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Marlin Developer Community just Launched a New Ebook DRM – Adobe Watch Out

An interesting press release came across my desk yesterday and I’m quite glad that I didn’t ignore it.

The Marlin Developer Community (a group I’d never heard of) announced yesterday that they had completed and released the tech specs for a new ebook DRM based on Marlin DRM. The new DRM will work with Epub or any proprietary format.

I’d never heard of them, so I looked at the about page. The MDC is a trade group with dozens of members, and it was founded in 2005 by 5 companies: Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony. <- Now that is an interesting detail, isn’t it? What we have here isn’t one company who developed  DRM that will always remain obscure; no, we have a trade group that developed an ebook DRM spec.

A few weeks back I posted about the Adobe tax, a cut of each ebook sale that Adobe extracts from the pocket of the buyer. As the days passed I saw a groundswell of support from developers who also disliked the Adobe tax. Apparently there’s a sizable minority of digital publishing that resent having to pay off Adobe.

I think this new ebook DRM spec could possibly have been inspired by the cost of doing business with Adobe. And if that’s true then there’s a good chance that it will be adopted, in at least a limited way.

Yes, Adobe may dominate the Epub ebook market, but this is still going to nibble away at them. It’s entirely possible for an ebookstore to use the Marlin DRM internally and only offer Adobe Epub as an external option. Don’t believe me?

That’s how Kobo got started. Their ereader and apps didn’t support Adobe DRM at launch. Instead they used some funky weird DRM (I’m still not sure where they got it). I’m told that Kobo did this as a way of avoiding the $50 thousand dollar per device fee that Adobe charge.

Just imagine what would happen if other ebook services followed suit. Okay, I don’t see it happening, but one can hope.

It all comes down to money, in the end. And that’s what’s going to bring down  Adobe.

P.S. Marlin Developer Community have also done a lot more than just this one ebook DRM. They have worked on a number of tech specs for a number of types of digital content. I can see from the past press releases that streaming and downloaded movies have both used Marlin DRM. Sony use (used?)  it for their online content store.

image by Robert Couse-Baker

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fjtorres August 30, 2011 um 4:44 pm

Don’t assume this will only nibble at Adobe, those are big names in the (still unborn) european ebook markets. Odds are the players there will jump at an "open" DRM spec that will spare them having to pay a tax to an american company. A consortium DRM is how DVD and BD work, remember.

I’ve been waiting for at least the french government (if not the Bruselcrats) to mandate a distinct euro drm (on privacy grounds, of course; they would never engage in protectionism, right?) and this looks like the perfect candidate.

And since the euro ebook business is virtually non-existent outside the UK, it won’t be too disruptive to swap adept-encrypted epubs with marlin-encrypted ones.
Note, too, how they emphasize their drm will work with other formats (cough*mobi*cough).

This is an iceberg.

igorsk August 30, 2011 um 5:22 pm

Marlin DRM was used in the original (pre-Adobe) Sony Bookstore, for the LRX (protected LRF) books. I think it was also used for their late music e-store. They developed a pretty complete infrastructure and even foreseen some kind of interoperability between vendors, but I believe Sony was the only major user of the tech. Here’s the site with some docs:

Nate Hoffelder August 30, 2011 um 5:33 pm

That’s pretty much what i had guessed, but I couldn’t see any evidence for it. Thanks!

LCNR September 2, 2011 um 3:15 am

Sounds a bit like the tree that hides the forest: these companies (and the EU for that matter) should be pushing for a DRM-free system. However, as the chances of that happening is virtually nil (at least in the foreseeable future), I suppose it’s a good thing as far as it goes.


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