Cory Doctorow is self-publishing a book and documenting the process for Publishers Weekly. His latest column is about selling audiobook versions of his past works, and how both Apple and Audible have refused to budge on their anti-consumer policies when it comes to digital rights management (DRM) and end user license agreements (EULAs). Even though both companies get paid the same either way, and even though both Doctorow and his publisher, Random House, want to sell the content without these restrictions, Apple and Audible have said no.
For my next book, Makers, we tried again. This time Audible agreed to carry the title without DRM. Hooray! Except now there was a new problem: Apple refused to allow DRM-free audiobooks in the Apple Store—yes, the same Apple that claims to hate DRM. Okay, we thought, we’ll just sell direct through Audible, at least it’s a relatively painless download process, right? Not quite. It turns out that buying an audiobook from Audible requires a long end-user license agreement (EULA) that bars users from moving their Audible books to any unauthorized device or converting them to other formats. Instead of DRM, they accomplish the lock-in with a contract.
I came up with what I thought was an elegant solution: a benediction to the audio file: “Random House Audio and Cory Doctorow, the copyright holders to this recording, grant you permission to use this book in any way consistent with your nation’s copyright laws.” This is a good EULA, I thought, as it stands up for every word of copyright law. Random House was game, too. Audible wasn’t.
The next time a retailer blames artists or their publishers for taking away consumer rights, you may want to ask for some proof. With Apple and Audible, at least, it’s not the author taking an anti-consumer stance this time.