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I hear how it is easier for the user to select DRM (digital rights management) free options so that they can use more software packages to read the book, but does that affect in anyway the authors ownership of the text/book?

And if it is DRM free can the author offer the book on his/her website for free?

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DRM isn't a legal thing (unless the system you use has distribution restrictions, but I haven't seen any issues like that). It's an anti-theft thing, like locking a bicycle. Whether or not you have DRM on your book, stealing is stealing, and legally falls under the same category of crime. Authors can offer any book for free on their website, DRM or not, though DRM may have a fee associated with its use, depending on which method you use. –  Kyle Willey Apr 19 '13 at 23:02
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DRM does not affect the author's copyright in any way.

DRM is a mechanical means of enforcing copyright. It enforces copyright by making it difficult for consumers to create usable copies of a digital product. Making a copy of a digital file is easy. Technically this violates copyright, but there's no way for copyright owners to restrict this. So DRM ensures that the unauthorized copy is not unusable. Consumers who have not purchased the digital product cannot display it (for ebooks and videos) or listen to it (for sound recordings).

If you choose a non-DRM format for your digital products, you do not have this mechanism for enforcing your copyright. It is technically easy for consumers to make and distribute usable copies of your work. Distributing such copies would likely violate your copyright.

The point of DRM is to make it harder for consumers to use your digital product in unauthorized ways. This has the side effect of making it harder for people to use your stuff in authorized ways. Non-DRM ebooks are easier for your customers to use on their preferred devices in their preferred applications. And they are easier for people to copy and distribute.

Again, none of this affects the author's copyright in any way.

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I feel the need to mention that few if any DRM systems are effective against piracy for any significant length of time, especially with things like books. Always carefully weigh the hassle factor of DRM against whatever gains it really gets you. –  Michael Kohne Apr 16 '13 at 2:20
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Worse, DRM inconveniences exactly two groups: legitimate users, and people who create pirated copies. These are also the groups of people who actually pay the author. The people who merely acquire pirated copies are left with a superior product at a lower price point. Consumers will and do pay for convenience; if you can't even beat the pirates on that, might as well just give up. –  C. A. McCann Apr 16 '13 at 17:59
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I am not a lawyer. The following is not legal advice. I strongly suggest you talk to a lawyer to seek legal counsel on your inquiry.

Having or not having DRM does not affect the original author's copyright. The author retains all legal rights and responsibilities as previously.

DRM does, however, give the author more legal teeth via the DMCA, which covers the circumvention of copyright protection measures, like DRM.

While someone who gets ahold of your DRM-free ebook can publish it for free elsewhere, they would be in violation of your rights, and you will have the right to issue a DMCA takedown against the site, and/or seek redress via a lawsuit.

Having DRM applied to your book doesn't exactly protect you from having someone strip the DRM off of the ebook and then going and publishing it anyways. They can actually publish the DRM'd copy as well and just leave the task of removing the DRM an exercise for the downloader.

For you, the author, DRM doesn't factor into your rights. It provides a mild hinderance to the would-be thieves and to a greater extent, a good deal of annoyance to your would-be fans and readers. DRM presents significant hurdles to your fans and customers from being able to read a document easily between devices or being able to retain the text past the life of the company that is handling licensing, the device that it is associated with, and so forth.

Note, publishing a text without DRM does not imply that you are making it public domain, just as publishing a xerox'able/scannable book does not mean it is in the public domain. DRM is a tool to hinder copying and is of variable effectiveness(some would say of little value except to the companies that license out DRM technologies).

Some publishing channels require DRM, others require there to be no DRM on your submitted titles. Some publishing houses will enforce DRM whether you want them to or not.

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