Adobe Content Server Permissions Overview

Adobe Content Server Permissions Overview


The goal of this blog is to outline the basics of permissions without getting into the specifics of every little option. Later posts will delve into further details and examples.

While we will be taking a high-level approach to permissions, it would help to have a basic understanding of the overall Adobe Content Server (ACS) workflow to fully understand how these permissions will fit in.

Top-Level Overview

At the highest level, ACS stores book permissions in two places. If you were to go into the admin console, you would first see the “All Books” category. From there, you can narrow your view to only look at the books assigned to particular distributors (after they’ve been assigned, that is). Part of the reason for this separation is to have two levels of book restrictions: base permissions and distribution rights.

Base Permissions

Base permissions are typically set during packaging time. They are the set of permissions that apply to one particular book no matter which distributor it’s assigned to. In general, this set of permissions should be relatively lenient since distribution rights can only restrict the book further, not loosen existing base permissions.

Base permissions only apply to one book at a time. In ACS, there is no such thing as a “global” permissions set.

Distribution Rights

Distribution rights are the set of permissions that only apply to a book while it’s assigned to a specific distributor. If there are existing base permissions, the distribution rights will only override them if the base set is less strict. It is certainly possible to leave either the base permissions or the distribution rights completely unrestricted and only set the restrictions in one place or the other.

Distribution rights have all the same options that base permissions do. Everything covered later in this blog can be applied to either the base permissions or the distribution rights. Similar to base permissions, a set of distribution rights will only apply to a single book. ACS can’t apply a set of permissions to an entire distributor at once.

It also bears mentioning that a loanable book can be set up using the distribution rights. A loanable book is set up the same way any other book is, with the addition of a number of available copies and a simple “returnable” flag. For more information on setting up a loan, you can read another blog we’ve written here.

GB Link Permissions

In addition to the above permission sets, you can also set further restrictions at the very end of the workflow when generating the GB Link, the download link that will give the customer their download token. As with distribution rights, the GB Link permissions can only restrict the rights on the book further than those in the higher permissions sets. Additionally, the possible restrictions the GB Link can impose are only a subset of the Basic and Distributor sets.

Permission Types

Each permissions set can set restrictions based on a few different categories: viewing, printing, and copying. These options are the same for both Distribution Rights and Basic Permissions. The GB Link permissions set, however, only has access to a subset of what the higher-level permissions sets have.

Viewing (reading) Permissions

Viewing a book is the most basic permission that can be allowed. The options for viewing permissions are limited to number of devices, device type, and expiration.

The number of devices can be set to one or “unlimited”, which is actually limited to the restrictions placed on device activations by Adobe – six desktops and six mobile devices can be activated by a single Adobe ID.

The device type can be set to standalone (desktop), mobile (any non-desktop reader), tethered (a mobile device with USB connectivity), public, and roaming. At this time, public and roaming devices have no actual functional meaning for ACS or Adobe Digital Editions (ADE).

The expiration can either be absolute or relative. That is, you can set an exact date for which the book will expire, or you can set it to expire after a certain number of days, minutes, and/or seconds after being fulfilled.

When setting viewing restrictions in the GB Link, you will be able to specify either absolute or relative expiration time. Device restrictions can’t be set here.

Printing Permissions

Printing is more complex than viewing. A book can have unrestricted print rights, or it can start with a certain number of pages allowed. More pages can accrue every so often (one page every certain number of days, minutes, and seconds) and a maximum number of pages can be set. In addition to page limitations, a maximum resolution can be set as well, using a DPI value.

Aside from print-specific permissions, the same device and expiration permissions that can be applied to viewing can be applied to printing. Note that these permissions do not have to match the permissions you have set for viewing a particular book.

Remember that information regarding the number of available pages is stored locally on the device to which the book was downloaded. ACS can only keep track of whether or not a book has been fulfilled; it can’t keep track of pages printed.

When setting printing restrictions in the GB Link, max page count and accrual period can be set. Other options are not available to the GB Link.

Copying Permissions

Copying has many similarities to printing. It has all the same options as printing except for maximum resolution – initial copies, accrual period, maximum copies, device restrictions, and expiration time. Again, the device and expiration permissions are completely independent of viewing and printing and don’t need to match either.

Just like printing, the number of copies used is stored locally, on the user’s machine. ACS does not keep track of this in its own database.

Also of note is that a single “copy” is used when any copy operation is performed. Whether a single character or an entire page is highlighted, as soon as the user selects “Copy” from a menu or presses the keyboard shortcut to copy, the number of allowed copies is decremented.

When setting copying restrictions in the GB Link, max copy count and accrual period can be set. Other options are not available to the GB Link.


In the next post, we’ll look at a few specific examples of permission sets, then see what happens when they are applied to a book and the book is downloaded. We’ll also cover some more detailed information regarding permissions behavior as well as best practices.

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