Researchers Testing Text-Based DRM System for Ebooks

Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute are working on a new ebook DRM system called SiDiM that would change individual words of a story in an effort to combat piracy. The system would swap out text to essentially create individualized copies of an ebook that could then be tracked by the original owner. A subsidiary of the German book publisher’s association, interested in possible alternatives to the traditional lock-down approach of DRM, has joined Fraunhofer in its testing.

“Reports about the work first popped up on German blogs [last] 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,” reports paidContent. (Additional news sources also cite Darmstadt Technical University as a participant in the program.)

“The goal of the SiDiM project is to develop new protection measures for ebooks and electronic documents,” explains SiDiM’s Dr. Martin Steinebach. “Texts in digital format are particularly threatened by unauthorized copying, for example via the Internet.”

“The idea behind SiDiM is similar to the way rights holders have been trying to protect music and video for some time,” notes paidContent. “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.”

With music, these measures are less apparent than rewriting the original text of a book, which raises the question of whether authors or publishers would be inclined to embrace the SiDiM approach.

“Since the process is completely automated there is a risk that errors will occur,” suggests TorrentFreak. “For example, sentences may no longer carry the nuances intended by the author.”

To test initial reception and provide feedback, publishers and authors have been sent a list of “text watermark” examples.

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