revoke individual user access to single, multiple, or all ebooks
revoke access automatically after a number of views and/or prints
Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages. Dynamic variables (date/time, user name, company name, email address) are replaced with actual user and system data when the protected ebook is displayed and/or printed.
You only have to protect an ebook once in order to customize it for multiple users.
see what devices & operating systems users are using
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Protect revenue and increase ROI – reduce losses and costs
Take control over your IPR, prevent redistribution, piracy & theft
No cost per ebook or user – one fixed price for unlimited use
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“Simple & secure – protects IPR from theft”
Ebook DRM: protecting ebooks from piracy, copying & sharing
The most popular ebook formats and ebook DRM protection methods
When it comes to protecting your ebooks from piracy or theft, ebook DRM (e-book Digital Rights Management) is probably one of the first things you will think of.
Digital rights management is the only effective security to stop ebook copying and unauthorized distribution, but most systems are poorly implemented.
Many publishing platforms (Amazon Kindle Ebooks, Google Play Books, and Kobo) rely on the protection supported by Adobe Digital Editions (ebook reader software that uses Adobe Content Server for protection) but that has significant flaws. The main one being that the ebook protection can be easily removed.
Here we discuss the most popular ebook formats (epub & PDF), ebook DRM protection methods (Adobe DRM and PDF DRM), and alternatives to DRM, and explain which is best.
Ebook Digital Rights Management (DRM for short) refers to a series of controls that, at their most basic level, are used to prevent the unauthorized copying, editing, and sharing of content. More advanced DRM solutions additionally prevent screen grabbing, allow publishers to revoke use after a certain date, and more.
How does ebook DRM work?
DRMs vary in their protection mechanisms. Kindle and similar protections work by either wrapping the ebook in DRM code or adding code to the ebook package itself. Amazon designed this modification to stop the user from opening the ebook in anything other than authorized viewers (whether that be on a PC or an e-reader). Most of these viewer applications also try to stop the user from printing, copying, and converting the ebook. The DRM also attempts to stop users from opening the file on unauthorized devices by requiring their device to hold the correct key or be linked to an account with the purchase registered to it.
Standard Adobe PDF protection encrypts an ebook with a unique encryption key which is stored in its encryption dictionary. The user or owner password is then used to recover the encryption key from the dictionary and decrypt the file’s contents, making it viewable again.
As we’ll cover below, however, the poor implementation of most DRM solutions has led to them becoming trivial to remove.
Amazon Kindle, Google Play, and Adobe DRM (epub & PDF)
Kindle readers support five different file formats: MOBI, KFX, AZW, EPUB and PDF. The MOBI, AZW and KFX formats use Amazon’s DRM, whereas EPUB and PDF ebooks are DRM protected using Adobe ADEPT / Adobe Content Server. Google Play uses Adobe DRM.
However, all these DRM protection schemes are really easy to remove:
Type in ‘Kindle DRM’ in Google and the first page of results is full of instructions on how to remove it easily (using a Calibre plugin, converting Kindle to PDF, etc.).
Type in ‘Adobe Digital Editions DRM’ in Google and the entire first page (apart from one for the Adobe site) is covered with instructions on how to easily remove it.
So, you may wonder: what protection are your ebooks actually getting against piracy and theft if the security can be easily removed?
If you trust users not to use ebook DRM removal tools, then you might equally trust them not to share your ebooks with others and therefore have no need to implement DRM security to begin with.
An alternative to using the above platforms for ebook distribution and protection is using software to generate an HTML5 ebook that can be viewed in the browser.
you cannot prevent users from sharing login details and thus ebooks with others
if you allow printing then you cannot prevent users from printing to PDF format and removing all the protection
you cannot prevent screen grabbing
users have to be online
DID YOU KNOW?
Ebook DRM and security issues
Amazon, Apple and Adobe DRM systems have all been broken
Customers have been locked out of using ebooks they purchased due to security updates
“We have been looking for years to find a software company that would allow us to securely sell our eBooks. Locklizard offers so many options, we are able to fill the needs of all of our customers. We have used other software providers that had promised the security of our eBooks but they never lived up to that promise the way that Locklizard has.
The support we received has been outstanding. They are very responsive to our requests and go the extra mile.
I would recommend Locklizard if you are looking for secure ebooks.”
Tools to remove ebook DRM
There are many ebook DRM remover tools that work with MOBI, KFX, AZW, EPUB and PDF files. The most popular are:
Calibre and DeDRM plugin – remove the DRM from Adobe Digital Editions and Kindle DRM
Epubor– provides a range of tools to remove the DRM from Adobe Adept (Google Play ebooks), Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Sony & more
EPubsoft ToolBox – remove the DRM from all common ebook formats
Tuneskit – removes Apple DRM (iTunes DRM removal)
You might ask why these ebook DRM removal applications are so successful. It’s simple: the above DRM security has been implemented as an afterthought (and usually rather badly), enabling applications to either plugin to (to access the content as it is decrypted or intercept the decryption keys) or pickup unprotected content that the system has directly cached to disk. This is nothing new – Elcomsoft pointed out the issues with Adobe PDF DRM and other ebook protection methods back in 2000. 20 years on and removing the DRM from ebooks is still trivial. See PDF Security issues and weak DRM implementations for further information.
Adobe’s standard security handler uses RC4 stream cipher, encrypting file content with a unique encryption key. The encryption key is encrypted and stored in the file’s encryption dictionary. Either the user password or owner password can recover the encryption key and decrypt the file content. Removing PDF Passwords covers this subject in more detail.
In 2009 Adobe Digital Editions was broken by i♥cabbages allowing users to remove the DRM protection from Adobe ebooks. They commented “There is very little obfuscation in how Adobe Digital Editions hides and encrypts the per-user RSA key, allowing fairly simple duplication of exactly the same process Digital Editions uses to retrieve it”. 5 years later, in 2014, Adobe released Adobe Content Server 5 which, in their own words, is “A more secure Digital Rights Management scheme to protect EPUB and PDFs from unauthorized viewing. The new hardened DRM solution uses multiple encryption layers with Adobe Licensing server having the control to change the mechanism of encrypted key generation.” Yet still ebook DRM removal products claim to remove it, proving that it does not matter how many layers of encryption you have if it is implemented poorly.
Publishers who implemented the latest edition were also in for a shock. Customers reported losing e-books from their libraries after having upgraded to the latest version.
Sadly, access being denied to PDF documents and ebooks after an Adobe update is not new. Companies that have implemented the Acrobat PDF DRM plugin have also had furious customers unable to access DRM protected PDF files since every time Acrobat is updated the plugin no longer works.
PDF ebook DRM & Adobe PDF DRM
PDF is still the most common format for document distribution since it produces reliable results across all platforms. Adobe PDF DRM, however, is flawed and can be removed easily (just like Adobe PDF password protection and permissions or restrictions).
If you are serious about protecting PDF ebooks from piracy and theft and are happy to provide your own means of distribution (rather than using an ebook publishing platform) then using DRM that does not rely on Adobe (or a third party DRM plugin to Acrobat) is clearly the way forward.
Adobe DRM for Digital Editions – Adobe PDF DRM & ePub DRM
Some companies say that DRM that completely secures content must be cumbersome or difficult to use and that their solution strikes the perfect balance between ease of use and security.
Let’s be clear, if the security can be easily removed it is not effective and you are wasting your money. An ebook DRM or PDF DRM system can be secure yet easy to use.
Locklizard ebook DRM – e-book Digital Rights Management to protect ebooks from piracy
Locklizard ebook DRM protects PDF files using strong encryption and DRM controls to ensure your ebooks are protected against simple DRM removal applications. Our DRM protects ebooks in PDF format from piracy, copying and sharing.
We stop printing to PDF, stop screen grabbers and lock ebooks to devices so they cannot be shared. If you don’t want users to install a Viewer, then you can distribute your secure ebooks on a USB stick that includes the Viewer software. Users can then open DRM protected files directly from USB without installing any software. You can publish whole ebook libraries on USB sticks and then later grant access to individual books. You can also add new ebooks as you publish them and you can grant access accordingly.
Locklizard ebook DRM enables you to sell ebooks securely without insecure passwords or plug-ins, and enforce access, location, expiry, and usage controls. Our DRM technology ensures your ebooks remain safe no matter where they reside with US Gov Strength encryption, licensing, and DRM controls. Ebook content is decrypted in memory and no temporary files are used.
Why Locklizard for Ebook DRM (e-book Digital Rights Management)?
Locklizard provides many advantages over Adobe DRM & Amazon & third party ebook DRM systems
No Passwords or Logins
No passwords or login information for users to enter, forget or share, or for you to manage and distribute.
Keys to decrypt ebooks are automatically and transparently securely transferred to authorized devices and locked to them.
Expire ebooks after a number of days’ use, views, prints, or on a fixed date
Revoke ebooks instantly (regardless of where they are) if a chargeback is made
Device & location locking
Automatically locks ebooks to devices to stop users from sharing your ebooks with others
Optionally lock ebook use to locations. For example, ban use in specific countries
Control the number of devices your DRM protected ebook is installed on
Add permanent and dynamic watermarks to identify users. Watermarks are inserted automatically at view and/or print time with user-identifiable information to discourage the distribution of photos and photocopies.
You only have to protect your ebook once for all users rather than having to do so individually to display unique user information (name, email, etc.).
Unlike Adobe watermarks, which can be easily removed by selecting them in a PDF Editor, Locklizard watermarks are permanent.
No charges per ebook sold – just a one-off fee for unlimited ebooks and users
No development and deployment costs
Choice of licenses to suit you
Is DRM best for ebooks?
DRM is the only effective security to stop ebook copying and unuathorized distribution
Only DRM can be used to restrict how content is used – not encryption, password protection or onetime links. DRM can stop ebook sharing, content copying and editing, disable printing, and control expiry.
One-time download links – for each user who purchases your ebook, you provide a unique, single use link.
These stop multiple users from downloading ebooks using the same link but do not stop users sharing ebooks with others once they have downloaded them.
File encryption – file encryption software enables you to encrypt any type of file.
It is great for protecting ebooks on servers or in transit, but once a user has decrypted the file, they can share it with others (or share the decryption key if it is entered manually or known to the user).
Social DRM or watermarks.
If your ebook is not protected with DRM then watermarks can be easily removed. PDF watermarks can be removed in a PDF editor in a single action and hidden watermarks can be removed by either saving them as different file formats or printing to PDF.
So, DRM is best for ebooks, but not all ebook DRM is equal. Some formats provide limited restrictions and have been comprehensively cracked. It’s important to choose your ebook format and ebook DRM solution carefully.
Which DRM should I use?
It depends on your requirements and the platform you want to publish on. If you’re set on publishing on Amazon, Kindle DRM may be enough to stop customers who are clueless about technology. However, if you want real, effective protection against ebook piracy, a PDF DRM solution like Locklizard Safeguard is the only real choice.
Is removing the DRM from ebooks illegal?
According to Harvard Business Review, it is illegal in the US to break the DRM of an in-copyright ebook even if it is for personal use. The main exception is if the purchaser is legally blind and cannot reasonably find an accessible version of the ebook.
It is not, however, illegal to tell somebody how to remove DRM from an ebook or point them to tools that allow them to do so. And, because ineffective DRM leaves the chance of getting caught very low, many will follow those instructions.
Do I need DRM on my ebook?
Not necessarily. If you are looking to release content for free or do not care too much about profits, it probably isn’t worth implementing DRM. If you want to make a living out of your ebooks or stop people from claiming your work as their own, however, a good DRM solution is well worth the investment.
Are Amazon ebooks DRM free?
No. The vast majority of Amazon ebooks are not DRM free – they use the company’s Kindle DRM. This includes free works and those that are no longer in copyright. However, the DRM that it does use is easily removed by free tools – and therefore offers very little protection.
We needed to deliver e-book versions of our handbooks while not compromising on security and digital rights. Safeguard PDF security is easy to use and intuitive.
The implementation was painless and we now have a greener, more secure way of distributing training manuals.
Locklizard’s PDF protection is exactly as described – the features are highly effective and I would give it 5 stars.
I would recommend Locklizard to others - their security is simple to use and fit for purpose. It meets common needs of businesses who have information they want to protect.
We would be happy to recommend Locklizard to any company needing a flexible way to secure PDF files.
Safeguard PDF Security has provided us with a very workable solution for sharing of information in a secure fashion. The support has been excellent and very accommodating.
We can cut accounts for a user five minutes before his class starts and he is ready to go. Happy smiling customer, while we still have security and personalized watermarking.
I have immense respect for the product and Locklizard provide great customer satisfaction and service.
We would recommend Safeguard to other companies for its security, cost and ease of use. It does what we expected it to do and more.
Ease of use is a bonus and the implementation was very easy. The product manual is excellent and Locklizard staff are very accommodating.
We sell a highly valued educational product in an open and competitive market so it was important to ensure we had effective security to protect our digital rights.
We highly recommend Locklizard - a professional company with a competitive and professional PDF Security product.
We would absolutely recommend both Locklizard as a company, and Safeguard PDF Security. It has transformed our study materials to the next level.
Not only did this increase sales, but we also believe that it has increased our customers’ ability to learn, which is even more important!
We would recommend Locklizard Safeguard to other companies that need to protect PDF reports. Customers have found the process of accessing the protected documents to be seamless.
Implementation was easy and technical support has been very responsive to requests for help.
Our company would without reservation recommend Locklizard. Their document DRM software opens up delivery of our new products in a timely fashion while knowing that the content will remain secure.
The return on investment to our company has been immediately evident.
We use Safeguard to make sure that documents cannot be opened outside our local network or from a unauthorized computer in order to copy or print the documents.
It is the most feature rich, affordable, & simple to use PDF security product on the market.
Safeguard PDF Security is simple to administer and meets our needs, consistently delivering secured manuals to our customers with ease.
Return on investment has been elimination of many man hours, printing resources and postage – it is estimated that costs decreased by 50% or more.
We would really recommend Safeguard PDF Security to every publishing company for managing ePubs or e-books securely. It is easy to secure PDF files and simple to distribute them to our authorized customers only.
Locklizard also provides a good customer support experience.
The ROI for us is incalculable. We have the security of knowing that our proprietary documents are secure. This is the entire value of our company.
I would most certainly recommend your PDF security product and already have. The ease of implementation was surprising.
We can now sell our manuals without the need to print them first, saving time, money and helping safeguard the environment.
We would recommend Safeguard PDF DRM – it is the perfect solution to sell and send e-documents securely whilst making sure someone cannot copy them.
We would recommend Locklizard to other companies without hesitation.
Their PDF DRM products provide a manageable, cost effective way to protect intellectual investment and they are always looking for ways to improve them. Moreover, their staff provide an excellent level of support.
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