9 Replies Latest reply: Apr 11, 2013 5:32 PM by oplegnathus RSS

    make PDFs not copyable?

    oplegnathus

      I am creating a series of PDFs to be displayed within an Apple iPad app. I would like to prevent users from easily copying text and photos from the PDFs when using the app. Is this possible?

        • 1. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
          P Spier CommunityMVP

          You can add rudimentary security to your PDFs that will prevent honest folk form copying content in Reader or Acrobat, but I don't know what will happen in your iPad app.

          • 2. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
            Steve Werner CommunityMVP

            If you're creating PDFs to be viewed on laptop or desktop computers, you can set Security in Acrobat to keep objects from being copied by setting password security (File > Properties > Security). However, not all third party PDF readers honor such restrictions. I would try creating such a restriction, then test it using Adobe Reader and other PDF readers on an iPad to see if those restrictions hold. I wouldn't guarantee it.

            • 3. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
              oplegnathus Community Member

              Thanks for the quick replies, Peter and Steve. I am creating the PDFs with InDesign 5. Can I set security within InDesign 5? If so, where? I have not been able to find. Or could I run the PDFs thru Acrobat afterwards?

              • 4. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                P Spier CommunityMVP

                You'll need to do it Acrobat Pro after.

                • 5. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                  oplegnathus Community Member

                  Thank you! 

                  • 6. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                    peter at knowhowpro Community Member

                    No matter how strong Acrobat security may be, anybody can photograph documents displayed on the device's screen. Hey, you know that real hi-def Retina screen? They can photograph a better copy from it than from one of those old not-so-hi-def screens. I don't know if Acrobat security can prevent taking a screen shot on the display device, but nothing can prevent photographing the screen. So, you may want to protect your document by degrading it visually, by using low-resolution somewhat transparent images that permit a background texture to show through; the texture can also impair or completely prevent optical character recognition (OCR) of the text from a photograph of the screen. Even so, a diligent and skilled person with good image editing software might be able to retouch and otherwise manipulate the degraded copy, and restore it to near-original appearance.

                     

                    Degrading the images is "out of the picture" if the point of displaying the photos in the app is to show them clearly.

                     

                    If the goal is to protect the document from unauthorized copying, you might consider distributing it through a licensing method. Search Google for terms like "software sold with unique registration" without quotes. Also search for terms like "creating end-user agreements," without quotes.

                     

                    Depending on how many copies of the document will be made, you might be able to devise unique layout variations for each one sold, to help identify the original purchaser. For example, variations on the precise pixel dimensions, and precise location on the page. It's a lot of work.

                     

                    oplegnathus wrote:

                     

                    I am creating a series of PDFs to be displayed within an Apple iPad app. I would like to prevent users from easily copying text and photos from the PDFs when using the app. Is this possible?

                     

                     

                    HTH

                     

                     

                    Regards,

                     

                     

                    Peter

                    _______________________

                    Peter Gold

                    KnowHow ProServices

                    • 7. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                      P Spier CommunityMVP

                      The only sure way to prevent unauthorized use is to never distribute the PDF to begin with.

                      • 8. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                        oplegnathus Community Member

                        Peter, thanks for the followup - I realize they can take screenshots, but

                        at least that way they can't so easily get my text in editable form. And

                        the pictures would have to be cropped out the screenshot. Certainly easy to

                        do for the determined pirate, but will slow down the casual downloader.

                        That's mostly who I'm concerned about.  - John

                         

                        On Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM, peter at knowhowpro <

                        • 9. Re: make PDFs not copyable?
                          oplegnathus Community Member

                          It works! I just tried a secured PDF on the iPad and it is indeed not

                          copyable. Of course a screenshot still captures it, but that is a flat

                          image where work has to be done to extract the contents in usable form. At

                          least it'll slow 'em down a bit.