October 4, 2005 | By Annalee Newitz

Memletics Publisher Responds to Criticism, Changes Policy

Last week, we wrote about how a company called Memletics sought to protect its books from infringement by printing the name, address, phone, and credit card number of the people who buy the books on every 10th page.

We're pleased to report that in response to our post explaining how this form of "DRM" threatens people's privacy, the publisher has now changed his policy. He says that he's sorry he ever used this method, and will no longer be printing personal information in Memletics books. Instead, he will print a unique serial number in each book. That way, if a book winds up on a filesharing network, he can track who released it. But he won't be putting his customers at risk of identity theft if they share their books with friends or make fair use copies.

For ebook publishers concerned about infringement of digital works, this should be an industry best practice going forward. It protects privacy and promotes fair use, but also gives publishers a way to track people who distribute infringing copies. The system is hardly foolproof, of course. Somebody could buy the book from its original owner and distribute it. Marking strategies are, in general, a weak form of security. However, the serial number solution is a more sensitive and sensible approach for publishers worried about infringement, and EFF applauds Memletics' decision to go forward with it.

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