Document copy protection

Document Control: Control Document Access, Copying & Use

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  Document copy control: controlling access & use

  What is document control and why is it important?

Document control refers to the process created by a business which enables them to create, distribute, review, and dispose of documents in an organized, secure, and verifiable way.

This is not a new concept – indeed, it may be almost as old as the written word itself.  You can find centrally distributed lists of objects and foodstuffs on stone tablets as far back as 3100 BC.  The Romans later perfected physical record-keeping, distribution, document storage, and archiving to fuel their infrastructure and propaganda efforts.

Today, a document control system plays a key role in productivity, compliance with rules and regulations, and the reduction of leaks and other security incidents. It helps to ensure documentation is up-to-date, that board meeting minutes don’t make their way into the wrong hands, that customer information is always safe and accounted for, and more.  It is hard to overstate the importance of document control in a modern enterprise.

  What security to look for in a document management solution

The key to a good document management system is the ability to control the documents that are created or distributed.  In a digital environment, you can’t claim to have document control without document security technology.  Specifically, there are three core types of controls your document security technology needs to support:

Document copy control

Document security software that bundles both a document control system and copy control is required.  If users can freely copy, edit, and share your documents, then you can no longer verify their authenticity or track their version – and good luck disposing of every single copy.

Document copy control is perhaps the most difficult thing to achieve.  Everything in a computer is there to make copying easy.  To achieve both document copy control and document protection you need to be able to hold documents in a form that is inaccessible to those who are not authorized. In other words, you need to encrypt them. That way, it no longer matters if someone copies the files or not, your document management system will make the file unopenable to those without the authority to access it.  You have achieved document copy control despite the fact that the ‘document’ has been copied.

Document rights management controls

So, encryption is used to control document access, but what about controlling the use of documents?

This is where Digital Rights Management comes in.  Digital Rights Management, or DRM for short, enables you to control document use after it has been opened by an authorized user.  This may be the actions that can be taken on the file (e.g. editing, copying, etc.) or how long it can be used for (document expiry).

Note, however, that document security is not something that is fixed.  You may wish to allow some users to print or use documents outside of certain locations, but ban others.  In this case, how you implement your document control procedure is important – controlling on either a document and/or user level.  To provide effective document control, a document protection system must allow you to decide which controls are to be implemented and at what level.

Licensing controls

Another crucial part of a document copy control system is licensing control.  Licensing grants the document controller the ability to license users to determine which documents they can access and from what locations.  It also allows you to deliver document keys securely and transparently to authorized users and their devices so that you don’t have to rely on outdated password protection systems, which are cumbersome to manage and easy to bypass.  See why you should not password protect PDF documents for more detail.

Finally, licensing control systems enable you to revoke document access even after documents have been distributed, or revoke user access to individual or all documents.

Once you have implemented your document control procedure, as any auditor would tell you, you need some way of being able to check that it is working.  This might be by recording when document control is being used, or when those who are unauthorized attempt to breach document security.  See tracking document use.

Controlling document access & use: components of a document copy control system

  • Encryption

    Used to control document access – encrypted documents can only be opened if the recipient has the correct keys to decrypt them.

    Encryption is also used to:

    • transfer decryption keys to authorized devices
    • lock keystores (where decryption keys are held) to specific devices so they cannot be used on other devices – if protected documents along with the keystore are copied to another device they will fail to open

    Locklizard use US Gov strength AES encryption for document protection.

  • DRM Controls

    Used to control document use – i.e. impose restrictions on what a user can do with a document.

    For example, the ability to print a document or to expire obsolete documents after a number of days or uses.

  • Licensing

    Used to control document access and use.

    It enables documents to be linked to a user so you can control document access and use at the user level.  For example, locking document use to specific devices and locations and traceability and logging use.

  • Watermarks

    Document 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 allowing the watermarked document to be copied is also associating their own identity with it, and they most likely do not want to be identified as the source of copied materials.
    • Static watermarks make copying difficult by using background images that blend with the content – e.g. a diffraction or Moire fringe pattern.
  • Other Security Mechanisms

    Used to control document copying by modifying Operating System behavior.

    For example, stopping screen grabbing and identifying physical printers vs file printers to prevent printing to PDF files.

   Creating a protected document with Locklizard

Creating a protected document with Locklizard is simple yet provides a much higher level of protection than Adobe Acrobat and far more modularity in its restrictions.  Here’s how to protect a PDF from copying and editing using Safeguard DRM software:

  1. Right-click on a PDF on your desktop and select “Make secure PDF”.
  2. Protect the PDF from copying by ticking the relevant controls.  We recommend that you add a watermark to discourage sharing.  Safeguard creates permanent dynamic watermarks that identify users.
  3. Locklizard PDF will prevent users from copying text and images, but you may want to take additional steps to protect your PDF from screen capture.  Without screen capture protection, a user can screengrab your PDF and import it into an optical character recognition tool to make the text editable.  To prevent this, go to the “Environment Controls” tab and tick “Disallow screen capture” and optionally “Add screen mask” which covers the viewer window with an image if focus is moved away from it.
  4. Press the “Publish” button at the bottom of the dialog.

    On publication, Locklizard will automatically protect a PDF document from copying and editing for anybody who has access to it.  This restriction cannot be bypassed, and as the user cannot make a copy of the document, they won’t be able to clone it and edit that, instead.  You can can safely share your protected document knowing that nobody can access it without a valid license.
  5. Add a user account and send them their license via the Safeguard admin portal.

    With the PDF published, you’ll need to send your recipients the encrypted .pdc file, alongside a download link for the secure PDF reader application and a valid license.  The simplest way of doing so is by ticking “Email license” when you add a new user.  See how to add a new user and grant them document access.

Control document access and use with Locklizard document protection

With Locklizard document security software, you can control access to your documents, what users can do with them (copy, print, etc.), where they can be used, and when they can no longer be viewed (expire).  Add dynamic watermarks (username, company, date/time stamp) that are applied when documents are viewed and/or printed to identify users, or image watermarks such as a moire pattern to prevent optical character recognition.

How Locklizard works

Protecting and distributing a document with Locklizard is easy:

  1. You encrypt a PDF on your local PC and add any DRM controls and watermarks you want to enforce.
  2. Your protected PDF is saved to your disk and a document record is created on the Admin System.
  3. You create a user account for each user you want to view your protected confidential PDF.
  4. An email is automatically sent to the user with a link to the Viewer and their license file.
  5. Once the Viewer is installed and the license file activated (clicked-on) it is registered to that device and cannot be registered elsewhere (unless otherwise specified).
  6. You control from the Admin System which protected documents each user can access, with an overview of all of the documents you have published as well as the ability to group users and view logs.
  7. You distribute your DRM protected PDF just like any other file (email, file sharing site, document portal, etc.).

With the Locklizard command-line tool, you can perform this process with a degree of automation, automatically protecting documents on the desktop.

Locklizard document DRM security software provides complete document management, copy protection, and copy control for your documents, enabling you to protect your IPR and securely share and securely sell documents.  It helps you to stop unauthorized access and use regardless of where a user is located or whether they’re part of your corporate network.  Protect your sensitive documents and important documents from unauthorized sharing and misuse.

See our customer testimonials or read our case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard document security to control document access and use.

   Download document copy control software

Download document security software that uses digital rights management (DRM) controls and US Government approved AES encryption to control document access and use.  15 Day Free Trial.


Is using MS Access for document control a good idea?

While you can build a document management system in Microsoft Access, it will do little to stop copying or unauthorized sharing alone.  Most organizations require a document control system that can verify who opens and has access to documents.  As a result, you would likely need to combine it with a DRM solution.

Is OneDrive document control feasible?

No, not really.  OneDrive doesn’t have the built-in tools that an enterprise would need to manage documents effectively at scale and it cannot stop copying.  Though OneDrive allows you to share a link to a document that disabled editing, it inexplicably does not disable downloading or printing, allowing users to create copies that are outside of your sphere of visibility and control.

How do watermarks help control document copying?

Watermarks help to prevent copying in two ways:

  • Static watermarks remind users of their responsibilities surrounding a document (i.e “Confidential. Do not share.”).
  • Dynamic watermarks can insert a user’s personal information at view/print time, ensuring that any photos/screenshots of the document or printed copies/an OCR version that are shared with unauthorized parties can be traced back to them.  This acts as a strong deterrent.
Does Locklizard support the protection of Word documents & Google Docs files?

Locklizard does not allow you to protect Word documents, Google Doc files, or other Microsoft Office files in their native format.  Instead, you will have to export or print them to a PDF, which can then be protected and distributed.

How can documents be controlled using a document management system?

The best way to control documents inside of document management software is to use DRM technology.  A DRM solution such as Locklizard enables the use of dynamic watermarks and moire patterns.  The former discourages sharing by populating the PDF with the date and personally identifying information, whereas the latter usually significantly reduces the quality of scanned copies.

Using Locklizard Safeguard DRM, organizations can also disable printing entirely so that physical copies cannot be produced.  In cases where printing and scanned copies are authorized, they can be saved as a PDF, protected with Locklizard, and uploaded to a document management system for indexing, document version control, and easy access.

Of course, these measures are not a replacement for physical security best practices, but rather should be used in tandem with them.

What file formats or types of documents does Locklizard support?

Locklizard supports the protection of documents in the PDF file type only.  You cannot protect any other document type without first exporting it as a PDF.

Will Locklizard integrate into my workflow?

Yes, we provide various tools for workflow integration.  You can use our command line tool to automate PDF protection and our ecommerce API for adding users, assigning access and for retrieval of information in real-time.

How can Locklizard help with revision control?

Documents can be set to automatically expire on a fixed date or after a period of time so that they can no longer be accessed.  They can also be revoked at any stage of their lifecycle to ensure incorrect or previous versions are instantly made inaccessible.

Does Locklizard use passwords for access control?

No, we use public key technology with licensing and secure and transparent key management.  There are no passwords to manage or for users to enter, share or remove.

Is Locklizard an enterprise content management system?

Yes, but we only support the PDF format.

You can use Locklizard DRM software to protect sensitive information from sharing, copying, editing, printing and screen grabbing.  Documents are locked to devices and optionally to locations so you can control the devices and locations documents can be used from.  A Locklizard controlled document can also be set to expire and instantly revoked regardless of its location.  Additional security features include permanent watermarking and document tracking for audit purposes.

There are no complex classification schemes or policies, just a simple protection app and user management portal.

Customer Testimonials