copy protection

Copy Protection Software

Copy Protection: How to Copy Protect Documents & Files

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  Copy protect PDF files, documents, reports, ebooks, elearning courses from piracy & sharing

What is copy protection?

Copy protection is all about controlling the authority to make copies.  As a result, at the core of copy protection software is the ability to control the creation of copies.  If you do not have copy protection, then you have nothing at all – regardless of your legal right (copyright), pirates will quickly make unauthorized copies of your work and pass them on for free.

Now, there are those who say that once they have “bought” something then they have the right to make copies of it and use it in any way that they see fit.

Such arguments are fundamentally flawed.  The fact that you have bought something does not mean that you have an inalienable right to make copies.  After all, how many people think that because they bought a painting, they have the right to copy and distribute it?

The reality, however, is that the practical limitations of making a physical copy are usually copy protection enough.  Even the humble paperback is not worth scanning and printing.  Apart from the serious number of hours needed to scan a paperback, the printing cost, unless you are a commercial printer, is simply prohibitive.  In simple terms, you would not spend 12 hours of your time and $25 in ink or laser to make a single copy, especially if you can buy a copy in your local mall for $5.95.

So, in the real world – the world defined by physics – copy protection is achieved because the costs of making commercially useful copies are so high that commercial wisdom provides copy protection.  In the world of computing, copying is a trivial and inexpensive activity.  Just think about it.  Copying the folders from your c: drive to a backup drive is so simple that anyone can do it.

Clearly, the traditional controls that ensure copy protection no longer work in the computer environment.  In fact, the situation is fundamentally changed.  Copy protection now has to be active rather than passive, especially since distribution via email or a cloud server costs nothing.

  Copy protect documents, files, ebooks, reports & training courses from unauthorized copying

How can copy protection be achieved when making copies is so trivial?

The first thing to realize about digital copying is that there is nothing wrong with allowing the copying of files in themselves.  The copy is only useful if you can actually interact with it, whether that be by opening and viewing it in an application or editing its code.  All you really need to do, then, is make sure that only the purchaser can make use of/view their copy.  The easiest way to do this is to lock use to their device.  While technically a friend could look over their shoulder or borrow their device, so too could they lend a physical book.  The important thing is that they cannot make new copies that can be used indiscriminately by users who have not paid.

Ultimately, then, copy protection is not a matter of literally stopping someone from copying a file (that would be like fighting the gravity of a black hole). It’s about making those copies useless to those who do not have a right to use them.  The only realistic way to achieve copy protection is through the use of cryptography. See PDF copy protection for more details on protecting PDFs against unauthorized copying.

Copy Protection Components

Below are the main components a good copy protection system should consist of.  Each component adds a layer of security that helps enforce copy protection controls.

  • Encryption

    Encryption is used to encode (encrypt) content so that it is only usable if the recipient has the correct key.

    In good copy protection systems it is also used to lock content to specific devices so that it cannot be easily transferred (along with the key) to an unauthorized device.

  • DRM Controls

    DRM is used to impose restrictions on what an authorized user can do with content so that security cannot be easily circumvented by functionality available within an application.

    For example, the ability to stop printing of a document, or for content to no longer be accessible on a fixed expiry date or after a number of days use.

  • Licensing

    Licensing enables content to be linked to a user so that you can control access and use at the user level.

    For example, you may want to restrict a user to being only able to view protected documents on their mobile device in only an authorized office location.

  • Watermarks

    Watermarks can be used to make copying difficult (static watermarks) or to identify a user (dynamic watermarks).

    • Dynamic watermarks may be used as a form of copy prevention, because the individual the content has been licensed to has their own identity associated with it and they most likely won’t want to be identified as the source of copied materials.
    • Static watermarks make it difficult to copy by using background images that blend with the content – e.g. a diffraction or a Moire fringe pattern.
  • Other Security Mechanisms

    A good copy protection system will also control Operating System behavior so that simple methods to circumvent security are prevented.

    For example, stopping screen grabbing and preventing printing to non-physical printers such as file drivers.

Copy Protect PDF files without passwords using Safeguard PDF security

How to copy protect a PDF

To copy protect PDF files, right-click on them in Windows File Explorer and select the menu option ‘Make Secure PDF’.

Then in Safeguard Secure PDF Writer, choose the PDF copy protection to apply:

  1. Prevent printing, allow printing or limit the number of prints.
  2. Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages.  Dynamic variables replace actual user and system data when the document is viewed/printed so you only have to protect the document once for all users.
  3. Add expiry.  Make the PDF expire on a date, after a number of views, after a number of prints, or after a number of days from opening.
  4. Lock PDF use to specific locations on a global or user basis.
  5. Log document views and prints.
Safeguard’s default copy protection
  • Stops users editing, copy and pasting content
  • Stops screen grabbing (even from remote connections) and use of Windows print screen
  • Locks PDF files to specific devices so they cannot be shared with others
  • There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove
  • Revoke PDFs at any time regardless of their location
Document distribution

Distribute protected PDFs just like any other file – send by email, upload to a web site, etc.  It does not matter who downloads protected documents as only authorized users can access them.

protect pdf file

  How to make a copy protected pen drive

USB, flash, or pen drives are typically considered one of the least secure ways to share documents.  Without USB copy protection, once they’re out there they can be easily lost or stolen.  Safeguard, however, allows you to conveniently hand documents to external parties on a USB device without having to worry.  This is how it works:

  1. Protect your PDF files on your PC using Safeguard PDF Security and add DRM controls by selecting the options you require.
  2. After you publish the document, press “Protect to USB…”.

    Protecting to a USB with Safeguard

  3. Select the USB drive you want to publish to and press “Publish All”.

    Configuring USB publication with Safeguard

    Along with your PDF files, a portable secure viewer is automatically copied to the USB device so users don’t have to install any software to view the protected documents.

  4. You distribute your secure USB device to external or internal users. You can also add a password to protect them in transit if you wish – this must be entered before users can access documents on the USB device.
  5. Once they have the USB device, users can open the protected PDF files in the provided viewer application.

    Secure USB Viewer

  6. Users can also download additional protected PDF documents that they have been authorized to view to their USB devices.  The keystore is automatically populated with keys accordingly.

   Download PDF copy protection software

Download copy protection software with DRM controls to protect your intellectual property – copy protect PDF files, documents, ebooks, reports, training and elearning courses against piracy and sharing.

Prevent unauthorized access and misuse – protect against copying, printing, editing and sharing of your content.  DRM copy protection software that ensures the security and use of your information with US Gov strength encryption, transparent key management, DRM and licensing controls.  There are no useless passwords, plugins or JavaScript that users can remove, share, or bypass.

Read our customer testimonials and case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard PDF security to share documents securely and sell PDFs securely.


Does Safeguard support copy protection via USB?

Yes. Safeguard Portable USB allows you to encrypt and apply digital rights management controls to a document and then publish it to a USB device (flash drive, PEN drive, etc.).  On publish, the documents and encryption keys are transferred to the USB drive and locked there, along with the secure viewer application.  The document can then be opened directly from the USB device with no additional software required.  Users can view files offline with full protection – there is no need for an Internet connection.

Is website content copy protection effective?

If you mean protecting the text and images on the website itself, then no.  The browser just doesn’t have enough control or obfuscation to prevent a user from copying or downloading text and images from a website using their browser’s developer mode.  JavaScript can be both edited and disabled to bypass protection.

It’s better to put sensitive content inside of a PDF document, use DRM software to protect it, then provide it as a download on your site.  The document copy protection will be far more effective, preventing copy and paste, printing, editing, screen capture, and more.

How do I copy something that is copy protected?

Well, you can copy the file itself as many times as you want, but any decent copy protection software still stop you from doing anything with its contents.  If you’re asking how to make a copy of the file’s contents, then the method of bypass varies depending on the copy protection software used to secure it.  If the file in question is a password protected PDF or Word file, the answer is easy: use a cracking app such as Elcomsoft or an online tool.  Alternatively take a screenshot and run it through an optical character recognition tool.  If you are in possession of a Locklizard-protected .pdc file, the only route to copy it is to ask the Publisher to enable printing or screenshotting.

Does Locklizard stop duplicate copies of PDF files from being made?

No, doing so is pretty much impossible in the modern era.  Every file uploaded to a messaging application, website, etc. is a new copy.  Instead, it ensures that these copies can still only be opened by authorized users and that all DRM controls are enforced both online and offline.  See How to protect a PDF from being copied.

How do I bypass copy protection?

Bypassing copy protection that was applied using Locklizard is difficult.  The only route users can take is to take a picture of their screen with their phone, but dynamic watermarks will quickly identify them if they share that photo with others.

As for other copy protection solutions:

How do you protect the author of a book from having their work copied by others?

See ebook DRM which covers ebook formats and software protection solutions to prevent piracy.

How can you protect a PowerPoint presentation from being copied?

There are various methods you can use to protect a PowerPoint presentation from being copied.  Password protection is not effective so consider IRM or DRM for stronger security.

What is the best way to protect my digital media from piracy?

Using a DRM solution.  For video files and video games the leading solutions are Widevine and Denovo.  For PDF documents, we believe that Locklizard is the best choice.

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