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Posted by Mathias Klang

On the one hand digital rights management (DRM) can be understood as the lock placed on the door to your house. It’s a piece of technology that prevents unauthorized access. Naturally if it were just this simple this would be the end of all discussion.

DRM really becomes interesting when placed in relation to copyrightable material. When buying copyrightable material (films, music, books etc) what we are really buying is the physical copy and the right to use that specific copy. This may not have been a consumer-related problem when copyright was born over 300 years ago but today we have ready access to make and spread copies of the copyrightable material we buy.

This is why many sellers have been experimenting with technical measure that allow buyers to use their products but without allowing them to copy or share them to others. This is why, when you buy a book from Amazon to read on your Kindle you are, presently, unable to make several copies of that file and give it to your friends. You may only read the copy.

However the technology also goes beyond these limitations and encroaches on rights buyers have previously had. In the case of Kindle books, my ability to lend books is severely limited and my ability to give away books I no longer want is non-existent, compared to my physical books. The DRM system prevents me from doing these things.

Therefore by implementing DRM systems for their books Amazon is changing the very concept of the book. They are already doing so by the very presence of their ebook reader. But by not enabling us to share or give away (among other things) our own books aren’t they actually redefining what a book truly is?

A major role for me in our project will be to explore the effects of technology on the concept of books, the book market and the readers. This is a fascinating subject and will surely entail longer and deeper discussions on the impact of DRM.