How to Protect PDF Files for Online Distribution?
April 22, 2014 11:37 AM   Subscribe

I have a client who wants to sell ecourses in pdf format, but doesn't want the pdfs to be able to be easily shared. The only solution I can find is a monthly DRM subscription but they think that's too expensive and that there must be another alternative...

I've considered a subscription service, but they don't want the user to have to log in to read the documents, instead download them and have access to them. Ideally shareable with one other device so that it can go from desktop to phone/tablet.

Any ideas or is DRM the only way?
posted by kooop to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can set a password to open a PDF (instructions, PDF link), though I don't know if that would work on all mobile apps.

I've had a few ebooks in school where the email address of the person who purchased the PDF was the password, which seem to have worked well.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:41 AM on April 22, 2014

Gaming stores that sell PDF copies of books usually watermark them, often with the customer's name.
posted by 4th number at 11:50 AM on April 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gumroad helps you sell digital assets for a 5% cut. Instead of DRM, they "stamp" each e-book with the buyer's name to discourage distribution (screenshot here).
posted by rada at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

How hard is the requirement that they not be shared? Because DRM is basically the only way to have even a minimal amount of assurance that they can't be copied everywhere (and even then, it's likely that a determined user can break the DRM). DRM is expensive because you need to get devices or software to support the DRM in such a way that it can't be broken without some effort, and often requires things like license servers and other on-going costs to support users after they've downloaded the DRMed file.

If I were them, I'd go with watermarking and/or password-protecting as mentioned above. It's pretty much totally honor system at that point, and it's still possible for a determined user to remove the watermark or password protection, but that is going to be the least expensive option by far.
posted by Aleyn at 5:09 PM on April 22, 2014

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