Monday, June 13, 2005

[Editors note] Even lightweight DRM stinks, thank you EDUCAUSE

I'm sure I am not the first person to complain about this but I am seriously annoyed that EDUCAUSE locks most of the PDFs in its Resource Library. What I actually wanted to do was use the PDF highlighter tool to mark up a local copy; when I couldn't do that, I tried copying and pasting a few key passages to a text file. No go. I complained about this via their web feedback form:

"Why are so many of the PDF documents in the EDUCAUSE library locked? I cannot annotate a local copy of these works, nor can I, in most cases, copy and paste text excertps as I carry out my research. This is a baffling approach to distribution of these important works. Is there a universal password to unlock them?"

and today received the following response from an EDUCAUSE staffer:

"I am sorry that you are having a hard time with your research. The reason many of the PDF works are locked down from text copying is to protect them from being plagiarized and other types of copyright infringement.  If you need to have the work in text for copying purposes, I suggest that you use a PDF text converter. There are free downloads of this software on the web."

So, what she's saying is that they know it's easy for someone to break these silly locks. I don't understand why people think this kind of lightweight or speedbump DRM is a good idea. Someone who intends to plagiarize is surely going to be motivated to get the apparently free and easy-to-find software to rip the content.

The thing I hate most about DRM is that it punishes the law-abiding far more than the lawbreakers.


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