Should One Copy Protect PDF For Reading On The Desktop Or Online?

With some PDF security software you have a choice of whether you copy protect PDF for reading on the desktop or from a web browser while online. With most PDF security software available today the choice is limited because most can no longer display PDF securely in a web browser. Since all of the popular web browsers dropped support for NPAPI plugins in favor of simple apps that are useless for system control, it is only the CopySafe PDF Protection software that still offers the choice of desktop and online reading. So let's look at those two options.

Copy protect PDFWhile we do still get enquiries for online reading from web pages, we find that most of the authors of tutorials using CopySafe PDF Protection are using it from our DRM portal which encrypts their uploads and registers their PDF in the DRM database for access rights management. From their DRM control panel, authors have total control over all protection settings with immediate effect on any changes made, even to PDF already saved to a user's computer or still out in the wild on disk. And that is probably why those authors prefer desktop publishing with DRM to copy protect PDF.

CopySafe PDF Protection can also be used on web pages and there are plugins for all of the popular CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Moodle that simplify the embedding of encrypted PDF on pages and posts, however if DRM is to be applied, it must come from the CMS itself because any DRM built into CopySafe PDF for online viewing will only conflict with the membership access controls already used in the CMS. To reiterate, when using CopySafe PDF Protection on web pages the only access control is by way of the membership login of the web site.

So what is the difference?

The main difference is that the DRM provided for desktop reading is based upon identification of the user by unique computer ID, which means that a user account cannot be used on more than one computer without special permission from the PDF author. Whereas with member access when reading online, the login details can be shared and used by more than one person... people who do not have authorization by the author.

Another difference is in data usage because with desktop reading the user downloads the protected PDF only once and then reads it locally, whereas with online reading the site visitor downloads the protected PDF every time that they open it to read from a web page. With online reading caching cannot help because even if the requests were close enough to be cached, the ArtisBrowser does not cache web content at all because that is where most media and website downloaders look to extract data.

By using DRM to copy protect PDF for desktop reading, many more options are available to authors for other types of control such as expiration, print and view limits. With online reading, logging of page views, number of prints and expiration can be logged and controlled but that would require customization of the CMS scripts and templates. But with desktop reading, all of those options are already available and logged by the DRM server. With DRM not only can you expire a PDF after a set date, but you can also expire by a number of days or hours from a user's first read of the PDF, meaning that the expiration on the PDF will never require updating. With DRM you also have the option of limiting the number of times a PDF can be opened by a user and how many times they can print it.

Can DRM be applied to desktop reading?

Yes. Any web developer with some scripting and database skills can add a new column to the user table of a CMS and record the user's unique computer ID which is given by the ArtisBrowser as a server variable. ArtistScope do not provide a plugin for that because there are too many CMS types and they each have lots of different add-ons for membership controls that would surely conflict with anything ready-made. So it is best to hire a coder to add what will suit your particular scenario.

Should one copy protect PDF For reading on the desktop or online?

Both options have merit and only CopySafe PDF Protection can offer both. Which you might prefer is up to you and your planned project. But please do not make the mistake that far too many web developers make in assuming that when reading online that the PDF is not saved to the user's computer. because it is saved in both usage scenarios. When downloading and saving to disk it is saved to a location chosen by the user. When read online, the PDF is downloaded and saved to memory. Note that I said "memory" and not "cache" as with most web browsers?

For more information about CopySafe PDF security software, please do not hesitate to ask via our online feedback form.

Author: William Kent
Date: 10th December 2019

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