PDF Disable Copying & Pasting

How to Prevent Copy & Paste in PDF Files & Documents

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Preventing copying & pasting of PDF content: text and images

One of the easiest ways to pirate or leak information is the copy and paste function.  Typically, when we think of copy/paste, we consider directly copying and pasting the text with the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V shortcuts.  However, a screenshot can also be considered a form of copy and paste.  The Print Screen key creates a copy of what you can see on the screen for replication elsewhere.

So, a critical feature for any DRM app is to disable copy paste using both the PrintScreen key and keyboard shortcuts.  Once copying is disabled, then there is nothing in the clipboard for the user to paste.

  Preventing copy & paste of text

To disable the copy and paste function in PDFs, you need to prevent the ability to select text with the cursor.  If a user can’t select the text, then they can’t right-click and copy with the mouse or use Ctrl-C as a keyboard command.  Preventing both of these text copying methods is essential to disable copy, and therefore to disable copy paste.

Alternatively, you can allow the selection of text but not allow the saving of that selection to memory so that there is nothing available to paste. This is perhaps better, as it can retain features such as highlighting, whether for annotation or accessibility.

  Preventing copy & paste via screen grabbing

Another common way to copy information is to use a screen grabber application or screen sharing software.  These use separate methods to PrintScreen, and are therefore more complicated to disable.

To disable copy via screen grabs it is necessary to do several things:

  • present a false image to the screen grabber
  • delete or overwrite the copy it is making
  • prevent the screen grabber from being able to run

It’s worth noting that if a user can make a screenshot, they can also extract the text via an OCR tool and turn it into a new, editable document.

Any method to disable copying will have to use all three methods, or possibly more.

  Technologies used to prevent copy & paste

To disable copy and paste, you either need to hook into the Operating System commands or the application.  This can be done via plugins, but they can be circumvented and often don’t work when the application is updated.  That’s why to be effective at preventing copy and paste, a dedicated application to view protected content should be used.

There are circumstances when the use of a dedicated application to view protected content may not be possible – for example, the user is not allowed to install any software on their device but is allowed to view content in a browser.  Disabling copy and paste in a browser is a less secure approach because the code (usually JavaScript) has to be exposed to the browser to be executed and is therefore vulnerable to attack.  In some cases, it is enough to simply disable JavaScript in the browser’s developer mode.  For an example of this, look at Google Docs.

  How to prevent copy paste with Adobe Acrobat

In Adobe Acrobat, you can disable copy paste by applying password protection and PDF restrictions to a PDF file.

To do this, in the permissions settings check the box ‘Restrict Editing’ and un-check ‘Enabling copying text’.  Then save the PDF file.

However, you should know that the Adobe Acrobat copy and paste protection is completely useless and can be removed without the user having to enter a password.  It only takes a free application and a few seconds.  See Removing Adobe Acrobat PDF Restrictions from a PDF file.

So, if you are looking to apply copy paste protection using Adobe Acrobat PDF restrictions, then think again.  It provides zero protection against users copying and pasting PDF content.

There’s no point in applying protection against copy and paste when users can just share protected PDF files and their passwords.

  Prevent copy paste & copying from PDF documents with Locklizard

Locklizard PDF DRM software does not use password protection to protect PDFs, so users cannot share decryption keys with others.

  • Protected PDF files are locked to authorized users’ devices so they cannot be shared.
  • Content is only ever decrypted in memory, so it is not available to copy from temporary files on disk.
  • Copy protection controls are part of the PDF document security and cannot be removed by third-party password recovery (or removal) applications.

Prevent copying from PDF: no copy controls, editing or save-as

Safeguard PDF Security stops users from making copies of your PDF documents:

  1. Stops users from editing PDF documents
  2. Stops users from copying and pasting content
  3. Stops users taking screenshots with Windows print screen and third-party screen grabber applications
  4. Clears system memory so selected content is never available to paste into other applications
  5. Stops users saving protected documents as clear text (i.e. in unprotected form)
  6. Prevents the use of temporary files so decrypted content is never made available on disk
  7. Stops users from sharing protected PDF documents with others by locking them to devices
  8. Stops users from using protected PDFs on unauthorized devices and in unauthorized locations
  9. Optionally prevents users from manually re-typing the document by blanking the window when it is not in focus
  10. Prevents printing so users cannot print PDF files and photocopy or OCR content

Preventing copying and pasting of your documents and information ensures users can not readily produce copies for other people.  Locklizard document DRM software automatically disables copy and paste to prevent unprotected content from being distributed.

  How to prevent copying from PDF & make it not copyable

  1. Right-click your PDF in Windows File Explorer and select “Make Secure PDF“.
  2. In the “Environment Controls” tab, make sure “Disallow screen capture” is selected and check “Add screen mask”.  The screen mask button stops users from copying text by typing it into another application on the same device while the Viewer is running.
  3. Press the “Publish” button at the bottom of the dialog.

    Safeguard will create an encrypted copy protected PDF (.pdc file) that only users authorized in the Safeguard admin portal can access.  It will automatically prevent users from right-click copying or using commands to copy text.


How do I prevent a PDF from being copied?

You need to use a DRM solution to prevent copying from PDF documents.  Adobe Acrobat protection is too easy to bypass, with users easily able to strip the protection and copy, paste, print, or make a file copy of the PDF.

A DRM solution implements its controls in a much more secure and thought out way, locking documents to devices without passwords to effectively stamp out copying.

How do I turn off copy and paste in a PDF?

You can turn off copy and paste in a PDF in most PDF editing applications, but that doesn’t mean it will stay off.  PDF protection that is based on Adobe can be easily removed, so you should instead look at turning off copy and paste using a DRM solution.

How can I prevent copy and paste in a PDF on Mac?

Adobe Acrobat is just even worse at protecting PDFs from copy and paste and screen grabbing on MacOS.  It’s possible for Mac users to screenshot, edit, and copy/paste a document protected with Adobe PDF by opening in the built-in ‘Preview’ feature.  This is because Apple does not honor Adobe’s permissions system.

To disable copy and paste on Mac, whether it’s via screenshot or text highlighting, you need to use a PDF DRM solution like Locklizard.

Why am I unable to copy text from a PDF?

Most likely because the creator of the document has disabled it.  If it has been protected with Adobe Acrobat accidentally, you can remove it using a number of PDF password removal tools.  Locklizard users, however, will have to contact the publisher of the document if they want to copy text from a secured PDF, as the controls can only be removed by the admin.

Do watermarks stop screenshots and copy and paste?

Watermarks can help to stop screenshots if they are placed well and not easy to remove.  They don’t do anything to prevent the copying and pasting of text however — that requires additional protection.

Can’t I just use Google Docs to prevent copy and paste?

Google Docs does provide some protection to prevent copy & paste but it is easily bypassed.  Google Docs uses JavaScript to enforce its controls, which can be bypassed by appending “/mobilebasic” to your URL and then disabling JavaScript in the developer console.  Users can then copy and paste the content into a new Google Doc to use as they like.  In addition, users can use Ctrl + P to print a PDF and take high quality screenshots using screen grabbing tools.  So Google Docs is not secure and should not be used if you want to prevent PDFs from being copied.

Is it possible to disable copying and pasting on iOS/Android?

It is not possible to prevent copying and pasting on iOS because there is no way to prevent print screen or third-party screen grabber utilities.  This is why Locklizard Safeguard includes the option to deny PDF use on iOS devices.

It is possible to disable both screenshotting and text copying and pasting on Android.

Can you block a PDF from being copied using JavaScript?

You can use JavaScript to block copy and paste but it is not very secure.  Users can turn JavaScript off in PDF Reader apps, and JavaScript executed in the browser can be manipulated in the browser’s editor so that security functionality is bypassed or disabled.

Is PDF no copy protection effective?

No. While the term “PDF no copy” may imply something new or effective, it is really just the standard PDF password protection you’ll see in any PDF editor or protection website. It does not stop copying as restrictions can be removed in seconds using a variety of tools and methods.

  Download PDF security software that stops copying & copy paste

Prevent copying & copy/paste of PDF content

Download PDF DRM software that uses digital rights management (DRM) controls to prevent copy and to prevent paste of your PDF documents, files, ebooks, reports, and digital training courses.  Prevent copying, pasting, printing, screenshots, and sharing of your content.

Use Safeguard PDF Security to prevent copy paste of PDF documents and stop unauthorized sharing and misuse.  Share and Sell PDF documents securely.

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