Via Boing Boing, Wired, and a wise tipster comes this information, which will make the day of anyone who hates DRM on audio material: Random House will cease “the use of digital rights management on all of its audiobooks going forward, unless the author wants to keep using it for some reason, or if the file is already being distributed through a partner that uses DRM (namely, OverDrive and NetLibrary).”
Seems Random House, in a fit of unfettered wisdom, ran a DRM-free audiobook distribution program online and found that “none of the pirate editions of their audiobooks online came from those DRM-free editions.” All the pirated versions they found were from DRM-editions that had been cracked, stripped of their protection, or ripped from CD. To quote Cory Doctorow, “DUH.”
In a letter posted on Wired’s blog yesterday, Random House explained the full rationale behind their decision to allow their audiobooks into the world without DRM protection (and let’s face it: DRM protection is like your average historical romance heroine wearing her pelisse in a thunderstorm: woefully inadequate) and came out publicly with the following statement that literally made my jaw hang open:
For tracking purposes, we watermarked all of the eMusic files and then hired a piracy watchdog service to monitor and report back to us if any of our titles appeared on the major filesharing networks. We tracked a mix of popular titles, including some that were not available through eMusic. Because piracy is already a fact of life in the digital world, what we were interested in finding out was not whether piracy exists, but rather whether there is any correlation between DRM-free distribution and an increased incidence of piracy.
The results: we have not yet found a single instance of the eMusic watermarked titles being distributed illegally. We did find many copies of audiobook files available for free, but they did not originate from the eMusic test, but rather from copied CDs or from files whose DRM was hacked. It is worth noting that these results are entirely consistent with what the music industry has found in the last six months. After conducting their own tests with Amazon, Walmart.com and others, the major labels have reached the conclusion that MP3 distribution does not in itself lead to increased piracy….
While Random House plans to release all audiobooks in mp3 format, they will not be “any less vigilant in guarding the security of our content” and will allow any author who isn’t comfortable distributing his or her content without protection to continue to release DRM-protected audiobook material.”
To quote Captain Feathersword: “Well, blow me down!” Not only did Random House test the limits of piracy, but they publicly released their findings and modified their distribution accordingly. What sound business sense. How…ballsy. How awesome. Big ups to you guys. Beer’s on me.