This week, one of my colleagues alerted me to an article about John Green and a quote that has been attributed to him, but was not actually written by him in any of his books. The Swiss Army Librarian posted about it, as did the Copyfight blog, and an interesting topic came up: the fact that because of digital rights management (DRM), an author was not able to search his own copy of an eBook to see if he had written the quote that has been attributed to him.
Let's start with this: What is digital rights management? According to the American Library Association, "the purpose of DRM technology is to control access to, track and limit uses of digital works." For eBooks, this means DRM "limit[s] copying, printing, and sharing of eBooks," according to Wikipedia.
Now, let's take it back to John Green. He needed to find out if the quote that was being attributed to him all over the Internet was, in fact, something he had actually written. The easiest way to do this? Check the book that the quote was said to come from, of course. With DRM, you might not be able to do that, so John Green illegally downloaded a copy of a book he had written, just so he could search the text for the quote. And for many, this is problematic, because, as the Copyright blog pointed out, DRM can prevent authors from doing things such as sharing samples of their books, or, in a case like John Green's, searching the text for a specific quote or passage.
As it turns out, John Green is just plain awesome, because once he confirmed that he didn't write the quote being attributed to him, he decided that his store, which was selling posters with that quote on it, would pay royalties to the person who did originally say the quote. That person turned out to be a thirteen year old Nerdfighter. In addition, John Green loved another image that person had on her Tumblr so much that they started selling that poster, too--with royalties going to the Nerdfighter.
I love this about John Green because he could have continued to accept the quote as being his, without researching it further, as he had done for several years, and instead, he not only said that the quote is not his, but he gave credit where it was due, and he took it a step further by deciding to pay the person royalties from posters already sold with that quote. I also love it because in his vlog where he discusses what happens, he touches on copyright and intellectual property, which is always an important issue to talk about. Here's the video.
I can't write this blog post without using John and Hank Green's catchphrase: Don't forget to be awesome. Because in this case, John Green didn't forget.
Want to know more about DRM? Check out the following websites.
Boing Boing: Here, author Cory Doctorow writes about DRM and why he believes it to be so problematic.
EPIC Digital Rights