Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

The Horror! My Tax Dollars are Supporting Microsoft DRM!

By Dennis D. McDonald

I’ve always been a frequent user of public libraries. In fact, I paid my high school and college tuition by working at the Bexley Public Library in Columbus, Ohio.

We have a great public library system here in Alexandria Virginia. I’ve been using it steadily ever since my kids were little and we took them to weekly story hours at the Queen Street Branch.

So I was excited this week when, while returning books and music CD’s to the library, I noticed the sign, “DOWNLOAD AUDIOBOOKS TO YOUR COMPUTER.” Number One Son had just given me a new iPod for Father’s Day so I was quite intrigued.

That evening I logged onto the Library’s web site where I maintain a reading list. I located the AUDIOBOOKS page and clicked on the “iPod and MAC users click here” link. This is what I read:

Our audio titles, provided by OverDrive, Inc., use copyright protection technology from Microsoft Corporation. Unfortunately the iPod (and Mac) do not currently support copyright-protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) files.

Wait a minute, I thought. You mean this taxpayer supported library is purposely excluding the majority of portable player users from participating because of the publisher’s DRM strategy does not include Apple?

I did a little research and corresponded by email with the library. Their attitude: it was either this or nothing at all since Microsoft DRM is the only way to provide a service like this.

This situation is a hot topic in some circles, especially where discussions tend to focus on issues like “fair use” and “DMCA.” For example, see this link; be sure to read the comments to get both sides of the story:

It’s the old problem with DRM. In the interest of preventing piracy, what happens is that law-abiding citizens get screwed.  Especially frustrating is that we’re talking about books here - things I’ll listen to once. And I’m helping to pay for this with my property taxes!


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