A new digital rights management (DRM) technology that is open source—and embraced by publishers—is gaining traction in the library eBook world.
Readium LCP was developed five years ago to protect digital files from unauthorized distribution. Unlike proprietary platforms, the technology is open to anyone who wants to look inside the codebase and make improvements. It is a promising alternative for libraries and users wanting to avoid the limitations of traditional DRM.
“It’s important to have a decentralized, open source system for lending and vending eBooks,” said Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive founder. “LCP is a new generation of software protection that is proving popular with both libraries and publishers.”
LCP is a flexible, vendor-neutral, low-cost solution against over-sharing of content for eBooks, as well as audiobooks. The codebase is open source with the exception of an algorithm that protects the files.
“LCP was developed in conjunction with publishers to make sure it would meet their criteria to safeguard the content of their books,” said Brenton Cheng, senior engineer at the Internet Archive. “Yet, it’s an open format, and not tied to one particular company or commercial entity. In that spirit of openness, it’s available to anyone who wants to protect their content.”
A number of leading publishers, libraries and book distributors have adopted LCP, including:
- HarperCollins integrated LCP into its Harlequin Plus subscription service.
- Academic publisher John Libbey Eurotext has adopted LCP for its 2022 publications.
- Stockholm Public Library has incorporated LCP into its Bibblix mobile app for young readers.
- Numilog has deployed LCP for more than 500,000 eBooks in French & English.
- BiblioVault adopted LCP in 2021, serving more than 90 scholarly presses & 40,000 books.
- The Palace Project has integrated LCP into its mobile apps.
Source: LCP adopters
It’s a simple system that allows readers to access eBooks and audiobooks—and does not limit the selection of titles from a single source (as with Amazon or Apple).
It offers a large freedom in the choice of a reading solution, keeps intact the accessibility of digital publications and does not leak personal data, says Laurent Le Meur, chief technology officer, with EDRLab, the open source software development laboratory which develops LCP and receives funding from publishers, eBooks distributors, libraries and public bodies.
With LCP’s structure, there is no need to go through a third-party source to be authorized to download a protected book. Therefore, there is no threat of personal information being compromised. LCP is interoperable by design and socially engineered to be a sustainable, nonprofit DRM solution.
“Open source technologies like LCP protect authors and their works,” said Maria Bustillos, editor at The Brick House Cooperative, a publishing platform designed, owned and operated by journalists. “As a publisher committed to preserving traditional library rights, The Brick House looks forward to exploring the integration of LCP into our forthcoming projects.”
As a new technology, LCP is being used around the world with Europe and Canada leading the way. For organizations working on accessibility, LCP is the natural solution they have been waiting for, said Le Meur. In 2025, the EU Accessibility act will require all distributors of digital publications to offer accessible services and LCP is a DRM format that complies with the mandate.
“LCP is appealing because it’s not locked,” Cheng said. “There’s a greater sense that it might last. It has more transparency and accountability because the source code is out there and available for anyone to see.”
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