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ePub standards body proposes new 'lightweight' DRM for ebook platform interoperability

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The standards association behind ePub is proposing a standardized DRM scheme that would provide protection while also allowing ebook interoperability between platforms.

kindle ibooks
kindle ibooks

Tor and several other related imprints may be going DRM-free in July, but that doesn't mean the rest of the publishing industry is ready to jump on board. Instead, the International Digital Publishing Forum — the association that established and maintains the ePub standard — is proposing a new lightweight DRM scheme that will provide protection while still allowing interoperability between ebook platforms. In a post on the IDPF's website, Bill Rosenblatt writes that while ePub provides the basic tools for encryption, the lack of a fully-realized DRM system has led to distributors and device makers rolling their own, resulting in fragmentation and platform lock-in. (As it currently stands, vendors like Apple and Barnes & Noble use ePub with their own DRM solutions built on top; Amazon uses its own proprietary format.) The new ePub DRM would offer a standardized approach, providing enough protection to deter casual file sharing without causing so much hassle as to be inconvenient to users.

The proposal calls for a password-based solution that would work on a device even if no internet connection was present — or if the ebook distributor themselves no longer existed. Varying degrees of restriction are also proposed, based upon the needs of a given situation, such as library lending. Even if approved, however, it's unclear if such a solution would be widely adopted. Rosenblatt writes that there are no plans to remove the hooks that allow individual companies to apply their own DRM, and with Amazon out of the ePub camp in the first place, there's something quixotic about the proposal. Then again, teaming up against the ebook marketshare leader may provide enough incentive on its own for other players to rally behind the standard — though we can't help but think simply going DRM-free would be the best response of all. The IDPF will be soliciting comments to the initial proposal until June 8th.