Sunday, December 27, 2009

E-Book Hackers

On the Wednesday before Christmas, BBC News posted an article about a hacker who claims to have broken the copyright protection on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.

Apparently hackers have their own online forum. One of them challenged others to hack Amazon’s e-reader. Labba, a hacker, accepted the challenge and hacked the Digital Rights Management tool.

DRM hackers cracked the code for iTunes. Before that, they “cracked the copy protection on DVDs in 1999.” The guy who hacked the DVDs, know as DVD Jon, “now runs a company with an application to take the pain out of moving different types of content between devices.”

The folks who hold copyrights to e-books, like authors or publishers, want the works’ copyrights protected. Consumers often dislike DRM software because it limits what can be done with the content.

According to the BBC article:
As soon as a new DRM system is active, hackers begin to try and break it.
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  1. I think many people view new technologies as new challenges. They seem to love to thwart the systems. I wonder if anything could ever be unhackable.

  2. You're probably right, Jemi. It seems like anything from banks to games to books to government can be hacked.

  3. If it can be hacked, it will. Do you know the first hacker figured out how to hack the phone system using a whistle from Cap'n Crunch cereal?

  4. Create the challenge and they will come!
    Doesn't surprise me...

  5. These hackers are like Rascal. She gets bored easily. That's when she goes into the closet, opens the drawers and pulls out my knit hats and mittens.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. One man's DRM hacking, is another man's right to make a backup.

    I'm a big card-carrying fan of Amazon, but DRM and curtailing the text-to-speech function has been to keep the publishers on board and isn't in the interests of the customer.

    The BBC article mentioned that when the iTunes DRM was cracked it led to them offering DRM-free music as an option, hopefully this will spur something similar.

    Here's the problem. If you buy a DRMed ebook for your Kindle, you only have the control over it that Kindle allows. So you can read it on your iPod/iPhone, on a PC or on your Kindle. Which, to be fair, isn't bad. However, if your Kindle breaks you now have to either buy another Kindle or lose access to your ebooks except through the iPod or PC options, which most people will agree isn't as satisfying as using a dedicated eink display.

    You can't, for instance, buy a Sony Reader and read your Kindle purchases on it. When all ebook purchases are transferable to other devices, then I'll feel a little better about DRM.

  7. Unfortunately, Anton, when all ebook purchases are transferable to other devices, I'll feel a little worse about getting paid for my work. Yes, if code can be written, code can be hacked and broken. It's a fact of life. Perhaps it's time to make all code accessible, from passwords on bank accounts to the recipe for Coke.

    It seems to me that hacking is inevitable. So what is the solution that allows buyers of books to transfer that book from Kindle to computer, but assures authors their payment when the book is given to someone else? Yes, I know about library lending and passing on books to friends, but if there are no stop signs, then the writer gets run over.

  8. I was thinking more along the lines of being transferable to other devices that you own, rather than to anybody's device.

  9. Interesting, but not surprising...!

  10. I wonder if they can come up with a way to make books transferable to your own myriad of devices, but not to others? Some kind of proof of ownership?

  11. I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened before now, honestly. I wouldn't think it would be a huge challenge for a 16-20 year old bored hacker....

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  12. Helen,

    Not all authors are in favor of DRM. Most of the e-book authors I know would rather have less-restrictive protection (even just strong warnings about copyright protection). I believe that the strong DRM on devices like the Kindle actually reduces author's income because it is onerous on the buyer and reduces sales as well as encourages hacking. If someone is determined to hack into something, they will. On the other hand, most buyers are honest people who just need to understand that they are effectively stealing from authors if they distribute e-books in violation of copyright. I just don't think it's right that my husband and I can't share an e-book like we could a print book, and as an author I don't think readers should have to buy a copy of my book for every member of the family. Ideally, someone could invent protection that would allow sharing between all devices owned in one household but not beyond that. But until that happens, I would prefer my e-books NOT be weighted down with cumbersome DRM, though, of course, I have no control over that.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  13. It seems as though there could be a way for a household's devices to be under one password so books could be shared. 'Course, passwords and codes will be hacked. It's the world we live in now. Let's just make it fair and hack it all. You can download any book you want without paying Amazon or B&N or anyone. There are already plenty of pirate sites where you can go and download just about any book you want. The more technologically advanced we become, the more we lose personally, it seems.

  14. I agree with Lillie. If you make the content inexpensive and easy enough to download--most people won't bother with stealing it. And if they do share it, it'll be with family or friends and I see that as free advertising.

  15. As much as I believe my great, great grandchildren will be reading a projected hologram image activated by thought, and is a feature of the energy field sun shield that is implanted in their ear lobe at birth (the only draw back is that they can be hacked while dreaming, unless your name is Mac), I'd like to think books will last forever.

    You know we could do something radical. We could all stop buying new digital technology for our children, and encourage them to read and play outside. Make the forestry industry sustainable, its possible, and re-forest the vast tracts of land that have been stripped of vegetation: 1) paper for books 2) biodegradable/can be recycled 3) jobs 4) security for indigenous cultures 5) Steve Irwin's ghost will be happy, so will elephants and orangutans 6) our great, great grandchildren won't need that energy field sun shield (the implant causes cancer in 9% of recipients, but don't worry it's been government approved)

    Of course for this to succeed everyone will have to work together. A global movement! Meetings in New York and Copenhagen ... Oh, never mind, go and buy a kindle.

  16. Wait, wait. Preach on, Simon Hay Soul Healer. I like the message.

  17. Keep the price down and folks GENERALLY don't bother to pirate.

    I also look upon a few copies passed around as advertising.

  18. Copyright was invented as soon as cheap copying became available, and it's been downhill from there. If they were serious about copyright protection, they would never have allowed the sale of copiers, tape duplication equipment, etc. to the general public. Control of the story was achieved by control of the book. Remove the book and the story becomes uncontrollable. So it sounds like we have reached a point where a different model is needed, rather than copyright, in order to compensate the creative class for the products of their creativity.

  19. Oswald, I agree. Giving out copies to reviewers, media, and other select people is part of doing business. And "doing business" is part of writing and making a living at writing.

    Any ideas, Author Guy, of new ideas? We need a few new ideas, for sure.

  20. By getting mentioned on a few blogs,and thanks to Smashwords- I have got my google results for 'Meddler in Time' up to 90,000

    Cost- a couple of free ebooks!

  21. This is the first I've heard of this. Inevitable I suppose.

  22. I had to giggle a little at you, Helen, for being surprised that "hackers" have their own forums :) "hackers" are just a subgroup of the coders we can thank for the wonderful applications we use every day. Hacking is, just as another commenter said, their crossword puzzles for the day, challenging entertainment. Most of the time, these 'first crack' guys aren't the ones who will use it for evil, many of them work for the security departments of major companies or government and military and help to keep us safe. The ones who make the profit from it tend to come a little later, it's just the way of things that coding develops and old code becomes obsolete and insecure if its not maintained.

    As to DRM and alternatives, passwording would be a perfectly acceptable model to use, yes they can be hacked but rarely all at once (unless it's all online in some database, which would be stupid), and measures can be taken to prevent such access. We all use passwords for our BANKING, to suggest it's not secure enough for books is simply wrong.

    There are two problems book retailers like Amazon have with a password system or any system other than DRM:
    1) they want the monopoly on the hardware - full stop. They aren't looking to satisfy the consumer's desire to really own their copy - and pass it about or still have it when their hardware breaks down.
    2) they distrust their own customers. When it comes to it, they believe that every man jack of us is just sitting around waiting to rip them (and only them because they don't care about content creators, lets face it) off, whether by buying the pirated goods, or by providing them to the pirates in the first place.

    It is only the very few that will choose the pirated goods if the genuine article is easily available and priced reasonably - the only real protection against piracy. Consumers don't consider that paying extra for companies' paranoia, distrust and disrespect, is reasonable. The retailers love to push the piracy angle but the truth is that to assume that the number of pirated goods = lost sales is erroneous because they don't take into account that, I suspect the majority, of people who choose pirated goods would simply not have purchased the product at all using legal distribution.

  23. LOL this is a funny place. I think You dont know what You are writing about. Better see some [url=]TRUTH on Saltydroid[/url] and stop wanking like a baby.


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