Thursday, January 10, 2013

DRM is stupid

Read this and started thinking...

DRM is just a pain in the ass. It really is. Pirates can strip DRM out of a PDF in mere seconds; it's really nothing more than a slight impediment to them. But DRM provides legit PDF readers even more hoops to jump through than is necessary. I've experienced issues with DRM-protcted PDFs I purchased and it pissed me off. Basically, I was being punished for buying something. For instance, I have a ton of PDFs on my iPad now; one of the PDFs I tried to copy over had some weird DRM scheme that made it impossible to view. Punish me for being legit, I appreciate it. If you're a publisher and you think DRM protects your content, you're essentially a fucking idiot. To reiterate, anyone who wants to steal your work is going to steal it and anyone who is going to pay you will pay.

I know I talked about this in a post a while back, but when Eclipse Phase was first published, the company released a free PDF using a sort of shareware model: pay if you like it. I read the PDF and ended up buying the book. If I hadn't liked the PDF, I would not have paid a dime for it, but I also probably wouldn't have deleted it, either. Is that stealing? Publishers would say yes, of course it is. I'd tend to say no, simply because at some point I might look at the PDF again, decide I changed my mind about it, and send them money. When Doom was first released, you could play the first couple levels for free, it cost money to play more. Even with rampant piracy Doom became one of the most popular, financially successful games ever. Did plenty of people steal Doom? Yep. And 90% of those people probably couldn't afford to pay for it even if they had wished. That's the reality of the situation: most people do not have infinite disposable income. Something has to be really good for them to pay for it, and even then they might never pay for it.

Electronic goods have the one advantage of being distributable forever, without any additional cost. Suppose you want to write a book and sell it in PDF form. If it's an rpg, you're most likely going to sell a few thousand copies. At most. But you can sell those for 10 years, and the cost to do so is negligible. It doesn't cost anything to keep it "in print", you're not getting tied up with publishers and distributors, etc. Out of pocket expenses are however much time and effort it took to produce the book. If you're using Kickstarter, like a lot of people are doing now, those costs are paid upfront. So why fuck with DRM? You're just limiting your audience. If I can't give my buddy a copy of the PDF so he can take a look at it without buying it, you've effectively lost a potential sale. I've already paid you the $10 and my buddy would NEVER pay the $10 because he doesn't care. But hey, maybe I told him the game is cool and to take a look anyway. I email him a copy, he decides it sucks, whatever, you gain nothing...but don't lose anything, either. It's possible he does like it and doesn't pay for it anyway. So what? Maybe whenever you have a new idea he's the first in line to fund the Kickstarter or pre-order. DRM will just limit the audience by making it impossible to freely loan out works like you can with physical books. The idea that keeping a copy of the PDF without paying for it is stealing is essentially claiming that shitty ideas have value to everyone.

I'm not advocating people stealing PDFs and ideas, but trying to equate a physical copy of a book with a PDF is asinine. If I buy a book and it sucks balls, at least I can recover some of my money on the used book market. What recourse is there with a PDF? Good luck trying to get a refund on a PDF...the implicit argument is that, since it's electronic, there is no way to know if I'm going to delete it or not. So basically, Mr. Customer, fuck you. Even with DRM stuff. When BRP was released in PDF I accidentally bought two copies. I asked for a refund of one of those copies. Chaosium pretty much ignored around four inquires before I got pissed and called American Express to have them credit my card. Needless to say, I haven't bought another PDF from Chaosium since. Why should I? If I had accidentally ordered two physical books, I could have sold one of them on ebay, or sent it back for a refund. Why was the PDF so problematic?

Drivethrurpg puts an order number and name on the bottom of every PDF you buy. A watermark. It's the most irritating fucking thing I have experienced. I don't want to see that crap, especially not when I print it out. Why put that on there? What purpose does it serve besides pissing me off? I've edited every PDF I ever bought from drivethru and removed that shit. Uh oh, look at me! I'm violating DRM! Yeah well don't put it on there in the first place. There have been several times I did not buy a PDF off the website simply because I knew I'd have to deal with that watermark nonsense. Lost a sale.

This is mostly rambling nonsense, but I don't feel like editing it, so I won't. Fuck PDFs and fuck DRM.

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