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WHSmith Putting DRM In EBooks Without Permission From the Authors 88

Posted by timothy
from the don't-read-more dept.
sgroyle (author Simon Royle) writes with an excerpt from an article he wrote about discovering that publisher WHSmith has been adding DRM to books without their authors' permission, and against their intent: "DRM had, without my knowledge, been added to my book. I quickly checked my other books; same thing. Then I checked the books of authors who, because of their vocal and public opposition, I know are against DRM – Konrath, Howey, and Doctorow, to name a few – same result. ALL books on WHSmith have DRM in them. Rather than assume WHSmith where at fault, I checked with my distributor, Draft2Digital. They send my books to Kobo, who in turn send my books to WHSmith. D2D assured me the DRM was not being added by them and were distressed to hear that this was the case. Kobo haven't replied to any of the messages in this thread: 'WHSmith putting DRM in books distributed via Kobo'. I'm not holding my breath." Update: 03/22 21:02 GMT by T : Problem resolved. Hanno Liem of the Kobo team wrote with good news that the DRM notices that were appended were done so in error, and since corrected: "The original site has been updated – it was just a bug on our site, and was resolved within a day I think. We're all slashdot readers here at Kobo Operations, and this is kinda painful :p" Thanks, Hanno.
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WHSmith Putting DRM In EBooks Without Permission From the Authors

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  • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pokoteng (2729771) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:55AM (#43233271)
    That's a job for editors, not writers.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:59AM (#43233303)

    I'm guessing the authors signed some kind of publication contract that authorized WHSmith to make and distribute ebook versions in the first place. Does adding DRM to the ebooks comply with the terms of the contract? Without seeing the contract they signed, I have no real way of knowing what they gave WHSmith permission to do.

  • My post (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:13AM (#43233443) Homepage

    I just posted on the original site but I doubt it will pass moderation so:

    Not being funny, but why go public without just complaining to your agent/publisher/whatever first? I mean, as far as I can see, this is a contract dispute. Someone, somewhere has a contract with you that says whether or not they can add DRM to your book. Youâ(TM)ve signed it, or not. It might say either way is permitted or nothing at all about DRM. But presumably that person has signed something with another person who has signed something and, eventually, thereâ(TM)s a line in there somewhere that says they can or canâ(TM)t do this. Whoever signed that line and didnâ(TM)t pass it back down the contracts is in breach of something. I highly doubt that WHSmith does not have a contract that says âoeWe will add DRMâ in some manner, itâ(TM)s just a question of who signed it and gave away more rights to the work than they were allowed to.

    And given that itâ(TM)s your copyright (presumably), then bundling that content in any way you donâ(TM)t like is a copyright violation. Thatâ(TM)s NOT the format you provided it to them in, and no different to them selling it with a modified front cover, or with the words in Chapter 2 altered. So just contact your agent/publisher and get them to have a word â" there should be no walls of silence on that chain, because youâ(TM)re all contracted to do your jobs. Itâ(TM)s not like an end-consumer where you have to hope to get through to the right person at customer services.

    Whatâ(TM)s happened is no different to not selling the electronic rights to someone and then finding that your publisher has published it electronically (actually happened to a friend of mine who writes childrenâ(TM)s books â" hell, theyâ(TM)ve even had a book that they sent to their agent published without their knowledge, and they only found out when they found it in a second-hand bookshop, complete with their name and cover!). And itâ(TM)s a contract dispute. And you either signed a contract that allowed it, or not. As such, you just get your agent/publisher to look into it, give it a month to sort out, and then just issue a nasty legal letter to pull it. Posting online about it and in forum posts just seems amateur and likely to backfire in terms of NDA clauses etc. in contracts along the way.

    And I reckon youâ(TM)ll find that one of the contracts you signed either says they can do this or, somewhere along the way, someone has a gap between the contracts they receive and the contracts they sign that allows this to slip through until â" as youâ(TM)ve done â" someone objects.

    Stop messing about with open letters, hearsay, and forum posts and ask your publisher for an explanation in a nice recorded-delivery letter from your local legal representative.

  • by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:15AM (#43233459) Homepage

    Then somewhere along the line, someone still gave away that right, even if their own contract didn't allow them to do so.

    It's a contract dispute. It's not WHSmith being evil, someone, somewhere would have agreed to terms that the author wouldn't have agreed to themselves.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:16AM (#43233463) Homepage Journal

    If this is true, and if the author did not assign copyright to the publisher (so that the publisher is now the copyright holder), and if they didn't tell the publisher to do this in some fine print that they didn't read, and if .. probably something else I didn't think of .. ;-) Er, my point is that if this happened without "the authority of the copyright owner" (to exactly quote DMCA) then the publisher just spoiled that DRM scheme. It's not prohibited for people to remove that DRM, and better yet, it's legal to manufacture, sell, traffick in, offer to the public etc, tools that are primarily intended to crack that DRM, marketed as being for removing that DRM, etc

    Pretty neat, huh? Whenever DRM exists without the authority of the copyright holder, beating it isn't "circumvention" under DMCA. If the DRM scheme happens to be a widely used one, then could open up competition for e-readers, removing the legal barrier to innovation, reader sales, usage of the reader, etc.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:26AM (#43233555) Homepage

    Or maybe somebody added DRM despite contracts prohibiting them from doing so, either by accident or knowingly.
    Perhaps it was a technical glitch in their system, ignoring the "do not remove rights" checkbox.

    Without even knowing who did what, the "why" is a total guess.

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