New ebook DRM will change the text of a story to prevent piracy

Well, this is one way to do it: Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is working on a new ebook DRM dubbed SiDiM that would prevent piracy by changing the actual text of a story, swapping out words to make individualized copies that could be tracked by the original owner of the ebook.

A Fraunhofer infographic showing how SiDiM would turn one book into individual copies.
A Fraunhofer infographic showing how SiDiM would turn one book into individual copies.

Reports about the work first popped up on German blogs this week, with one blogger revealing examples that include changing wordings like “invisible” to “not visible” and “unhealthy” to “not healthy.” Other examples included sentences in which the order of words was changed, or in which hyphens were added to words.

The idea behind SiDiM is similar to the way rights holders have been trying to protect music and video for some time. Instead of trying to lock down copies through technical measures that prevent copying, so-called fingerprinting measures simply add markers to a work that make it possible to identify the original purchaser. In theory, this prevents people from sharing their works for the fear of being caught.

However, in music files, these types of changes are a lot less notable than a machine rewriting a book, which is why it’s unlikely that authors and literature friends would embrace SiDiM. The system is currently in testing, and Fraunhofer secured some state funding to run these tests and even got a subsidiary of the German book publisher’s association to join.

But here’s the twist: German blog pointed out that the book publishers actually joined because they’re interested in finding alternatives to the traditional lock-down approach of DRM, simply because they’ve learned in the past that even the strongest lock can be broken.

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user gazzaPax.