Businesses are getting more savvy about publishing content like e-books, manuals, and reports and using them in their content marketing. And as they do, they often run into questions about copyright and content piracy issues.
I just fielded a question from a firm that was looking to publish their company manuals, but wanted to keep them protected from unauthorized copying. They asked about making PDFs non-printable, and if there were other ways to protect what they publish.
Here’s what I told them:
There really is no way simple to bulletproof a PDF. Yes, you can use watermarks so that they print ugly…but that’s terribly distracting for your legitimate customers. Not only that; it’s a fairly simple process to remove a PDF watermark.
With Adobe Professional you can create what’s called a Non-Printable PDF; this is a password-protected document that you can render as read-only. However, a quick Google search will show you a dozen ways to work around that; there are plenty of PDF password remover tools out there.
The best industry solution for copyright and piracy protection is to publish using Digital Rights Management (DRM).
Here is a great explanation of digital rights management and how it works. Most of the major publishing e-books publishing platforms offer DRM as a built-in part of their service. There are also companies that can provide DRM for your PDFs without going through a third-party platfform like Kindle or iTunes. Locklizard.com is one that looks robust (although I haven’t used it personally.)
Of course, nothing is completely free from content piracy, as the sharks stay one step ahead of us all the time. But DRM is the industry standard and offers the best protection.
Think of this way…what do you stand to lose if you DON’T publish because you are afraid of digital piracy? Unless you’re publishing trade secrets, patent information, or other truly confidential work (n which case you should be consulting a copyright attorney right away and that’s way beyond my pay grade to advise) don’t let fear of piracy keep you from publishing. Just be smart about it.