By Ingrid Süßmann
Fears of copyright infringement had most of the book industry using so-called hard DRM (digital rights management) that prevented copying and sharing of files. Recently, attitudes towards hard DRM have started to change in Germany. In 2013, a study by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association found that 55% (300 publishers) of the country’s publishing houses used hard DRM. One year later, the numbers changed: in 2014, only 44% of publishers reported using hard DRM.
In 2015, many well-known publishing houses also changed their DRM strategies: in March, Dumont announced that they would be using digital watermarks in the future; dtv followed in May, as did the German Bonnier publishing houses — Piper, Ullstein, Carlsen, arsEdition Thienemann-Esslinger and Berlin Verlag. The latest to abandon hard DRM is Holtzbrinck, which owns Droemer Knaur, Fischer, Rowohlt and Kiepenheuer & Witsch. Peter Kraus vom Cleff, Managing Director of Rowohlt, said: “Recent experience in Germany and abroad has shown that a digital watermark protects the copyright of our authors just as well as hard DRM. We’re convinced that soft DRM simplifies the use our ebooks for our readers.”
Kraus vom Cleff sums up how many German publishers likely feel about hard DRM: hard DRM is not a guarantee against copyright infringement. Strong rights management does not deter pirates, but it does very easily discourage readers from buying ebooks. Using soft DRM might not change the level of ebook piracy and copyright infringement, but it might attract more consumers to digital reading.