Monday, October 02, 2006

Academic publishing and DRM

Courtesy of Jonathan Sterne's Superbon! a very compelling (and depressing) meditation on academic book publishing and the increasing presence/disturbance of digital rights management (DRM) schemes. Here's an excerpt:
I opened up my email this morning to discover a letter from Sage, to which I link at the end of this post. The gist of it is that my author’s offprints now come as an executable file. I can print forever, off this computer. I can email the file to 25 people and they can print forever off the one computer on which they receive it. I clicked the link, and the good people at Sage even had the wisdom to create a Macintosh version of the program. Now, presumably, I also need to download the PC version in case someone to whom I’m mailing the program has a PC. Also, it is unclear what will happen if someday I decide to use another computer as my main computer. Will I have the same permissions? Different ones?

This is a disappointing development because, like Jonathan, I've published a good deal of work with Sage, a great commercial scholarly publisher who's now intent on implementing restrictive DRM schemes--apparently, without seeking much in the way of author input. Sigh. Hopefully we'll begin to get at some of these issues at the upcoming National Communication Association annual convention, in which I'm sitting on a panel with several academic book publishers to discuss just these kinds of developments. I'll keep you posted....

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