The Los Angeles Times reports that Apple will give publishers the option to wrap up their digital e-book offerings with fairplay DRM, the same technology Apple once used to envelop their musical content.
No doubt some publishers, including O’Reilly Media — which has vociferously argued that digital locks are harmful to sales — will opt not to deploy FairPlay. (O’Reilly, which puts out technical books, was not on the list of five publishers during Apple’s announcement of the iPad, but is discussing a deal with Apple.)
But the majority of publishers are expected to embrace FairPlay, along with other copy protection software such as Adobe’s Content Server 4, as a means to squelch incipient book piracy as the e-book market begins to take off.
DRM on iTunes, which was first implemented by Apple at the behest of record labels in an attempt to thwart music piracy, was never popular with consumers and was even the subject of legal investigations in Europe. Apple was finally able to do away with DRM on iTunes in mid-2009 by finally acquiescing to record label demands to institute tiered pricing for music. Still, movies and television shows on iTunes remain shrouded in DRM.
So will DRM on Apple’s upcoming iBooks marketplace create a storm of controversy? Probably not. As opposed to music, people aren’t really keen on transferring e-book content from device to device. And given that DRM decisions will be completely optional on a publisher by publisher basis, if not on a title by title basis, I imagine most people won’t even notice that they’re back in the throes of DRM.