Controlling Document Use: Print, Edit, and Copying

Every day companies and publishers produce and circulate documents in the form of research reports, magazines, eBooks, and training course documents. This is a huge amount of content that is uploaded to the Internet and an abundant amount of this content is made available through search engines (even when it was not meant to be). So, one of the worst fears of company owners and publishers is the piracy and duplication of such content.

But, is there a foolproof way to safeguard and maintain absolute control over your documents on the Internet? Unfortunately, no; it is very difficult to stop the misuse of your documents. That is why you need to apply smart measures to restrict the printing, editing, and copying of your documents and thereby protect and control your content.

You can copyright content which means that you (the author) claim the rights to the intellectual property that has been created by you. This means that you solely bear the right to use and edit the content and anybody other than you who wishes to use the material needs your permission to do so or will have to face the legal consequences. Even though copyrighting fails to curb the duplication of your data, it does make it easier to redress the problem (although prosecution can often take a lot of effort and may not be financially viable).

Digital Rights Management (DRM) has the power to control how much freedom a recipient has with your documents. For example, DRM tools can stop screen grabbing and file saving options so that unprotected content (that can be easily distributed) cannot be stored on a recipient’s personal computer.

DRM ensures control over your documents through encryption. So, once a document is encrypted, distributing it to someone else will be futile without the decryption key as the document cannot be opened. Unlike straight encryption programs, DRM locks decryption keys to authorized devices so keys cannot be shared along with the document. This ensures only authorized users using authorized devices can access your protected documents.

With unprotected documents, you cannot prevent printing – the user can print out multiple copies and distribute it – and so you would want to restrict this. A DRM tool allows you to put a restriction on the number of copies that can be printed by the recipient. Once the number is reached, the document can no longer be printed. You can also deny further access to the document at this stage if required.

Watermarking is another way to authenticate you as the owner of the document and what user has used it. It works by adding user information to a document when it is viewed or printed. Watermarks help discourage duplication of content (i.e. a photocopy of printed material) as the user’s information will be displayed on the document for all to see.

If you sell subscriptions to content then a useful feature of DRM is the ability to enforce start and end dates. You can determine the timeframe for the subscription; thus whether it is for a limited period only or for an unlimited time. Use of expiry also helps prevent old content being viewed when it is no longer valid.

With DRM you can stop the breach of editing and printing documents and prevent unauthorized sharing. So, with the right use of DRM tools, you can be successful in securing documents and controlling document use.