DRM, or digital rights management, isn’t well-liked among consumers. More often than not, it punishes legitimate consumers while doing nothing to stop piracy. Most legacy content industries still insist that DRM is needed to stop piracy, but is it really needed?
Last year, Tor Books UK went completely DRM free. At the time, the publisher said that it was removing DRM from its e-books because it was a “constant annoyance” to its customers. It also said that DRM prevented customers “from using legitimately purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving the from one kind of e-reader to another.”
It’s been a year since Tor Books removed DRM from its products. Did the publisher suddenly see a sharp increase in piracy? Is the company finding that its business is failing because of its move? Will publishers that still insist on DRM look at them and say “Told you so” while sporting a malicious grin?
In all actuality, none of the above occurred as removing DRM has had no discernable effect on the publisher. Tor UK’s Editorial Director Julie Crisp said just as much in a blog post this week:
As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.
Crisp never outright says that sales increased when Tor UK removed DRM, but she does say that it has endeared readers and authors to the publisher:
The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern—and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community.
Of course, some publishers will argue that Tor’s experience with ditching DRM is the exception. They’ll argue that DRM is necessary to stop piracy, but we already know that DRM does nothing to stop piracy. Instead, in the words of Charles Stross, DRM is a “monopoly” that reduces readers’ freedom while hampering competition.
Even with Tor’s evidence, DRM will still be used for many years to come. Legacy industries refuse to even entertain the idea that DRM may be negatively affecting legitimate customers opting instead to continue beating the anti-piracy war drums.