09 May 2012

Packaged Digital Rights Messaging

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…” is how Matteo Berlucci, President of Anobii, opened his address to publishers at Digital Book World this past January in New York. He was talking about Digital Rights Management, (DRM).

Mr. Berlucci's presentation was compelling as he urged publishers to drop strict DRM and embrace a social DRM or watermarking style of rights management. This announcement, coming from the president of a book company owned by three of the world’s largest book publishers, certainly caused a stir.

It generated a lot of discussion as well; not too dissimilar to the conversations I was having with publishers since introducing the concept of the retail ebook card system we are poised to launch soon.

To market to a mass customer base as we will be doing, our system needed to distribute ebooks for use across all platforms, and this included a platform-neutral watermarking solution. So, this is what we've been developing for the past 18 months - a method to protect content while distributing to all platforms, we began with social DRM and watermarking.

Publishers that drop strict DRM typically do so in favour of social DRM or watermarking, which promises to open up the ebook business to more consumers, allowing publishers to sell ebooks across all ebook reader platforms. 

The State of the Industry

Currently, social DRM works by inserting a consumer’s information into the epub or mobi file, usually without the user’s knowledge.

In the case of watermarking, when a consumer’s information is inserted into an ebook, it is visible to the reader. 

The premise is that the consumer will not share or copy the ebook because their information is embedded into the file they purchased, it is supposed to act as a deterrent. It also makes it possible for publishers to trace and catch people who distribute the ebook unlawfully.

I believe that this is only part of the solution.

The current use of social DRM and watermarking makes huge assumptions. It assumes that because the consumer’s information is in the file, visible or not, that the consumer knows that copying and sharing the file is copyright prohibited. It also assumes that the consumer has actually read the mandatory “terms and conditions” prior to entering into a clickwrap agreement with the seller.

Realistically, most people do not read the “terms and conditions” and simply scroll to the bottom to hit “agree” in order to access their purchased content. That's fine, it's still a binding contract though. And, binding or not, sellers haven't effectively communicated the rights messaging to the reader. 

In an effort to better the current model, the team at Enthrill has come up with a rather simple option that makes social DRM and watermarking more effective by ‘packaging’ Digital Rights Messaging in a visible manner that is comprehensive to readers while offering publishers with a level of security.

We felt that treating readers with respect by offering clear communication about the terms in which they are bound to was imperative to this option being effective. Understanding their responsibility in the stewardship of the book file they have purchased overcomes this huge assumption that previous versions of watermarking make.

So, now it's time to talk about the elephant in the book...

Tomorrow, we will announce the PACKAged Digital Rights Messaging solution or PackaDRM™ as another one of Enthrill's groundbreaking advances in digital publishing.

PackaDRM™ combines social DRM and watermarking to insert information that identifies the consumer visibly and invisibly into the file they have purchased. This is done for two reasons, neither of which are obtrusive to the consumer experience.

First, the seldom-read “terms and conditions” are reiterated at the front and back of the ebook to remind the consumer that they have purchased the ebook solely for their own use. Second, this method can track errant copies of ebooks back to malicious users and provide the basis for prosecution.

Using PackaDRM™ will help to ensure that readers never forget their obligation to preserve content ownership... we are promoting responsible stewardship and believe that type of communication is integral.

I am excited about this advance and I believe this is the best approach for a platform-neutral marketplace. It's not going to change any one's mind on DRM but for those publishers that choose social DRM or watermarking, PackaDRM™ is the best way to do it.

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