Apple Brings FairPlay to iBooks, Why DRM Never Left iTunes

By February 15, 2010

When Apple opens the iBook store in March to coincide with the launch of its computing tablet, the iPad, book buyers will experience something familiar to iTunes store patrons. FairPlay, the digital rights management system that was used for iTunes music purchasing (discontinued last year), will now be reinstated for digital book purchases. Created to deter piracy for songs, Apple and partnered book publishers hope that FairPlay will benefit sales numbers for iBooks. This goes contrary to the opinion of O'Reilly Media, publishers of technical and do-it-yourself titles, who argues that digitally locking media is harmful to sales, reports the Los Angeles Times. O'Reilly, who is in discussions with Apple regarding iPad publishing, as well as other publishers in agreement, may opt-out of DRM for their content.

But most publishers will adopt FairPlay, or other copyright protection software. Some E-book readers embrace DRM, like Amazon's Kindle, which originally made it more complicated to keep titles unlocked than to adhere to standard locking procedures. Others make free domain works and other copyright-free material easily available, such as for Sony's Reader.

While blogs such as AppleInsider and CrunchGear are expressing indignation at the idea of Apple's reusing of FairPlay for iBooks, iTunes has not given up DRM altogether. While purchased songs used to be playable on a limited number of computers, and this is no longer the case, Apple still imprints user information on every song downloaded from the iTunes store. This way, the company can track whether these songs are being shared on a peer-to-peer network and can be traced back to an individual.

While the affects of DRM on iBooks remain to be seen, the argument cannot be based on what happened with iTunes music. The DRM meaning can be extended to "management" of any type, which definitely includes taking music buyers' digital fingerprints. Control never left iTunes, it simply took a different, subtler form.

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