How I DRMed Twitter And Its Lessons For All

I really did want to start out with just 400 Followers on Twitter. Because I wanted to engage with people who had similar interests in publishing, writing, and electronic books.

I eventually came to see the error of that way.

But that got me to thinking about the rights of users versus the rights of producers.

I set myself up in the role of “producer” of a product: my Twitterstream.

How many restrictions could I impose on those who “purchased” that product?

Would the users pay attention to the ever-growing and increasingly-shrill “EULA” I drafted?

And what would happen if — like the RIAA and MPAA — I threatened punishment?

These are not ridiculous issues. These are the things that eBook buyers currently live with.

Here are the things I’ve learned from this:

1) Users want to do what they want to do. Despite my restricting people from putting me in Follow Friday lists or the new Twitter lists, they would.

2) People will comply with DRM but will resent it. If I threatened people with a Block (the equivalent of an RIAA lawsuit or ISP disconnection), they would comply — but some would rebel quite loudly. Suprisingly, no one could see the parallel between what I was doing and the DRM they had to face in eBook buying. The one who came closest was @BlueTyson, who called me a “cyber-tyrant.”

3) DRM is more work than it’s worth. Instead of concentrating on my “core product” — my Tweets — I always had to stop “producing” several times during the day to enforce the DRM. How much effort do companies put into policing the Internet, to look for illegal copies of their work, instead of producing better products at affordable prices?

4) People want to share. They want to put me in Follow Friday lists and Twitter Lists. This is vital for publishers who will be selling eBooks via Barnes & Noble for the Nook to understand. Do not disallow the 14-day sharing of eBooks. They’re already shackled with DRM, so where’s the harm? Allow the sharing! You have people who have made an investment in reading eBooks and want to read eBooks — and sharing allows people to read more and to discover more writers they will wind up buying.

5) A world without slack is a mean and ugly world. Pushing anyone into a corner with no other alternatives will make that person see the odds as “I’ve got nothing to lose by fighting back.” Right now, the technical skills to break eBook copy-protection are not widespread. If you cage your customers, they’ll become “Nothing to lose” combatants and will seek out the tools to break your DRM. They might even turn spiteful and go pirate, uploading those files for others. Most users who crack DRM simply do it in order to be able to read on more than one device they have paid for. This is private-use “piracy” (in sensible minds, this is called Buyer’s Fair Use!). Don’t push them into becoming outright outlaws!

Finally, I’ve created a new set of Twitter Guidelines. Contrast them with the original ones!

And, oh, all the people I’ve Blocked this week for “breaking” my DRM — you’ve been UNBlocked. Sorry for the aggravation. Think of it as being a (forced!) volunteer for a good cause.

9 Responses to How I DRMed Twitter And Its Lessons For All

  1. Kat Meye says:

    Right(s) on! Very astute.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mikecane: IMPORTANT NEW POST: How I DRMed Twitter And Its Lessons For All @jafurtado @MoriahJovan @jane_l @cimota @reeze…

  3. yearzerowriters says:

    Very astute. I wasn’t sure where you were going with all this but was entertained and thought of it as a gimmick.

    Then I read your post and actually put some thought into why your approach was so radical. I suppose there are some who believe that Twitter is DRM free, being an extension of a community. But for those “some” they aren’t giving thought to the management of content.

    It isn’t a free-for-all. Nothing ever is.

    Thanks for your experiment.


  4. copyhacker says:

    Paging Cory Doctorow. Cory Doctorow to the white courtesy phone, please.

  5. @copyhacker ~ have you voted for a feedbooks cover for Cory Doctorow’s Makers? :)

  6. I’ve always seen little – if any – difference betwixt me handing someone a book I thought they’d like to read from my collection, and e-mailing a file of a book/song from my collection. If I had charged someone for that file, that would be entirely different, obviously.

    All of the e-books sold directly by Atomic Fez Publishing are DRM-free.

  7. …and it’s good to be back in the land of the blessed.

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