Why I Hate DRM and Love Louis C.K.

Why I Hate DRM and Love Louis C.K.

From Wikipedia:

Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.


You have to love the jackassery inherent in the statement above. The key point of it all is “…after sale.” That’s right, I go and pay money for something, and the people who produced it get to determine how, when and even where I use it (see DVD regions, etc).

What the hell? I don’t think so.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still buy stuff with DRM on it. I can’t not buy the latest Blu-ray’s without DRM. Captain America: The First Avenger wasn’t going to sit on that shelf one second longer because it was restricted to Region 1, is what I’m saying. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, and that damn sure doesn’t mean I have to incorporate it into my business practices.

Grey Gecko Press does not – and will not – use DRM on any of our books, as long as I control the company. Why? Because it artificially restricts the ways in which our customers might find enjoyment from the works.

“But what about piracy?” you ask. Well, piracy is a valid concern in this new and bright digital age, but that doesn’t mean we have to go all crazy about it. Let’s face it, with the way things are now, including the advent of Torrents (which were themselves a natural outgrowth of Napster and services like them), there is, quite simply, no way that you will ever completely prevent your book/movie/software/music from being pirated. It’s just not possible. If someone wants it bad enough, they’ll get it, plain and simple.

So why all the fuss? Because the big megacorps have to be seen to be doing something about it, even if that something is completely useless and only hurts the people who are actually buying their products. Here, look at it like this:

Infographic from the awesome guys and gals over at BoingBoing


See? All you’re doing is pissing people off. Why would I ever want to do that to my customers?

Second reason is even simpler: Say someone does take the file for one of our books, which isn’t encoded with DRM, so it can be used like a merry-go-round (I actually had something more visual for that sentence, but in the interest of propriety, I caved).  Joe Bob gives a copy to his brother Earl who copies it for his brother Darryl who’s wife Irma sends it to her sister Jolene down Kearney way.

5 people have now read the book. Only one of them paid for it (Joe Bob). But – and here’s the kicker – all of them liked it enough to pass it on to someone else.

What do you think the chances are that they’ll come back to Grey Gecko to buy more books? Okay, maybe not Joe Bob, but Barney from the West Side might. Or whomever. The point is, the more people who see/read the book, the more people know about the author, and the more potential sales that author gets, especially when you consider our books are so low-priced even without our sales ($3 – 5 avg per ebook).

Yeah, yeah, whatever, tl;dr – give me the bit about Louis C. K., will ya?

Sure thing. Louis tried something new recently with his most recent stand-up special, Live at the Beacon Theater. He made the whole special available on DVD to his fans for $5, DRM-free. And guess what? He’s made over $200,000 profit in less than a few days. That’s profit, not gross sales. That’s more – as he said – than he would’ve been paid to do the special in the first place and let someone else sell it to his fans.

He wrote an awesome statement about this, and here’s a bit of it that’s particularly good:

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

This is why I love this man. That, and his Cinnabon bit.

So that’s the long and the short of it (mostly long) about why I won’t do DRM. Feel free to comment as needed.

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