes a copy of a secured e-book was made, while every other copy of the not secured e-book took only a few seconds.

The copy which was used was in an eReader format fit for Palm devices. The format can also be used for Mobipocket books with the aid of a free reading program on all current devices. eReader is popular among authors as Word files need relatively little correction. Authors Domain presently secures e-books with DRM-2, but also this security can be cracked.

On the web illegal e-books are available, especially of bestsellers. These are photographic files of not processed text, which are difficult to distribute given their volume. The SS-OCR generates a small file of processible text. The new hole in the software can be fixed with a so-called screen protection. A first patch has been published already. Publisher can now wait for the next cracking of the code. A security race will be started again.

The Dutch foundation thinks that security eventually should come from the reader. So it has instituted a department to explain how an illegal copy can be recognised. Publishers, authors and rights holders will be informed. By signalling illegal copies, it hopes to prevent copying on a large scale. The department has invited the Dutch collecting society Literary Rights Authors (LIRA) to cooperate.

When I read this I remember the many statements of the recording industry association of America (RIAA) condeming illegal downloading and threatening with leal hell and doom. Did all those court cases really help? Not really. It was only when iTunes came around and showed that it had a service and device and fair prices that more people started to download legally. Publishers should be more pro-active and develop their own services.

Blog Posting Number: 1191

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