Wolfgang Fuchs: What publishing might learn from gaming and DRM

Wolfgang Fuchs: What publishing might learn from gaming and DRM

For a second time, the Frankfurt Book Fair and Gamescom have invited representatives of book publishing to Cologne to see what is billed as the world's largest event for computer and video games — last year's Gamescon drew more than 335,000 visitors. The effort is supported by Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware e. V., the German Trade Association of Interactive Entertainment Software. Of special interest this time around is a "License Day" programme this afternoon, focussed on rights and licenses with the perspectives of international development studies, agencies, and publishers from gaming as well as books.

Our good colleague at Frankfurt, Holder Volland (pictured), vice president of business development for Buchmesse, describes a two-way benefit here: "As international media trade fairs, we want to offer our customers additional business contacts in related industry sectors. The content expertise of publishers is also of great interest to the gaming industry." And so it is that from noon in Cologne, participants are being given a "specialist tour" of the business and entertainment areas of Gamescom, followed by a press event and the License Day activities.

In this context, we're glad to have Sony DADC's Wolfgang Fuchs with us today and appreciate his input. 

His brief explication of observations of DRM from the gaming side of things offers hints to publishing's folks about one of the most contentious elements of digital publishing. As German publishing interests drop hard DRM (most recently Verlagsgruppe von Holtzbrinck), more questions than answers seem to crop up for others in the industry.

And while Sony DADC has a decided commercial interest in the field, Fuchs' (pictured below) experienced comments are worth the consideration of a publishing industry that may hear something attractive. For example, it's intriguing that one form of protection on a football franchise game makes the football grow to the size of a player if the software is compromised — Fuchs is telling us in that instance of a rather ruinous bit of creativity; it would be interesting to see a corollary in book production. 

And so we think with interest about such phrases from Fuchs here as "making life much harder for the illegal user." -- Porter Anderson

DRM free (Digital Rights Management) or hard DRM – which approach best protects the intellectual property of authors and publishers whilst maximising revenues?

The book industry has the advantage of not being the first to be faced with this challenge since many other industry segments such as games, video and music have faced the same question and have now found their best solution: DRM with extremely flexible business rules, and rock-solid security.

Sony DADC has more than two decades’ experience in the music, games and video industries: we have experienced all the successes, all the debates, and all the blockages in the market. We have learned from these experiences and have evolved new models that work well both for consumers and intellectual property owners.

  • Sony DADC created a de-facto industry standard License Management solution for PC games and Home Entertainment business
  • Using this technology we have 1.1+ billion physical and digital units in the market
  • 350+ active User Rights Management customers worldwide
  • 60+ digital business partners have licensed our services
  • 300 million digital software licenses issued (peak ~500 per second)

So, what have we learned from this?

Firstly, consumers want to consume content whenever, wherever and however they wish and to this end, convenience is key.

Consumers have no objection to DRM — it just needs to be hassle-free and almost invisible. In short, legitimate buyers should not need to register/prove their purchase separately.

Illegal users should face challenges as they have not paid the full price and therefore cannot expect the full experience from the book.

Hard DRM adds revenue for the seller as more people buy the product instead of downloading it for free. The key is that all versions available are protected — this will generate earnings to invest new IP and great products.

Let's highlight a few examples how the games industry is using DRM:

  • One major football franchise game has been impossible to hack for more than three months, which is a fantastic achievement in the games industry. In addition, the DRM system identifies a hack and then changes the gameplay creatively. In identified hacked copies, the ball grows to the size of the player or the camera moves away just at the wrong time.
  • In another scenario, Sony DADC’s games protection leads a potential pirate to a store and enables them to become legitimate consumers.

These scenarios can be used in the ebook industry, since there are tech-savvy people trying to hack titles and distribute them.

Based on this experience and skill set, Sony DADC has developed a User Rights Management System (URMS) to provide the legitimate user with a seamless buying and reading experience, while making life much harder for the illegal user.

We’re working now with distributors, aggregators, reading app developers and publishers across the world to deploy our User Right Management System, in order to make legal media consumption easier for consumers, just as we’ve done with studios labels, and games publishers over the past decades.

There's more about Sony DADC's ebook DRM here.

Main image: Provided to media members by Gamescon, from the 2014 event