How to Copy Protect PDF Documents

Protect PDF DocumentPortable Document Format (PDF) is an open file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. In the beginning, Adobe Reader was not available for free and the documents were bigger than the original text files. Consequently, some competitors were soon using other formats for documents and so Adobe started distributing its Acrobat Reader (now Adobe Reader) program for free and it eventually became the de facto standard for printable documents on the web.

Anyone can create applications that can read and write PDF files, without having to pay royalties to Adobe and there are some applications that are now available that have been created independently out of Adobe resources. Today, there are many PDF creators and readers to choose from, all of which can create what looks like a PDF document, but they may not be identical or fully compatible in cross-matched readers.

Simple Protection for PDF

We use the term "simple" because it is just that. Here, the PDF has been encapsulated similar to a ZIP file with expiry date or password protection. Unfortunately this method has given DRM a bad name because a web search can produce many apps that remove that expiration and password protection to extract what is a normal PDF inside.

Other "simple" methods may include encrypting the file for use in a generic reader like the Adobe PDF Reader. Again, such protection is easily exploited even if the decryption process is built into the Adobe Reader because its PDF files can easily be decompiled to extract their content. In fact there are many apps available today that will convert PDF to a variety of other file types.

Secure Protection for PDF

To properly protect PDF documents, you need to start considering using a custom reader and document format that cannot be decompiled. Today there are many such solutions, but CopySafe PDF provides the most effective copy protection and DRM. CopySafe PDF documents cannot be decompiled or exploited in any way, as they can only be viewed using the CopySafe PDF Reader. Other apps for ebooks such as EPUB, Mobi and PDF, can easily be decompiled to extract the secrets of the encryption that was used.

Copy Protection for PDF

Beyond password and expiry protection, you can also include copy protection to prevent users from copying graphics and text or printing a document. This is where CopySafe PDF outperforms others because it was specially designed to be secure where others fail. CopySafe PDF documents cannot be copied in any way, even by using PrintScreen or screen capture. Other solutions tout protection from screen capture that merely relies on software detection by name which is easily foiled by changing the name of its .exe file. Whereas CopySafe PDF interacts at system level to control the computer's clipboard. In fact, there is no other solution in the world today that can provide such comprehensive copy protection.

Beyond Copy Protection : DRM

Documents that are copy protected using CopySafe PDF are most secure but they can still be forwarded to others. Moreover, preventing file copy is actually impossible. Once you have a file of any format on a computer, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it from being copied to another folder, sent by email or copied to disk for distribution.

However, you can prevent that file from being opened. In fact, you can choose who can actually open the file by giving them permission to view and/or print and this is what we call Document Rights Management (DRM).

IIf the file cannot be opened by others who do not have your permission, it doesn't matter how many copies are made, because only those with your explicit permission will be able to open the file and view its contents.

Document Rights Management (DRM)

With ArtistScope Document Rights Management (DRM) you can have total control over a user's access rights and their privileges to view, print and how many times they can do these actions. Control also extends to the documents that have already been downloaded and saved to the user's computers. As an administrator, any changes that you make to a document or the user's permissions will take effect immediately.

Prior to ArtistScope DRM, such "total control" was not possible. At the mere suggestion of this feature, other document protection providers tried to undermine its credibility, claiming that it was impossible. But the proof is there for all to see by making use of the ArtistScope demo portal for DRM where you can create a free demo account to upload and DRM protect a PDF of your own choice.

Distributing Protected PDF

CopySafe PDF software provides three (3) output options. Protected PDF can be created for desktop viewing, with or without DRM to prevent sharing and distributed by email, download or on disk. Or protected PDF can be encrypted to include domain lock for display on web pages using one of our add-ons for popular CMS like Drupal, Joomla, Moodle and WordPress. However Copysafe PDF requires a Windows computer. For users on all OS and devices see the online options below.

Copy Protecting PDF for Online Reading

Copy protecting PDF displayed on web pages can actually be more secure than desktop reading, and when it comes to DRM, authors have much more control over settings with any changes having immediate effect.

There are now several options available for copy protecting PDF online that can be read from all devices including Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android phones:

  • ArtistScope Site Protection System (ASPS) is a server side solution that requires a dedicated server or VPS that will copy protect all media displayed on a web page.
  • SafeGuard DRM is a WordPress plugin that will add access rights to any WordPress web page or post that can include embedded PDF or video.
  • SafeGuard Media is a WordPress plugin that will add copy protected images, PDF and video to any WordPress page or post.
  • SafeGuard Webmail will copy protect email and team messaging on which images, PDF and video can be displayed. No website required.