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How To: Copy Protect PDF Files

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This article will provide an overview of PDF copy protection as well as the options. Before diving into the details there are a few points worth noting.

  • Copy protection and encryption are two different things. An encryption solution is one in which the PDF owner assigns a password and the user can then do whatever they want with the document. Print, share, and screen capture are all possible. The concept behind encryption is that the document will not be accessible until a password is set.
  • Copy protection does NOT require a password. Anybody can view the file. The file cannot be copied or printed, shared, or screen filmed. Copy protection means that anyone can view the PDF. However, nothing can be done to the file. This is what most people search for when looking for PDF copy protection.

An open standard, PDF or Portable Document Format is a format. The document format was created to be used in almost all document readers. The goal of the PDF specification is to make it as universal as possible. Copy protecting a PDF file can be a bit more difficult than you would imagine.

Adobe Reader is already pre-installed for Windows. Windows comes pre-installed with Adobe Reader. Windows can also embed Adobe API code to view PDF files. Even if Adobe Reader wasn’t installed on your system or was uninstalled, you can still open PDF files using the underlying code. Adobe Reader (#1 in the market) is not the only PDF reader. There are many PDF reader programs. The goal of all these readers is to open a portable file and allow you to read it.

Adobe copy protection solutions can be easily cracked. Google “Adobe’s copy protection crack” and you will see pages detailing how Adobe security features were compromised. Here or here both have web pages that are dedicated to hacking.

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The lack of controls on a PDF’s viewing is the fundamental problem with copy protection. This means that a PDF content owner (you) does not have control over Adobe Reader or other programmes to prevent the user (your client/customer/student) from printing, screen capturing, sharing, and storing.

A PDF copy-protection solution is a way to allow the PDF to be opened, viewed, and edited while you (the content owner), retain full control.

Adobe Reader, Foxit Reader, or other programs will not allow users to prevent printing or saving within their program. To block such functions, we will need a “reader”, “viewer,” or “viewer”.

It is not possible to provide these security functions to a reader. Most PDF readers don’t need to download or install another program to read the PDF file. the process is a way to lose the beauty and ease that PDFs offer. The PDF is no longer considered a portable file format. Hackers can also use a program that can be downloaded to view and edit PDF files. You need to have more than a PDF viewer or reader to secure the PDF.

How To Copy Protect PDF Files? A PDF file can be copied protected by linking it to something physical. While there are some software solutions, these are not as safe as those with physical objects.

Nexcopy’s Copy Secure USB Flash Drive is a physical device that offers copy protection to PDF files. This can be done without having to install any program. This solution is not a protected file but a copy-protected flash drive. This is because the physical key that controls the viewing of the document is the device.

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Copy Secure drives have a PDF reader which is protected by code and locked to them. Even if hackers download the viewer application directly from the flash drive (no installation necessary), they will not have the tools required to unlock the PDF and manage it.

Copy Secure drive is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers. It’s easy to view the PDF using the viewer application, which launches automatically from the USB. The PDF can still be saved as a portable file format.

The viewer doesn’t support printing. This viewer doesn’t allow you to save, screen capture, or share any type of information. With this solution, the PDF is linked to the USB drive so it can be accessed on any computer. It is unnecessary to download a reader to each computer to view the PDF. All you need to do is insert the Copy Secure USB disk and access the file. Everything runs directly on the flash drive.

There are additional features that can be used to control PDFs if digital rights management is required. Copy Secure offers a PDF time expiration feature. This prevents the client/customer/student from viewing the PDF once a certain date has passed. Copy Secure lets you assign a password to any PDF that contains sensitive information. This means, there are now two layers of protection the content owner has: First, the client/customer/student must enter the correct password before the PDF is displayed. Second, after the PDF has been displayed, it is copy protected. Therefore, even the most trusted users cannot print or save it.

While researching the article about PDF Copy Protection, we came across many other products worth mentioning.

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Adobe – Adobe may offer a solution. But, we quickly Googled it and discovered there were too many hacks to consider this a viable solution.

PDF2GO – While this is a great solution online, we found it to be quite expensive for high-volume applications. This solution may be ideal for a singular need.

LockLizard – This solution falls under the large and medium-sized business model category.

I would conclude by saying that the idea of a physical device connecting to PDF security is appealing. Nexcopy works best for PDF content owners who have a business model that ties revenue directly to intellectual property. Their website provides detailed videos about how the technology works, as well as video instructions for end-users to access PDF files that are copy-protected. Adobe’s security solutions have been compromised due to its size over the years. The two other software-only options, PDF2GO and LockLizard, can be used to meet very specific or small requirements. They are however a little more expensive.

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