The magazine scan-sharing site controversy goes mainstream

“The magazine industry is being besieged by a new foe: digital piracy,” screams the lede of an AP story yesterday.

If you read this blog, you can guess from earlier this month that the story is about Mygazines.com, a site that is reportedly on servers in Anquilla that enables users to share scans of articles from magazines. As I suggested when I first ran across the site on July 22, it was only a matter of time until the site became a take-down notice magnet.

The AP story rounds up all of the potential legal actions magazine publishers can take — and the walls they could run into. It also quotes a July 29 press release on the Mygazines.com website where “John Smith” (its creator) claims, “its copies are no different from magazines shared in doctor’s office or salon.”

As I noted in my August 5 post, magazine publishers love the “pass-along” sharing of print versions of magazines as it is part of the circulation they report to advertisers. What I didn’t mention was that a new media niche of what the auditing organization ABC calls e-publications or e-periodicals is available that provides magazine publishers with a digital-version distribution alternative that can be audited and, in some cases, DRM-protected. In other words, Mygazines.com is likely perceived more as a threat to the magazine publishers’ own plans for e-magazine distribution rather than as a threat to the printed version. Note, however, that is my interpretation — maybe some magazine publishers actually do think a digital version and paper version of a magazine are the same thing. (Disclosure: Hammock Inc. embraces all media. We produce e-magazine versions and editions and would publish smoke-signals if readers and readers and clients wanted them.)

Another thing: The AP story says they tried to contact “John Smith” but he wouldn’t respond. I’ve found that jsmith@mygazines.com will respond if you blog about him.

Related: An article in the New York Times looks at how some media companies are working with Google to generate revenues from “pirated content” appearing on YouTube.

DRM-free audiobooks sound smart to me

Cory Doctorow is reporting that Bertelsmann’s “Random House Audio has announced that it will now allow its audiobooks to be sold without DRM by all of its online retailers.” Already, it sells DRM-free audiobooks through emusic.com. From that experience, Random House Audio has learned that not treating its customers like criminals is a good thing. One would hope such a move by the largest book publisher in the world would lead other publishers to recognize (as I blogged in January) how ridiculous it is to encrypt downloaded versions of audiobooks while the same audiobooks on CDs are not encrypted (i.e., you can go to a public library with your laptop and load up DRM-free audiobooks for free, but you can’t buy the same thing online). As I said then, for the same reason Amazon.com doesn’t sell music downloads that have DRM, it should pressure publishers to allow it to sell DRM-free audiobooks on its new acquisition, Audible.com.

Oh, yeah, and then it should do the same with eBooks for the Kindle.

(I learned about this on Twitter from @marshallk.)