DRM: Help me prevent copying of something printable.
February 9, 2005 9:02 PM   Subscribe

DRM Filter: I've got some material I'd like to distribute online in a print-friendly format... but I'm considering limiting electronic pass along. PDF or Post Script would probably be the ideal format, but can they be machine-locked or something else that would prevent someone from forwarding to all their friends?

Also: is there a way to track a PDF every time it's opened (similar to, say, embedding a remote transparent gif in an HTML doc and tracking requests?). The reason I ask is that I'm also considering trying to make a case for no DRM and a sale price below the impulse purchase/lunch threshold, but I'd have to be able to track use and come up with stats that could justify DRM-less distribution by showing that most people buy rather than steal anyway.
posted by namespan to Technology (10 answers total)
 
If you include any DRM you will probably cause more problems than you solve. I have consistently had no luck using any DRM product distributed on-line. From Mjuice to eBooks, if it had DRM, I couldn't get it working. And that was if I was even willing to install the dodgy craplet being foisted on me.

Monitor Boing Boing for a while to get an idea of the scope of problems caused by DRM.
posted by krisjohn at 9:09 PM on February 9, 2005


PDF DRM has been severely cracked for quite a while. Ask elcomsoft about it. Adobe tried to send a man to jail for the embarassment to their company, but backed out at the last second when they realized it's worse PR to invite people to discussions from foreign countries to yours just so you can arrest them on trumped up charges for crimes that don't exist in any other country but yours.
posted by shepd at 10:52 PM on February 9, 2005


DRM Filter: I've got some material I'd like to distribute online in a print-friendly format...

Not to snark, but if it's print-friendly, it'll get copied, Adobe's "encryption" aside (which doesn't stop anyone sharing passwords).
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:14 AM on February 10, 2005


You do stand to make a bizillion dollars if you can come up with a useable solution.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:54 AM on February 10, 2005


Adobe Acrobat offers a few levels of protection, but you're not going to get what you want without paying a lot of money.

(1) There is a document password feature which requires a password to open and read the document. As noted above, the password can be shared and the protection is not foolproof.

(2) There is a permissions password which can be used in conjunction with (1) or standalone. This will allow people to open the document, but you can prevent them from printing it (among other things)- this will prevent most people, but a dedicated individual will find some way to bypass it (screenshots, etc.) if they really want to.

(3) There is some new tech released with Acrobat 7 called the Adobe Policy Server which allows the author of a document to have more control, such as revoking privileges- tracking the document- only allowing certain people to access it, etc. This comes the closest to what you are asking, however it is being geared for large companies and probably costs 30-50k to get in the door.
posted by jeremias at 4:50 AM on February 10, 2005


Just FYI, bypassing the password protection of cases 1) and 2) above is a very trivial matter ... as I found out after some googling when I needed access to a protected doc.
posted by magullo at 5:55 AM on February 10, 2005


PDF files can have JavaScript in them. You can set a page action so when the first page loads, it fires off a JavaScript that hits a tracking URL on your site.
posted by zsazsa at 6:28 AM on February 10, 2005


You could simply stop living in denial and accept that DRM doesn't work and that none of your readers wants it. If you also, along the way, quit thinking of your readers as thieves-in-waiting, it might aid you in accepting the folly of DRM in general.
posted by joeclark at 6:53 AM on February 10, 2005


For what it's worth, I was able to "bypass" PDF protections by using xpdf in Linux. I wasn't even aware that the file was protected until I tried to open it later on a Windows machine.

Really, it isn't worth your time. You're going to make significantly more people frustrated than you would keep from distributing your file. What joeclark said, all the way.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2005


xpdf runs on windows too 8?)
posted by magullo at 7:21 AM on February 10, 2005


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