Author Steven Lake

Copyright and My Thoughts on DRM
Sunday, November 1st, 2020 8:39am
Keywords: Books, Publishing, Writing, DRM, Copyright, Control, Money, Success, Joy

Recently, within the last few days, something popped up on my radar that was both a bit of a surprise, and a disappointment at well that things like this still exist and occur.  What was this monumental event that occurred?  Namely the taking down of the development archive for one of my favorite Youtube applications I use for offline viewing, a program called youtube-dl.  So what's so special about this app?  Well, for those of you who have slow connections, or those of you, like me, who can't just crack open a browser and watch whatever I want, whenever I want, you understand the value of downloading and watching a video later, usually via a better media player (ie, VLC, SMplayer, etc) than the web video player most sites offer.  Even youtube's media player is complete and total crap compared to on system media players offerings.

So, the solution is to download the video, watch it later, then delete it.  This isn't people running around being pirates, and making money off of stuff they download.  This is normal people like you and me trying to find solutions to problems created by the very people who are trying to put us all into a digital gulag via which they can milk and bilk us for gobtons of money.  That's why I hate the way the media companies offer us their wares.  It's like being locked in a concentration camp just so we can get three hots and a cot.  It's more or less the same thing, but in digital form.  But that's not the primary purpose of my rant here.  Yes, I'm expressing disappointment with the way the media is operating their copyright and DRM mega machine.  However, that is meant to be a segway into my main topic.  Namely DRM.

Ever since the dawn of the digital age, DRM or digital restrictions in one form or another has plagued us like a cancer, and in my humble opinion, ruined what would otherwise be very enjoyable, fun, and entertaining digital experiences.  In short, DRM has turned the 99% of us into slaves in order to stop the 1% who are thieves.  And I'm not talking about people who want freedom to view thier legally purchased songs, videos, books, etc on any device, or in any location they desire.  That's human nature, and that's the reality of today.  The thieves are out to steal the hard work of others, and profit greatly off of it.  So, in order to stop the 1%, the media industry has decided to treat the remaining 99% as thieves and criminals, locking down everything they touch with oppressive DRM.  Thankfully, I'm not one of those guys.

I am very firmly anti-DRM.  Almost militantly so.  Now, being a published author, you might look at me and say, "Isn't that cutting off your nose, to spite your face?"  Not really.  I have a lot more respect for my readers than most people give me credit for.  I've been made the bloodied victim of the horrors of DRM countless times over, and I absolutely WILL NOT force that on my readers.  I will refuse to publish my books anywhere, or even everywhere if need be, if DRM is required in any way, shape or form.  Amazon is likely my only exception, but that's only because people demanded I post my books there, knowing the place was rife with oppressive DRM and anti-media practices and policies.  So not my call, and if I had my way, not my desire either.  Were it not for people demanding I publish on Amazon, I'd literally have absolutely NOTHING to do with them.

But what about the thieves and the people who will steal my books and profit from them?  Well, having been in technology and writing for as long as I have, I've learned several important things.

1.  Thieves will be thieves.  You can't stop them.  The better mouse/better mousetrap nonsense, at least in the digital media realm, does more to harm the innocent than it does to stop the guilty.  So why should I throw you in a digital jail cell for the crimes of someone else who I'm almost 100% guarenteed not to stop?  I mean, as soon as I put something out in the digital realm, I have to understand and realize that thieves, and unscrupulous, greedy people will steal it, no matter what I do, and will try their best to profit off of it.  And no matter how good the DRM is that I might employ to try and stop them, ultimately it's a futile effort.  So why hurt you for something I can't achieve?  It honestly makes no sense.  That's one of the biggest reasons I don't do it.

2.  If people have to steal my books to read them, then I'm doing something wrong.  It means either my book isn't worth the price, or it's priced too high, too hard to get ahold of, not in the right format, etc, etc, etc.  In short, if you have to steal my book in order to get a copy to read, then I'M the one who is doing something wrong, and not you.  And I don't just say that as a matter of personal opinion.  This fact has been proven all across the internet over the past nearly 30 some odd years.  If it requires theft on your part to get what you need or want from me, then I need to step up to the plate and correct that.  This is something the media industry as a whole hasn't figured out yet.  DRM isn't and wouldn't be needed if they'd just give people what they wanted.  But, alas, all they see is dollars and cash cows to be milked.  Namely, you.  I, myself, see all of you as readers.  Big difference.  You're not a cash cow to me.  You're not here to be milked for money.  I hold each of you in great respect and value.

So why do I charge for my books if I'm not here to milk all of you for money?  Um, have you ever seen what it costs to print a book?  Or do book covers?  Or get proper editing done?  Or do marketing?  Or Audiobooks?  (OMG, those are stupidly expensive!)  Etc, etc, etc.  Writing isn't cheap.  I try to transmit only my costs to you through the price of the books, but even then my sales don't necessarily cover all my costs.  So, in the end, the small cover price for each book that you're paying is only a tiny fraction of what I pour into my books when I create them.  The hours, the months, the hard work, the creativity, all of it.  A writer, or really any artist out there, regardless of medium or genre/type, who's doing the right thing, and creating quality work, will have fans that will stand behind them, support them, and gladly pay whatever small fee is asked to cover the costs of what they do.

My writing is no my bread and butter.  Writing is a fun, paid hobby that I do to both entertain myself, and entertain you.  I write stories to make you smile, make you cry, make you laugh, make you love, make you curious, or even jealous, perhaps even become excited, depressed (yes, there's actually value in doing that sometimes, lol), live an exciting, magical life through the eyes of another, one that you can't live yourself, and even travel to far away places, detatched from the sometimes horrible reality of real life, to escape, to go places you can't go, and so much more.  My books serve a beneficial, useful purpose to my readers, by bringing enjoyment into their lives, and I absolutely WILL NOT enslave you through DRM, or anything similar, simply to protect my works.  My books either speak for themselves, or they don't speak at all.  Period.

I mean, if my books are such that someone needs to steal them just to have the opportunity to enjoy them, then I'm doing it wrong, as I stated before.  I'm firmly against DRM, and I stand by that belief.  But what if I suddenly become a NYT best seller and I'm crushing 100k book sales a month?  Will I change my mind and start locking down my books with DRM?  Pfft, not on your life, and you can take that to the bank.  I will never do that, Amazon being the exception for the moment.  But, were I to have my way, and enough clout to do it, I'd tell them to take their DRM and go pound sand.  IE, either take it off my books and sell them openly without it, or I'm leaving.  Right now, I don't have that kinda clout, and my readers are demanding that I sell through Amazon, on top of the other locations that I presently offer my books.  So, to make everyone happy, I offer them there.

But it's certainly not because I wanted to.  I did it to make you guys happy, those of you who do everything through Amazon and won't patronize anyone else because it's too inconvienient.  Yes, that's meant as sarcasm.  Seriously, ditch Amazon.  They're making you into a slave, and getting rich off of you in the process.  But, anyhow, enough with that rant.  To bring this back around to my original point, I will NEVER, EVER, so long as I live, support DRM, nor require it on ANY of my books, unless my hand is forced in that direction, such as with Amazon.  But, believe me, I will fight that tooth and nail for as long as I'm able.  DRM sucks, and should be avoided, fought against, and banned by any means necessary, because, if your product can't stand on its own without oppressive content controls like DRM, then you need to either fix that, or do something else. 

There are countless artists out there who have proven you don't need DRM to be successful, so people need to stop using it, and stop being freaking copyright and DRM trolls.  Stop worrying about your bottom line and start putting your fans, readers, viewers and others first, and you'll see greater success than you've ever seen before.  It's not about the money.  It's about the journey.  Start learning that if you're a content creator.  Happy fans are loyal fans, and loyal fans will always take care of you, no matter what.  Money never will.  It'll always fail you, being here one moment, and gone like a whisp in the wind the next.  That's one of the main reasons I don't care if I get rich from my books.  I'm here to entertain and be entertained.  I'm definitately not here for the money, because if I was, I'd have quit LONG ago.

Yet here I sit with 21 finished books, 3 in the pipe, and another 25+ in my todo pile that I want to complete before I retire.  And I've made less off of them than what it cost to produce them.  Significantly less.  So if I'm in this to make money, I'm in the wrong line of work. :)  So read my books, buy them if you can, and if you can't, feel free to ask for a free copy.  I'm more than happy to provide them if you want a copy, but can't afford it.  Just let me know.  I'm pretty easy going when it comes to the books I write.  And, if you like what you see, and wanna help out with my publishing costs, like I said, either buy a copy, or toss me some money as a gift.  Either works, but isn't required.  I leave that up to you. :)

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