How To Copy Protect Documents?

A commonly asked question is "how can I protect my documents" to which there can be no answer until the situation is broken down because there is no one way to copy protect all documents. Of course then the response is "I want to copy protect all my documents including MS Office, Excel, OpenOffice, PDF and PowerPoint".

And here is where the problems lays because it is absolutely impossible to copy protect any of these files while they can still viewed in their native viewer. For example if you take a MS Office file like Word and encrypt it, then MS Word won't be able to open it. And so it goes for all other file formats. To copy protect anything, first it needs to be encrypted so that it can be preserved until such time as it is safe to display its contents, and to display an encrypted document of any type you need a proprietary viewer (one especially designed for the task).

To Copy Protect Documents For Online Or Offline Use?

Again we have too many scenarios to protect, because there is a huge difference between viewing a copy protected document online than there is to viewing a copy protected document offline, and the difference is not where most people assume it is. It's a common belief that when you read a document online that it's not downloaded, and that you are reading from the web. Well that couldn't be more wrong and it's surprising how many people, especially those in the IT industry, don't realize this.

Regardless of whether you read a document or web page online or download a document to your computer, in all cases that file gets downloaded to your computer, and it's read from your computer! The only difference is where it read from and the tools used to read it. For example anything read from online is downloaded to what is known as the "Temporary Internet Files" folder which is your web browser's caching folder. Caching is designed to save time and data by storing anything that you read online so that page refreshes and revisits to the page don't require another download. Web browsers do not hold cache forever, and although cached files used to be difficult to use directly, the browser makers have since changed that. When downloading a document you usually get the option of saving that file to wherever you like an can easily locate it at any time.

The tools used to view online and offline content will also differ. For viewing protected documents online you need to use a web browser and in the case of special document types and situations where a document has been embedded into a web page, you will need to use a plugin to decrypt it ready for display.

Using A Suitable Document File Format

As mentioned earlier, to provide proper copy protection for all document types, a proprietary reader is needed. Unfortunately this is not practical because then one would need a different reader for each and every type of document and the for each type, one would need a local reader and a browser plugin for reading online. Not such a problem one can say? Well it is because for most of these file formats resources are required which are protected parts of their parent applications and not for exploitation by developers without licensing. For example to display Word document online or offline will require teh latest version of Word to be installed on the user's computer. For PowerPoint and Excel it's the same and any developer tapping into these resources will be subject to licensing from Microsoft. Adobe requires similar licensing and it's not cheap.

Paying out to license a multitude of document APIs is not feasible considering the current state of the copy protection industry where IP theft comes before innovation, but there are some solid alternatives when the field of document formats is narrowed. Some developers have been wrapping different file formats into Flash. Now Flash is a sophisticated medium and they keep finding new ways of using it, but there will always be the same problem with Flash. While Flash can effectively be copy protected by a shadow application, anything protected by Flash on its own is most vulnerable. But no great loss there anyway because the file types that can be embedded in Flash are still very limited.

Copy Protecting Documents For Online View

For the copy protection of documents while viewed online, from a web site using a web browser, there are two (2) most solid options available. Each solution provides a most secure scenario and copy protection from all methods of copy and save including Printscreen and screen capture software.

Copy Protecting Documents Online Using A Web Browser Plugin

This method utilizes a web browser plugin to decrypt copy protected content and apply a layer of controls to prevent copy and capture of the content while displayed. The solution is simple to deploy and most effective because if a user doesn't have the plugin installed they are redirected to download and install. Only when the plugin is installed and active can a user view the copy protected content. The only solution capable of providing such diverse copy protection while supported in all Windows web browsers is known as CopySafe Web and will prevent copy of a web page and anything displayed on that page whether it be images, Flash, PDF or video. For evaluation please see the CopySafe Web demos online.

Copy Protecting Documents Online Using A Secure Web Browser

While using a plugin to copy protect documents viewed online can provide a most secure viewing scenario, due to the inherent nature of web browsers and the fact they are are not designed with content protection in mind, the situation is not ideal and a much more secure environment can be created by doing away with general use web browsers and restricting the view of your content to a secure web browser, one specially designed to protect web content instead of exploiting it. The only web browser specially designed for this task is the ASPS Web Reader. ASPS, which is short for the ArtistScope Site Protection System, provides an encrypted stream from server to the Web Reader which is not decipherable by any other browser or web tool. Anything that is displayed in the ASPS Web Reader is properly protected from all manner of copy without any threat of data leakage or cache retrieval. For evaluation you can download the ArtisBrowser and explore the demo links from its start page. This solution is most ideal for online tutorials that use PDF and Flash.

Copy Protecting Documents For Local View & Offline Distribution

Viewing copy protected documents offline, from files downloaded or received by email and saved to disk, is a different scenario again because instead of using a web browser we need to use a proprietary reader. This scenario is also more precarious for copy protected documents because they can be easily forwarded onto others and redistributed without the author's permission.

But before we go into how to extend copy protection to prevent unauthorized distribution, let's look at the document types that can be protected. Earlier we discussed the various file types and their resource dependencies, and also the need for a custom viewer for each format. So now let's get real and trim the tree.

Let's look at the PDF format. PDF documents are commonly used for everything from contracts to invoices and brochures. In fact there are so many different types of file converters available for creating PDF from almost any type of file, that it's no surprise that PDF has been chosen by most developers for their document protection solutions.

There are many diverse solutions for document protection solutions based on PDF, and there are many different ways of protecting PDF documents. Password restrictions and expiry dates are the commonly used protection methods and there are a multitude of PDF readers that provide these options. Unfortunately those same applications refer to their apps as being for copy protection which can be frustrating for anyone looking for real copy protection... that is, preventing ALL methods of copy and save. When looking at the options for properly protecting a PDF document, there is only one application that is secure from all exploits, and for document authors, especially eBook authors, it is not only the most secure and economical copy protection solution for documents, but it's also available with a host of goodies for publishing and distributing an eBook.

The CopySafe eBook Store

CopySafe PDF provides the most secure copy protection for documents, protecting a document's contents from all manner of copy and save including screen capture. CopySafe PDF documents can be distributed by download and on disk and can be read locally whether online or offline. CopySafe PDF users are entitled to free use of the CopySafe DRM Portal to further extend the protection of their documents to prevent onward forwarding and unauthorized use.

  • Upload PDF and convert to copy protected document
  • Extend document protection to prevent unauthorized use
  • Free listing in the CopySafe eBook Store shopping cart
  • Online tools for managing document rights and downloads
  • Online book cover designer to create promotional cover images
  • Online sales using credit cards and user tracking
  • Totally free of any commissions or royalty

The publishing service provided by the CopySafe eBook Store has it all covered!

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