Now it’s the turn of audiobooks to make a stand against the repugnant tide of DRM. Mega-publisher Random House has sent an open letter to its partners saying it will provide DRM-free MP3 files from March.

“We believe that this move will allow for healthy competition among retailers targeting the iPod consumer, without posing any substantive increase in risk of piracy,” said Random House Senior vice president Madeline McIntosh.

The publisher says it has already completed a trial period in cahoots with eMusic, and that it believes no pirated audiobooks came from those DRM-free editions. Instead it says they were derived from editions that previously had DRM but were cracked, plus rips from CD.

“For tracking purposes, we watermarked all of the eMusic files and then hired a piracy watchdog service to monitor and report back to us if any of our titles appeared on the major filesharing networks,” explains McIntosh in the letter.

Piracy 'a fact of life'

“Because piracy is already a fact of life in the digital world, what we were interested in finding out was not whether piracy exists, but rather whether there is any correlation between DRM-free distribution and an increased incidence of piracy.

“We did find many copies of audiobook files available for free, but they did not originate from the eMusic test, but rather from copied CDs or from files whose DRM was hacked.” McIntosh points out that these results are consistent with the findings of the music industry, which is also sporadically going DRM-free. Play.com announced its UK DRM-free music service PlayDigital last week.

However, there is a caveat to Random House’s intentions – it’s reserving the right to still put DRM on some releases. “At the same time, this is not an all-or-nothing proposition: we will still have the ability to maintain DRM restrictions for those authors who still feel it is necessary,” wrote McIntosh. She added that the company would continue to be vigilant in “guarding the security of our content”.

Via BoingBoing