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Hachette is Holding Fast to DRM

April 1st, 2012 by · 5 Comments · DRM

Do you ever have one of those stories that doesn’t go anywhere near the simple cookie-cutter post? That’s what I have today.

There were a couple news stories last week on what Hachette thought of DRM, and at first glance it looks like 2 senior managers are contradicting each other. I was all set to point out the contradiction and point my finger and laugh, but as I read the statements a second and third time I realized that they were only slightly different. (I hate it when a simple and easy to write story turns complicated.)

The pair of statements came from the CEO of Hachette UK and the VP for Hachette Digital (here in the US). While they look to be contradictory (that’s how Laura Hazard Owen reported it last week), it would be more accurate to say that one is a more nuanced position on the topic than the other.

Maja Thomas was on a panel at OnCopyright a few days go where she said that DRM “doesn’t stop anyone from pirating. It just makes it more difficult, and anyone who wants a free copy of any of our books can go online now and get one. There’s a misconception that somehow the digital format of books has made piracy increase, or become logarithmically more serious. But piracy was always very easy to do, because scanning a physical copy of a book [takes] a matter of minutes. A physical book doesn’t have DRM on it.”

The opposing opinion comes from Tim Hely Hutchinson, the Group CEO of Hachette UK. He sent out a letter last week to authors and agents partnered with Hachette UK, The letter was long and covered many topics. Near the end there was a specific mention of DRM:

DRM and File-Sharing: DRM (Digital Rights Management encryption, on which we insist) divides opinion. Our view is that the advantages greatly outweigh any perceived disadvantages. While DRM cannot prevent file-sharing by the most determined pirates it can and does act as a brake on the casual sharing of files and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it works in the background without causing problems for anyone.

It would have been fun to write about a publisher who couldn’t get its story straight, but I cannot do that here.  The statements above (the parts in bold especially) read like 2 people were given the same talking points and elaborated on them in slightly different ways.

It’s a pity. I really wanted to write a story like Laura’s where I could at least hope that Hachette would drop DRM, but that’s just not supported by the facts.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

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