It is quite frequent that a book available for sale in North America is not available in Europe, and conversely. However, it is quite legal to buy a book on one continent and to carry it with you when you move or travel to another continent, even when it cannot be legally sold on this other continent. When the book is a hard copy, or a DRM-free ebook, this raises no problem, and you are free to read the book anywhere

My question is: what happen when the book is shackled in DRM? Will the DRM be location sensitive and disallow you to read some books when you are not in an area where it is legally sold, and particularly to read your books from a new device.

For example, can I travel to America, buy there a DRMed ebook not sold in Europe, return to Europe and then load this ebook on my ereader.

Of course the answer could depend on the kind of DRM, or possibly on the publisher or on some organization in charge of the DRM control.

I am looking for information or references on this issue, especially for the major DRM systems currently in use.

2 Answers 2


tl;dr This depends on what you mean by DRM, but generally the answer is no.


DRM can mean a lot of things, but it's basically a combination of software, file formats, and, in somewhat rare cases, the hardware itself. Unless the hardware and the software have some way to figure out where you are, they can't do anything differently based on your location.

So, unless your reader is checking its IP address against a geolocation service, using a GPS device built into the hardware, or doing something very similar to one of these techniques, it has no way of knowing where you are. All of these techniques have problems, and all tend to lead to bad user experience.

There are circumstances where this kind of DRM might make sense. For example, an intelligence agency might create its own software, file format, and region-based DRM to prevent people from accessing certain files outside of certain locations. (This is probably not the best idea, for various reasons, but it could be done.) But a mass-market maker of consumer devices might consider this a likely PR and customer-relations disaster-in-the-making, so you would expect them to avoid it.

It's worth pointing out that you could avoid such DRM by simply turning off internet for your device or putting it in airplane mode. If it still detected its location and disabled a book you had purchased, you would then know it was secretly transmitting, despite you telling it not to do so. This is the kind of thing that doesn't typically go over well when it hits the press, so it's unlikely anyone would try it.

A Side Note about DVDs and Region-Based DRM

DVDs famously use a region-based DRM scheme, in which every DVD player and every DVD has one or more codes. Each code corresponds to a region of the world. Unless the DVD and the player have at least one code in common, the player will refuse to play the DVD. But here's the critical thing: those codes are hard-coded in the discs. Most devices allow you to change it, but only a small number of times (like 7). And neither the disc nor the device will automatically change its code when you move them. So, even this DRM scheme is not an automatic one like you're asking about. It's also worth pointing out that the market for bootlegged movies is generally much bigger than the market for even the best-selling books. The economic analysis is very different.


I have never heard of a DRM for ebooks that varies by geography automatically. That does not mean it doesn't exist, but I'd be surprised if any publicly-available readers did use such a technology.


Technically no, the same day is used in all regions.

In practice yes there is DRM across regions as the suppliers don't allow you to log in to them from another region. Example if you have a UK credit card amazon will only allow you to download from its UK store. To use another store you need a credit card from that region.

  • What does this have to do with the question?
    – elixenide
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 4:06

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