Monday, January 30, 2012

Finally, a DRM Article with a Lysenko Reference

And in Publisher's Weekly, no less!
Talking with the lower echelon employees of publishing reminds me of a description I once read about the mutual embarrassment of Western and Soviet biologists when they talked about genetics. Soviet-era scientists were required, on pain of imprisonment, to endorse Lysenkoism, a discredited theory of inheritance favored by Stalin for ideological reasons. Lysenko believed, incorrectly, that you could create heritable characteristics by changing a parent organism—that is, if you cut off one of a frog’s legs, a certain number of its offspring would be born with three legs.
The author then goes on to discuss the concept of "social DRM". *shudder*
If there is anything that exemplifies the delusional nature in some publishing boardrooms today, however, it is the phrase “social DRM.” For those unfamiliar with the term, social DRM is another name for an unencrypted e-book that has the purchaser’s name (and often contact information) inserted in it, via some kind of digital watermarking. The idea is that e-book customers will be reluctant to share their e-books around if they know that their name and information will travel with the books, either because they don’t want to be shamed for being patient zero in a widespread epidemic of unauthorized copying, or out of fear of legal reprisals from publishers should a copy with their name on it show up on the Pirate Bay.
- read the rest here

Now, I have to point out that Lysenko wasn't entirely wrong. Stress can in fact alter the genetic code. And in addition to the discovery of transposable elements that activate during periods of stress, new studies in the field of epigenetics have confirmed that the genetic code is not the only source of inheritable data. (The real problem with 'Lysenkoism' was the USSR requiring its scientists to adhere to a specific dogma.)

Nice work on the article Mr. Doctorow. Five points to Gryffindor!


1 comment:

Rob said...

Now we get to observe the effects of natural selection in the publishing industry! I'm betting that the next generation of publishing companies doesn't inherit DRM...
(see the clever innuendo that DRM is like cutting the legs off the publisher? And that amazing reference to natural selection triumphing over Lysenkoism? I amaze myself sometimes)