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The short version is that anything you publish in any form can be stolen by someone who is determined.
You can send a flattened PDF with security to prevent editing if they are honest, but if you trust the client there's no need to do that.
Yes, I agree with your first statement. Im guessing the elements I am buying are being custom made by the person Im buying from and they want to ensure its not being taken by non buyers. If its not secure, someone could just move the element into a file on their computer and use it anyway they want and not buy it from the party who made it. So it appears that the parties Im buying the elements from seem to believe that flattening their work prevents files from being stolen as they have it written in the TOU's that their work is copyrighted and when I buy an element I get a TOU on how I can use it commercially. Some sellers are picky on how you can use their work..and I must use the purchased element in a new creation as part of my work and flatten it before I distribute it.
Thanks for the information. Unfortunately, I would not ever see any clients face to face as they'd purchse my announcements online. For the most part, purchasers of my work would be consumers who know nothing about ID, so I could trust that they would not be able to edit my files. However, there could be others who do know how to use such publishing software....either clients or those who also make announcements as well.
For some jobs where I just don't trust the client I export my proofs as 150 dpi JPG rather than PDF. Then right-click and convert to PDF (if single page) or combine in PDF (for multiple pages). Delete the JPGs afterward. It's a few steps but goes quickly. For most clients I export as PDF, setting security to no editing and no printing allowed. It sure would be nice if Adobe would let us save security settings in a profile rather than having to set them each and every time we make a PDF though. Many online invitation/announcement printing companies provide only a low-rez JPG image for proofing.