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You are here: Home Blogs Community Help defend the right to read: stand up against DRM on October 12th

Help defend the right to read: stand up against DRM on October 12th

by Greg Farough Contributions Published on Sep 05, 2019 05:43 PM
Don't let publishers fool you: the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) in ebooks and "digital-first" textbooks makes them defective by design. Join us on October 12th to stand up for everyone's right to learn.

Defective by Design is calling on you to stand up against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) on the International Day Against DRM (IDAD) on October 12th, 2019. This year we will be focusing specifically on everyone's right to read, particularly by urging publishers to free students and educators from the unnecessary and cumbersome restrictions that make their access to necessary course materials far more difficult.

For years, products incorporating Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) have been a plague upon the Web, and have gradually infiltrated nearly every aspect of digital society. New developments have reminded all of us that DRM is now more of a threat than ever. Many people were impacted by Microsoft's Orwellian "ebook apocalypse," in which thousands of books were forcibly deleted from ebook readers and smartphones. Recently we have seen DRM extend its sinister influence into education, especially in the form of "digital-first" textbooks that put onerous restrictions on students that forbid them from accessing the course materials they have bought, and the education that they deserve. The "Netflix of textbooks" model practiced by the major textbook publisher Pearson is a Trojan horse for education: requiring a constant Internet connection for "authentication" purposes, severely limiting the number of pages a student can read at one time, and secretly collecting telemetric data on their reading habits.

It is universally agreed that each person has a right to be educated -- so why are major publishers like Pearson placing digital handcuffs on students that make learning more difficult? This year, we will be asking both corporations and everyday people alike to demonstrate their commitment to education. For publishers like Pearson, that means the immediate removal of DRM from any and all of their educational materials. We will also be showing you how easy it is to make contributions to ethical, freely licensed, and DRM-free textbooks by sponsoring both Boston-area and remote hackathons.

DRM poses a serious threat to our collective cultural heritage, and has wide-reaching implications for historical preservation. It also severely limits what can be viewed "legitimately" by those in other nations by putting an arbitrary location-based block on many different kinds of media. In a world where companies like Pearson and Amazon have the ability to make unauthorized books "disappear" from all of their users' devices, it's not hard to imagine how this power could be used for even greater injustices. Will the next ebook apocalypse happen simply because a given book is too critical of its publisher, or the country it's discussing? If works are made exclusive to a digitally restricted platform, who knows what important works will be lost the next time this happens?

For thirteen years, we have used IDAD to mobilize actions that stand up for the freedom of users everywhere. This year, we'll be continuing the fight by bringing in a round of in-person actions, guest bloggers, organizing tips, and a few surprises that you won't want to miss. Follow along with us at the Defective by Design Web site, join the DRM Elimination Crew mailing list, and read about our past actions, such as last year's IDAD, and our protest of the W3C's decision to embed DRM into the core framework of the Internet.

If you're new to the movement and looking for ways to avoid DRM, or just want to learn more, take a look at our Guide to DRM-Free Living. This year, we've updated it with lists of retailers to avoid and ones to support, in addition to giving general tips on how to tell whether a book, video, or piece of music is DRM-encumbered.

As we become ever more reliant on digital methods of accessing our shared cultural history, the question of who controls that access and how they control it becomes a crucial one. In standing up against DRM, you are not only standing up for the rights of students and other readers now, but for those in years to come. Our successes in past years could not have happened without your help. Every voice raised in protest of DRM weakens the hold it has on all of us. Together, we are confident that we can end it once and for all.

How to participate

  • The easiest way to participate is to join us in going a Day Without DRM, and resolve to spend an entire day (or longer!) without Netflix, Hulu, and other restricted services to show your support of the movement. Document your experiences on social media using the tags "#idad" or "#dbd," and let us know at info@defectivebydesign.org if you have a special story you'd like us to share.

  • Even more effective is to join up with others to make your voice louder. We'll be providing activists around the world with support here on how they can stage their own local in-person event, as well as how to join us online while we help improve the free and ethical alternatives to educational materials restricted by DRM.

  • In Boston, we'll be leading the way with our own demonstration on October 12th, 2019 at Pearson Education's corporate offices, followed by an evening hackathon on collaborative, freely licensed educational materials.

  • Follow us on GNU social or Twitter (with caveats) to stay posted on all the events we have planned, in addition to more news items on how you can resist DRM.

  • If you're IRC-inclined, join us in the #dbd channel on the Freenode network for real-time chat and collaboration on DRM-related actions.

  • Join and take part in discussions on the DRM Elimination Crew mailing list, where we'll be sending all of the information about this year's campaign.

  • Are you an organization or project interested in supporting IDAD? We're looking for vendors of DRM-free media, organizations that support the building of a DRM-free world, and those who believe in the mission of DbD to participate by offering sales, writing blog posts, organizing events, and sharing information with your members about IDAD. Please contact us at info@defectivebydesign.org for more information.

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