back to article Hackers break Amazon's Kindle DRM

Hackers from the US and Israel say they have broken copyright protections built in to Amazon's Kindle for PC, a feat that allows ebooks stored on the application to work with other devices. The hack began as an open challenge in this (translated) forum for participants to come up with a way to make ebooks published in Amazon's …

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  1. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Teaching Amazon

    Amazon should realise that determined people will always break DRM and that it was foolish to think otherwise.

    Companies and organisations with far deeper pockets than Amazons have learned the lesson: Amazon was just too arrogant to think it could do better.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @JaitcH

    As one of the engineers who worked on Kindle, I'd like to point out that most people at Amazon are pretty anti-DRM themselves - it's the PUBLISHERS who insisted on it, and we put in DRM so as to keep THEM happy, because without publishers, there are no books to sell. We knew full well that the device and DRM would be hacked eventually - the hope was that we could just stay ahead of them for long enough to prove the feasibility of selling books in this way to publishers.

    1. Mr Ian
      Thumb Up

      Ta for the input

      I like it when someone on the inside adds their 2c, and quite often it's exactly what you expected.

      The developers have no choice, you should blame those providing the content. The case with Apple may have been much like this, where the media companies forced Apple to DRM the files against Apple's wishes.

    2. Syd
      Thumb Up

      ComponentSource

      10 years ago, I worked on the e-commerce system at dev tools specialist ComponentSource, and it was exactly the same issue. The main reason we put the DRM on was because otherwise no one would give us a license to sell their stuff on-line.

    3. Mike Richards

      Thanks for confirming this

      I've spoken to a number of authors who have released eBook versions of their novels and each and every one of them is fed up with DRM being imposed by publishers. In a couple of cases they have said they will not be licensing stuff for eBooks in future because the DRM is so restrictive they can't market their material in certain countries.

      I guess the publishers and the movie industry are in the unenviable position of being more backward than the music business.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Clearly, most publishers don't get it.

      Some publishers, however, do. One example:

      http://www.baen.com/library/

    5. JaitcH
      Pint

      Useful feedback

      I realise it's early times yet but standardising on a couple of uniform formats with tough encryption wold be better but then we run into marketing.

      Of course publishers, controlling the content, could easily change things by dictating encryption and format. IMHO, as an potential overseas subscriber, Amazon in selling a disabled / crippled unit made a mistake as other units are full featured.

      Perhaps PGP offers a solution?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Very True

      The only solution (and I'm loathe to suggest it) is for the screen to be part of a tamper-proof cryptographic module. Therefore, the decryption key is only known to the screen and cannot be 'sniffed'.

      Of course, there's still the analogue hole....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        "tamper-proof" ?

        Any supposedly tamper-proof or copy-proof mechanism will eventually be tampered with or copied if someone is sufficiently interested. Even "tamper-evident" things are prone to being tampered with ....

        The issue is not weak or badly implemented cryptography, it's that if you give someone complete control over the whatever it is they can do anything at all with it. The obvious thing to do with a tamper-proof cryptographic module is to either ignore it (and work around it) or subvert it; that's always assuming its tamper-proof-ness is sufficiently difficult to work around.

        It's like ID cards: at least the Powers That Be have stopped saying that they're impossible to copy and have now reverted to saying that they're just difficult to copy (and alter).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Big Brother

          @AC "tamper-proof"?

          I was thinking of tamper-proof modules in the vein of the IBM 4758: any attempt to read the contents of its RAM causes immediate wiping of said RAM. Consequently, such a component could not be "worked around" or "subverted" as it would be part of the screen itself. The result being that only the "tamper-proof screen" would ever have access to the decryption key, and thus it would never be in the easily-accessible RAM of the e-Reader itself. But that kind of technology is prohibitively expensive for use in consumer devices (e.g. a single IBM 4758 cryptocard costs somewhere in the region of $5k-$10k).

          Even the rumoured Apple tablet won't cost that much....

    2. IceMage

      Exactly

      Encryption methods are normally used to keep a secret between two parties, and to thwart eavesdropping. DRM uses standard encryption methods to keep secrets between devices. However, everything needed to decrypt those secrets is available in a single point. As such, one this single point is compromised, the entire DRM method breaks down.

  4. Daemon ZOGG
    Pirate

    All DRM needs to be hacked...

    "a feat that allows ebooks stored on the application to work with other devices."

    This has always been the problem with portable proprietary mp3 / DVD players, eBook readers, mobile phones, etc. DRM either laced within the content or in the hardware itself. This has always cuased more problems for the user, than the pirates. In fact, it's usually the oustanding work of the pirates and hackers that SAVES THE USERS FROM THE NIGHTMARES caused by the proprietary manufactures and content providers in the first place. ;)

    ;p

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Tampering can be justified

      I would add the age old argument, what about when Kindle ( and others ) are long gone and your investment is tied up in device that is no longer supported and the manufacturer has long since denied interest.

      Why do so many people spent so much time decrypting the encryption on old arcade games, the owners are long since gone and the hardware is so rare and expensive, the only way to play them is to decrypt them roms and break the law.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Google Translate a little too good...

    Why one would translate an English blog through a Hebrew->English translator is beyond me... I thought Google was doing too good of a job there!

  6. SuperTim
    Thumb Up

    Just another avenue.

    Ebooks exist in multiple formats these days. They are downloadable on any torrent site and there doesnt seem to be any limitation on anything any more (apart from PS3 games, which still remain quite well protected).

    Seems that there are now only issues of whether it is justifiable to download something you already have a copy of (such as an ebook when you have the paperback).

    I know that many people have downloaded music that they already have the CD of, rather than ripping. Is that wrong? I dont see it myself, but then i would never do that myself, nosireebob.

    Anyway, back to reality. You buy a kindle book, crack it, port it to another device, and that stops google deleting it from your kindle (ala 1984).

    Nice one.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    DRM works, sometimes

    The only time DRM actually works is when the product is not popular and there is no market drive to hack the DRM. So for specialist software for a niche market DRM selling only to commercial companies, DRM probably works. The moment the product aims for the public, it's DRM is likely to be hacked because DRM becomes more of a hassle than a benefit.

  8. Apocalypse Later

    So Amazon, Apple, et al are lying...

    ...to the content producers, persuading them that their content can be protected by clever DRM when they know full well that it can't. Anything to get the content into the catalogue, and when the DRM is inevitably broken, A, A et al just throw up their hands and cry "Hackers!"

    Seems to me the content providers are fools, the middlemen are knaves, and only the hackers have honour, though in a petty-theft kind of way.

  9. Sooty

    presumably

    The wispernet means that they could completely change their drm system, give you a new firmware for it and then resend all of your books, with absolutely no interaction from yourself though.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Badgers

    I don't get it.

    I dislike DRM and have actively avoided purchasing any DRM-locked systems (I have been caught out a couple of times). I do not file share or provide copies to friends or sell the original and keep the copy. This seems, to me, to be the correct response. If nobody buys the DRM-ed sruff then the model will be seento fail.

    But why buy DRM-ed products with the express intention of breaking them. This is always going to involve some inconvenience as you enter an arm race with the 'owner' trying to re-establish control rather than just refusing to play.

    1. gareth 5
      Megaphone

      RE: I don't get it

      there are often reasons that you end up having to buy a drm-ed product mainly that it is only available in a drmed format

      for example if the ebook you are purchasing is only avaible from kindle with drm as the publisher has limited its availablity

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    OTOH

    Kindle content remained more secure longer than drone downlink video

    Merry Xmas.

    1. Simon_E

      @John Smith 19

      The drone downlink feed wasn't encrypted in the first place, so that's hardly a fair comparison.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Coat

        Sir

        Yeah, but the drone was a moving target :)

  12. Nomen Publicus
    FAIL

    Pointless game of hide and seek

    It's quite simple really. If you have a bit of stand-alone kit with DRM, there is already in that kit all the information you need to break the DRM. This is the reason why DRM gets cracked so quickly. The ONLY protection that exists is "security through obfuscation" and we all know how well that works!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On new for Kindle for PC

    This hack is new only in that it works with books downloaded to the new Kindle for PC application. It's been possible to remove the DRM from books downloaded to an actual Kindle, or the Kindle app on an iPod/iPhone for more than a year.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Kindle Schmindle

    I'm waiting for a decent ebook reader that runs on Linux and is powered by kitchen scraps!!

  15. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    I did not know that.

    "Texas Instruments has also been known to take action against customers who reverse engineer calculators."

    Thoses would be Polish notators I assume?

  16. adnim Silver badge

    Consumers must bare some of the blame

    for DRM and not for the obvious reason of piracy. It is the consumers who buy DRM products who support and encourage DRM.

    If one is not permitted to transfer legally purchased media amongst devices, I suggest not buying that manufacturers devices or published media, it really is as simple as that. If sales of proprietary DRM devices and protected media was practically zero, I wonder how long such DRM mechanisms would survive.

    Regardless of what the law might say, If I purchase some electronic media, be it a book, game, film or music I have the right to read, play or view that media on ANY device I have that is capable of rendering the data stream, not just the one that has the proprietary DRM mechanism.

    Proprietary DRM:Don't buy it, don't support it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      @adnim - Consumers must bare some

      I'll be honest. I bare mine all the time. Nobody seems impressed.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Nope

      Only HP (the real HP, not the current incarnation that sells overpriced ink and has the slogan that reminds them they should invent) made RPN calculators; TI didn't.

  17. tempemeaty
    Pint

    Mabye Amazon's execs need a visit from the IQ fairy...

    I don't use products with DRM in it in any way or manner. ( I wouldn't touch it if they gave it away for free) Why do anything that might propagate that DRM garbage, right?. -_^

    On the bright side it always gives the hackers something to do.

  18. Big Bear

    Gaming world DRM

    Thems gotta be the worst of them all - especially the SecureROM ones! I don't object to buying a game (usually preowned as I don't really worry about playing the latest and greatest as soon as they come out) but invariably end up with a dodgy cracked executable to play the damn thing without lugging disks all over the country.

    Not to mention they always make installing the damn game much, much more difficult, usually because I happen to have another, perfectly legal, bit of software on MY machine...

  19. Optimum

    DRM can work?

    For those people who claim DRM is doomed to fail, I would suggest that the DRM employed by Microsoft's in the XBOX 360 has been highly successful?

    1. asdf Silver badge
      FAIL

      wtf are you talking about

      You might have had a point if you picked out the PS3 but the XBOX 360 being able to play pirated games is most of the reason it outsold the PS3 IMHO. Sure you are only hacking the firmware on the DVD drive and homebrew software is still rare (a few software revs have been broken but quickly patched) but it has been broken. M$ only response is to ban a million of I am guessing some of their best paying DLC customers (honestly if publishers smart they release the games very cheaply and make up their revenue on DLC). Always good to choke off revenue streams to show them pesky pirates (worth noting that PS3 sales have beaten XBOX since the bans).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    I'd rather buy a real book

    With a real book, I can lend it to a friend, or sell it on ebay if I wanted to. I can even buy it second hand from a charity shop. Lets also not forget I can read it for free by going to my local library.

    Real books have so many benefits. The only benefits to DRM crippled e-books are you can carry thousands at once, and you can buy them while sat on the train. I suspect most people aren't that bothered by that.

    If only there was a way to ensure your friend gives the book back !

  21. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Poor market model

    One problem with ebooks is that the selling model is all wrong. I use an ereader as a way of carrying a lot of books around with me, for work or holiday. A lot of the books I have on the ereader I also have paper copies of. Given the choice, I would still prefer to read the physical copy than the electronic one. If I get an ebook from one of the free libraries and I enjoy it, chances are I will go out and buy the actual book.

    If I was marketing this, I would give three options for buying a book. 1) Buy the physical book only 2) Buy the ebook only for the SAME PRICE as the physical book, inclusive of discounts 3) Buy the physical book and get the ebook for an extra couple of dollars.

    If the other people who use the ereaders are like me, then option 3 is going to be the most popular option. Real book for reading at home, plus handy electronic travel option. At the moment I won't read any ebook I have to pay for because the cost is too high.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      I like your options 1 and 3

      but no. 2 ought to be "Buy the ebook only for CONSIDERABLY LESS than the physical book" since it's distribution costs are much lower and it would be a cheap way to get potential new customers to try your books. And this would still give a higher profit margin than on the physical book.

      I'm quite happy to own ebook-only copies of many books, since storing them is so much easier and my netbook makes reading them actually more convenient than physical books. (For a start, I don't have to hold the book up myself when in bed or on a chair, nor do I have to think much about the lighting conditions in the room).

      Oh, and "i♥cabbages"? What a great name for a hacker. None of this pretentious internet-tough-guy "Zero Cool" shit.

  22. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    DRM and Freetards

    DRM ultimately exists to protect against freetards; the people who would rather take for free than paying. In that sense - in the society we live in which is monetarily based - it is understandable and I would say acceptable in principle.

    The problem is that DRM is usually too restrictive, goes against what people believe are their rights; the right to have backups, the right to use with other media and readers or players, the right to share what they have bought and consider they own.

    Most people who bought a vinyl album and copied it to tape to preserve the album don't consider themselves freetards, most who rip CD's to play in-car or on their MP3 players don't see themselves as freetards, those who lend a CD or DVD to friends on a "you must see ( should buy ) this" basis don't see themselves as freetards -- That is really the right to have multiple copies providing only one is used at any time principle.

    There are however those who do want to take and to never pay.

    There has always been illegal / unauthorised copying and sharing and likely always will be. With technology changes that has become much easier; the having multiple copies but only one used at a time is harder to ensure or enforce.

    The question for those who are anti-DRM is whether they are against DRM per se or are against DRM because it is often too restrictive.

    If people accept those never intending to pay should not get a free run without sanction then what do they propose as a workable system which is fit for purpose to protect creator's and publisher's rights and revenues while granting reasonable rights to end-users ?

    Ultimately it may be that the best DRM is that which locks what you've bought to yourself as an individual with the right to transfer ownership of those rights. That more balances the 'do anything you want personally' with the content while preventing unlimited sharing.

    Of course, true freetards will never be happy with any system which prevents them getting something for nothing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What could possibly be wrong with that?

      "Ultimately it may be that the best DRM is that which locks what you've bought to yourself as an individual with the right to transfer ownership of those rights. That more balances the 'do anything you want personally' with the content while preventing unlimited sharing."

      Would this involve biometrics in some way? Or maybe ID cards. Or perhaps a purchased file could be linked to a user account and viewer software would need online verification every time it is used.

      In answer to your question: I am against DRM. DRM is per se too restrictive.

    2. heyrick Silver badge
      Stop

      About freetards

      There will always be people who think they can get everything for nothing. Even if in some alternate universe Amazon offered books for FREE with FREE postage (i.e. select what you want, click the big yellow button, it will arrive a couple of days later), some people will still not be happy. They will want more, in addition to ordering everything they already can even if they have no interest or intention of reading those books.

      DRM has been shown time and again to interfere with legitimate users while making things only slightly more difficult for freetards. I end up suffering the waste of processor time and energy to rip my DVDs (*MY* DVDs) to watch on the computer because Macrovision screws up my TV. I don't see why I should change my TV which works just fine for all the rubbish on satellite television just because a DVD publisher wants to implement a protection scheme that has been shown to be rendered useless by a fairly simple PIC circuit.

      To support DRM is akin to agreeing to ban knives to prevent stabbings. People who stab will simply use something else sharp, while the rest of us normal sane people will have to face trying to get through a tough steak with two forks. Not a pleasant prospect, I'm sure you'd agree.

    3. SirTainleyBarking
      Troll

      Same circular arguments we've had for years

      Remember "Home Taping is Killing music" ?

      I download the odd MP3 free. If I like it, I'll search out some more of the works of that artist, and if they aren't just a one hit wonder, I'll go someplace like Amazon and buy the CD. Ain't harming the Artist as far as I can see.

      Same with the compilations I made on cassette when i was a kid. They've now been replaced by proper CD's.

      All of these I will rip onto CD RW for use in the car, cos I'm not wrecking the original that I splashed out for.

      As for books, I can see the lure of e-readers for taking loads of paperbacks on holiday, but I much prefer the proper low tech hard copy.

      In all these cases, DRM just gets in the way and is a pain. The model posted elsewhere of buy a hard copy and get electronic for a token price is a good one. If authors are looking to get their product out, they have to think smart and market smart.

      DRM ain't smart. Its rather a waste of time UMHO

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Publisher's viewpoint

    I make my living writing and publishing books. People buy my books, that enables me to eat regularly. If my books were available on the internet for free, that would be the absolute END of my cash flow. This has already happened to me on one title - no one buys it any more, it is available everywhere for free. As a consequence, all my books are ink on paper - dead trees. Yes, you can still photocopy them, but not in mass, and it takes more than a click on a mouse to do it. I've investigated digital media, but it appears that if I produce my books in digital form, I'll very quickly be out of business. If there is no further reward to me for writing and publishing books, then I will have to do something else.

  24. Frank Thomas
    Go

    now I can get one!

    I had been waiting for this. now I can get a kindle! Amazon, Thank this hacker, as he has just given you a sale.

    1. Count Ludwig
      Pirate

      Cash cow market model

      You won't eat because you are using the bad (old) "cash cow" market model. Take a look at suggestions from @Poor market model above.

      Assume that your cusomers are not all freetards, most are prepared to pay, but that they will not pay for nothing - it has to cost you too.

      So think about how you can add value: a fridge magnet, a mug, access to the author, first dibs at the next book... this is your chance to get creative.

      And when you "get it" you will eat better than ever before.

      1. frank ly
        Stop

        A frigging fridge magnet ?!

        Who the heck buys a book because it comes with a free fridge magnet? Everybody's already got a coffee mug. I don't want to chat with the author. 'First dibs' at the next book? - what kind of sad sap would get a rush out of that, (and what if it's no good)?

        I want to read a good book and I'm willing to pay for that. (I'm also willing to freeload it if it's on the Torrents in a suitable form).

        Does anybody remember reading good books? Does anyone remember buying vinyl or CDs because they included a free fridge magnet?

    2. Lu

      @ Publisher's viewpoint

      "If my books were available on the internet for free, that would be the absolute END of my cash flow. This has already happened to me on one title - no one buys it any more, it is available everywhere for free"

      I disagree with your sentiment, as I can give an example of an author who gives away his work for free and still gets sales.

      Corey Doctorow, author of "Little Brother". The book's available online for free, under the Creative Commons license. You can also buy the hardcopy of the book in your normal bookshop.

      I read the online book. I then bought the hardcopy, simply because I thought he deserved my money.

      Hence, I know for a fact that you can sell books that are also available for free. And I know for a fact that they do get bought. How successful this model is, I don't know, but it made at least one sale, which is it's job.

      Maybe your book's not good enough? Maybe your marketing isn't good enough? Maybe you just haven't researched the alternative models and can't comment on how successful they actually might be?

      Regardless, e-books are here to stay, whether you like it or not. And as Apple discovered with iTunes, you can't keep them DRM'd for long (ironically, it was Amazon's own non-DRM mp3 store that was probably the final nail in that coffin.)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    audible.co.uk > .aa > CD > mp3... ta DA!

    I took advantage of the audible.co.uk £12 for 3 months for 3 audio books offer the other day, only to realise after having parted with money that you can't get a vanilla MP3 of the audio books... which kinda defeats the object as I wanted to listen to them going to and from work on my non-DRM MP3 player.

    However, it looks like you can burn the .aa audio books to CD... which I can then rip to MP3.

    http://audible-uk.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3720/

    So I've got to jump through some silly hoops to get an MP3 of something I've paid for and which they don't make readily available but can be obtained via a back-door. What a bunch of f***wits!

  26. Mectron

    It's time for the goverment to step in

    Since DRM, because of it's very nature, is ILLEGAL, the goverment need to stop in a Fine multi-billion every single company that sell DRM infected product.

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Linux

      DRM only illegal in US

      Due mainly to historical legacy reasons instead of political (tell me when US is not biz friendly to the point of the law openly being hostile to living breathing human) DRM is only largely illegal in the US due to the Fair Use provisions of copyright law (haha look how Congress extends copyright length to protect Mickey Mouse). As far as I understand the EU and especially Japan (who hate Fair Use and tend to ignore it the most) do not have this provision (at least allowing for personal backups).

  27. Scho
    Paris Hilton

    @Mectron

    Nice idea but Mandy will make DRM required on everything. I don't think the ageing spin doctor understands the basic concept of the internet with the policies he's coming out with what makes you think this would stop the draconian powers he's trying to get?

    If he doesn't get the concept that the government controlling the internet at a whim without adequete checks and balances (such as having to go through a court of law or parliament for approval) then what the hell do you think DRM would do!?

    Paris - As she'll be using SSL along with the rest of us soon....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah it not the Devs

    Devs are like reluctant messiahs, wandering the land making magical things happen, they are the Smurfs, Asrael and Gargamel are the baddies, and they change to match any numpty sticking their oar in matters they know little about, it is just sheer arrogance of the idiots.

  29. CN Hill

    I think this problem is going to be with us for some time ...

    Publisher' was right - once 'cracked' copies of best sellers are loose on the Internet, then sales will collapse. Analogies with CDs etc aren't quite right: I don't think many people would see a problem with ripping your own CDs. But if you then posted them on the Internet so that anyone could download them for free, that would be regarded, quite rightly, as being wrong.

    So with cracked 'ebooks'. If they're out there and easily available, why buy them?

    I can see why publishers have gone with DRM [and quite why this should be illegal, I have absolutely no idea], but in the long run, it won't work. And don't get patronising by saying 'Oh, they need a new business model. Sell fridge magnets.'

    Cory Doctorow makes a great play of saying, 'If they like my ebooks, people will go out and buy the real thing.' Maybe 5% will, if you're lucky.

    What's the answer? I have no idea, other than I think that in 10 years time, authors and composers will be shafted even more than they are at the moment.

    1. Count Ludwig
      Go

      Seems the fridge magnets have stuck...

      ...in a few people's minds, sorry if it was patronizing.

      But still think this discussion is actually about business models. Giving away freebies (bribery) is one - though it seems market research is needed.

      Now we agree that the model is doomed that goes: "you buy it, you sell it, you still got it (protected by DRM)". I claim it is a variant of the cash cow anti-pattern: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pattern

      And we agree that the compassion business model ("I then bought the hardcopy, simply because I thought he deserved my money.") is dubious.

      My point is there is a huge market for downloadable novels and there are many business models. I believe Publisher can find one that will feed him.

  30. Tony Paulazzo

    1984 vs 2009

    >Seems that there are now only issues of whether it is justifiable to download something you already have a copy of<

    I got ripped off. I owned the entire Bowie collection of LPs up to scary monsters, replaced a few when they got damaged, then re-bought most of them on CD, when the publisher should have sent me replacements as I'd already paid for the right to listen to them. Same with Bladerunner; video, dvd, directors cut, final cut, etc.

    Or is it a one way street?

    >I would give three options for buying a book. 1) Buy the physical book only 2) Buy the ebook only for the SAME PRICE as the physical book, inclusive of discounts 3) Buy the physical book and get the ebook for an extra couple of dollars.<

    IMHO: 2 options - physical version which would include the electronic version at full price, ebook at half price (no binding or manufacturing / shipping costs, saving trees etc).

    >Of course, true freetards will never be happy with any system which prevents them getting something for nothing.<

    And since this holy grail of protection still doesn't exist it kind'a makes drm a pointless exercise in extra cost and potential customer hostility, it's basically saying to their customers, we don't trust you. It certainly isn't stopping the 'freetards'.

  31. Martin Usher
    Stop

    The book analog hole is very large...

    Books are mostly quite short so its comparatively little effort to scan or manually enter copies. I've come across some early Pratchett titles, for example, that were turned into text, probably because those early books had started to fall apart.

    The problem is not authors getting paid. Its publishers who want to milk the cash cow for generation after generation. You only have to look at the standard literature that's studied by high-school students -- books that may have been great in their day but are starting to look dated or even mediocre that are sold year after year at premium prices to students. The argument about "renumerating authors" doesn't wash. The price is high because the publisher can get it, its a captive market, and part of that market is exploiting copyright.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Yarp..

      Witness the underreported dissapearance of the works of George orwell (even the essays) from most of the Gutenburgs, except the .au variant (which is irritatingly backward in its file format support, compared to "proper" Gutenburg sites). Copyright was re-asserted in the EU and USA, who have abusively long copyright spans.

      Everyone was screaming about Amazon removing 1984 from some spotty American kid's kindle, and they somehow failed to notice the real story, which was far more of a loss to far more people.

      You can still get the stuff from the aussie site- I'm tempted to roll them back into epub files and seed them as a torrent. People deserve a chance to read gems like the excellent fifty essays compilation in their e-reader of choice during dull journeys.

      (I discovered that Standza made reading books on my iPod touch far less rough on the eyes than you'd expect..)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    DRM = uber-fail

    I won't touch ANYTHING that resembles DRM encoding/deactivating = lost sales.

    It's a fail-o-rama.

  33. CN Hill

    You delude yourself, Mr Usher

    "The problem is not authors getting paid. Its publishers who want to milk the cash cow for generation after generation."

    True, the extension of copyright on old books is dubious, but that has nothing at all to do with DRM.

    If ebooks can be freely copied, then Doctorow or no [I read the ebook, certainly wouldn't buy the hardcopy], people will do it, and though you might rage at those publishers who 'rip everyone off', no publishers = no books.

    Authors get peanuts anyway, and unfortunately 5% of peanuts is penury.

  34. Big Bear

    @Publisher's viewpoint @A friggin' fridge magnet

    In David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series of space opera (yes, a copy of Forester's "Horatio Hornblower" but set in space), the hardback copies of each book come with a CD with the complete series in ebook format, and several chapters of all of the books are available to read on the website of the publsher, Baen. This gives an incentive to spend the significantly larger amount of money for buying the hardback book as compared to the paperback, and I actually enjoy the series so much that I have paper copies of all of them, as well as ebook copies...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for communisim?

    Writers write regardless. Why not put them on assistance and make there works freely available.

    Kind of like university professors.

    1. John Dougald McCallum

      Communism?

      most authors are too independent of thought for that system.writers write in order to perhaps come up with that best seller that they all dream of but sadly most never write,they are doomed to forever write those advertisement strap lines that "we" all love so much. as for DRM meh I can live with it as I buy physical books when I can.The trouble that I find is that an author will some times be dropped by their UK pulisher and only available from the good ol USA. Bollocks!!!!!!!!!!!!Now that I have that out of my system,who will decide on the level of assistance?At least in the example that you use a Proffesor,you do realise that profesors have at least reached a level of competance in their chosen subject and make far more than most authors.By the way who pays this allowance the gubment? don't majke me laugh.

    2. I didn't do IT.
      Pirate

      They already have this...

      ... it's called having a publisher.

      Most authors do not have the "freedom" to write what they want. They are constantly - CONSTANTLY - hounded to write what the publisher's think will be the "next big thing", whether it be fiction about vampires, or werewolves, or space murders or what have you. Most authors are tied to thier deadlines and obligations to the publisher if they want to see that check in the mail.

      Oddly, I know several that even getting welfare would be a "raise" in pay compared to the publishers stipend - and one of them is getting to be pretty dam popular...

  36. raving angry loony

    going to hell

    The current copyright system is going the way of the London Company of Stationers anyway, with 300 years of copyRIGHT getting flushed down the tubes. We've gone from "reasonable" copyright terms then addition to the public domain all the way to permanent copyright (100 years + whatever Disney can lobby for is, effectively, permanent. Especially when you factor in DRM), no ownership of works except by the publishers (such as "works for hire", a contract bit that's sneaking in more and more to author contracts and into the legislation itself), no more additions to the public domain (since 1923 in many cases thankyouverymuchyoubastards), and even a REDUCTION of the public domain as countries increase their copyright terms under US pressure to do so (again, thanks Disney for trying to "protect" a mouse that you fucking stole in the first place!).

    An author does not need 100 years of copyright in order to be motivated to write more. Only certain scummy corporations whose entire early history was based solely on copying others are greedy enough and rich enough to shove that down everyones throats. Certain stolen mouse + Buster Keaton scripts comes to mind, or even re-copyrighting fairy tales that are LONG out of copyright, just like the London Company of Stationers could "own" the Aeneid. Fox Films and 20th Century also apparently had some issues, although I can no longer find the references.

    As far as I'm concerned, breaking DRM and "violating" copyright has become a matter of civil disobedience to a system that's been completely turned around from system of copyRIGHT that protected authors and the public to a system of copySCREWYOU that only protects the wannabe inheritors of the London Company of Stationers.

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Another fail for security by obscurity

    The phrase "reverse engineerd the encryption algorith" is the clue.

    If the algorith is public domain already no RE is needed. The security is provided by the inhearent strength of the algorith. But then it's down to the implementors to implement it properly and manage their keys in a secure way.

    It would seem that is a bit difficult for some of them to manage.

  38. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Pint

    Return to the status quo ante...

    @CN Hill

    "...I can see why publishers have gone with DRM [and quite why this should be illegal, I have absolutely no idea], but in the long run, it won't work. ...

    What's the answer? I have no idea, other than I think that in 10 years time, authors and composers will be shafted even more than they are at the moment..."

    Long ago, authors wrote and artists painted and musicians sang. They do NOT do this to earn a living. They do this because they want to - because they have a skill that they need to exercise. There is no shortage of artists or authors or musicians. There will always be a shortage of good ones, but there is no way to improve this.

    Creative types who are driven to create used to get shafted. Van Gogh is a good example. Generally, they scraped a precarious living or got a rich patron. Then came mass marketing, and suddenly creative types could earn a living wage. However, the ones who got very rich were not the creative types (save for a select few). The rich people in the creative business are the marketing companies. Most creative types still just scrape by - the music industry is a good example.

    Now the creative industry is suffering because its practice of limiting access to art (in it's widest sense) is being undermined by technology. The publishing houses cry crocodile tears for the artists, who they had been shafting before. It is interesting to note that few artists are calling for copyright extensions - it's the publishing houses, usually on behalf of artists who are conveniently dead.

    The best thing that could happen is that the publishing industry middle-men will go out of business. They have lost their business model, and I can see no reason for them to continue to exist. The new technology allows artists to address their public directly, and cut whatever deal they wish. They may not earn a lot, but they will be being shafted less...

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