Apple to wrap digital books in FairPlay copy protection


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When Apple launches its iBook store to sell titles for its new iPad device in March, many of its titles are expected to come with a set of handsome digital locks designed to deter piracy.

Veteran iTunes customers will recognize the locks as FairPlay, a digital rights management software that once limited how many times digital songs can be copied onto different computers. (Apple phased out FairPlay for music a year ago, and now sells unfettered tunes.)


Next month, Apple will be dusting off those digital cuffs for books, according to sources in the publishing industry.

No doubt some publishers, including O’Reilly Media -- which has vociferously argued that digital locks are harmful to sales -- will opt not to deploy FairPlay. (O’Reilly, which puts out technical books, was not on the list of five publishers during Apple’s announcement of the iPad, but is discussing a deal with Apple.)

But the majority of publishers are expected to embrace FairPlay, along with other copy protection software such as Adobe’s Content Server 4, as a means to squelch incipient book piracy as the e-book market begins to take off.

-- Alex Pham

Clarified 1:50 pm: An earlier version of this post said Apple phased out FairPlay a year ago and now sells songs without DRM. Apple continues to use FairPlay to protect other iTunes content. Thanks to our readers for noticing this omission!

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.