48 replies
I am looking to sell a PDF file which I do not want shared once someone has downloaded it.

Do you know of a solution where a PDF can only be displayed on 1 or 2 computers

From what I know, this can't be done with a normal PDF file but would have to be converted to an exe file.

It is important, that once someone has downloaded that they can't just share it with their friends. So, the download link itself doesn't actually have to be secure, but what happens after that does.

Thanks,

Ben Shaffer
#files #pdf #protecting
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  • Profile picture of the author Ed Micah
    Instead of protecting your pdf product, why don't you put your name, a hyperlink to link back to your website(hopefully a squeeze page), and something valuable inside which that you are forcing them to advertise for you when they share it?
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    • Profile picture of the author vger596
      Originally Posted by Ed Micah View Post

      Instead of protecting your pdf product, why don't you put your name, a hyperlink to link back to your website(hopefully a squeeze page), and something valuable inside which that you are forcing them to advertise for you when they share it?
      I think what Ed is suggesting is for you to build a list using the hyperlinks in the pdf. Once you have their emails, you can promote/sell them other products or even affiliate products over and over again.

      I think it is tough in this day and age to completely protect our intellectual properties. As they say, "when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade".
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  • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
    Martin, Thanks, that looks good, but was hoping for a cheaper solution

    Ed, because the point of the project is to make money from selling it. And is very important that it is not shared.
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  • Profile picture of the author cateespimsleur
    Banned
    [DELETED]
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  • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
    As mentioned above:

    "It is important, that once someone has downloaded that they can't just share it with their friends."
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Hi Ben,

    I understand your concern, as well as your desire to make as much money possible. However, in my experience, it's not really a big problem. In fact, putting in too much protection actually causes more problems for honest, paying customers.

    How many people do you think will share your PDF if it isn't protected? 5%? 10%? 20%? Personally, I think 20% is a high estimate, but even if 20% DO share, you would be inconveniencing 80% of your customers. Furthermore, you would be sending the message to 100% of your customers that you don't trust them (consciously or subconsciously).

    Also, the more protections you put into place, the more likely a few people will try to crack that protection AND share it on download sites. They will see you as greedy, and will actually go out of their way to share your book with an entire community, as opposed to one or two friends.

    Include a few logical and relevant forms of monetization in your guide and then release it for sale.

    You run the risk of alienating your honest customers with too much protection, and that can lead to refunds.

    Believe it or not, sharing just isn't that big of a problem. While you may think "protection" will generate more sales, the better bet is to focus on ways to generate more sales in other ways (such as ad buys, JVs, and creative marketing).

    All the best,
    Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
    Thanks Michael for you answer and totally understand where you are coming from. However, this is not the IM market or anything like that. And with this particular product it does make a massive difference if someone shares with someone else. And even more, they are likely to if it is not protected.
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  • Profile picture of the author WillR
    Impossible.

    A PDF can be shared by anyone no matter what you do to it. Sure you can make it a little bit harder for them but all it takes is for someone to do a screenshot or cut and paste of the content in the protected file and they can then go and share their own copy of the same content. Protection won't stop that from happening.

    If you allow someone to watch or read your content then it can always be shared and there is absolutely nothing you can do to eliminate that problem. Unfortunate but them's the facts,
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    • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
      Originally Posted by WillR View Post

      Impossible.

      A PDF can be shared by anyone no matter what you do to it. Sure you can make it a little bit harder for them but all it takes is for someone to do a screenshot or cut and paste of the content in the protected file and they can then go and share their own copy of the same content. Protection won't stop that from happening.

      If you allow someone to watch or read your content then it can always be shared and there is absolutely nothing you can do to eliminate that problem. Unfortunate but them's the facts,
      Well, your facts are wrong. For example, see Martin's link
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      • Profile picture of the author WillR
        Originally Posted by BenShaffer View Post

        Well, your facts are wrong. For example, see Martin's link
        I am telling you right now. You give me that locked file and I'll have it shared within ten minutes... guaranteed.

        For every solution there is a way around it. Trust me. In this day and age you (proverbial you) would be a little naive to think otherwise.

        So I couldn't take a photo of the pdf page on my PC screen and then share that photo? Sure, that's going to silly lengths but my point is sharing is always possible if someone wants to do it and there ain't nothing you can do to stop that.

        The best thing you can do is to focus on bringing in more customers rather than worry about the few people who share it. People who download shared products are unlikely to have ever paid for it in the first place anyway.
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        • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
          Originally Posted by WillR View Post

          I am telling you right now. You give me that locked file and I'll have it shared within ten minutes... guaranteed.
          Here's an example PDF:
          http://shmoozewithben.com/downloads/protected.pdf
          (REMOVED)


          If you open it, you will see a blank PDF. If I open it, I will see what the PDF is because I have the correct license. In addition, I can make it so that almost all screenshot and video recorders can't be used. I guess you could still use a videocam on the screen though...
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        • One thing -- while yes, lots of people do share, etc -- making it more 'difficult' for them helps to get rid of the 'lazy' sharers.

          So it does help to deter piracy, the more difficult it is.

          Yes, someone could write out by hand a PDF file -- but how many people would actually do that? It's too much "work". But if all they had to do is cut & paste, that would take 10 seconds, then they'd be more likely to do that.

          Johnathan

          Originally Posted by WillR View Post

          I am telling you right now. You give me that locked file and I'll have it shared within ten minutes... guaranteed.

          For every solution there is a way around it. Trust me. In this day and age you (proverbial you) would be a little naive to think otherwise.

          So I couldn't take a photo of the pdf page on my PC screen and then share that photo? Sure, that's going to silly lengths but my point is sharing is always possible if someone wants to do it and there ain't nothing you can do to stop that.

          The best thing you can do is to focus on bringing in more customers rather than worry about the few people who share it. People who download shared products are unlikely to have ever paid for it in the first place anyway.
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      • Profile picture of the author seasoned
        Originally Posted by BenShaffer View Post

        Well, your facts are wrong. For example, see Martin's link
        look at item #4 on that page, and downloads, and you will see that marton's link isn't about pdf. By that, I mean it ISN'T portable, ISN'T self contained, and isn't REALLY PDF.

        Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author scrofford
        Originally Posted by BenShaffer View Post

        Well, your facts are wrong. For example, see Martin's link
        The facts are not wrong. A PDF can be secured to the hilt and still there are people who can hack through the security. A PDF is never 100% secure. If you think it is then you are just deceiving yourself.

        I don't know how to hack your example. It's actually good, BUT I'm sure there is someone out there who could hack it.

        I think Michael's answer to this dilemma is the best. Why not leave it unsecure and put your links in it so that when it is shared, you can still make money off of it?
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        • Profile picture of the author GlenH
          Originally Posted by scrofford View Post

          The facts are not wrong. A PDF can be secured to the hilt and still there are people who can hack through the security. A PDF is never 100% secure. If you think it is then you are just deceiving yourself.

          I don't know how to hack your example. It's actually good, BUT I'm sure there is someone out there who could hack it.

          I think Michael's answer to this dilemma is the best. Why not leave it unsecure and put your links in it so that when it is shared, you can still make money off of it?
          That has been my approach with the 'system' I use, but I don't rely on a few text link scattered throughout the PDF and hope that a reader clicks on them.

          My simple approach is in their face...

          If they open my PDF they have to optin BEFORE they can read it.

          It's a simple strategy really, and it works great as a defacto 'squeeze page'.

          So in all honesty, I don't much care who might 'steal' my PDF.
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          • Profile picture of the author esuresh
            Originally Posted by GlenH View Post

            That has been my approach with the 'system' I use, but I don't rely on a few text link scattered throughout the PDF and hope that a reader clicks on them.

            My simple approach is in their face...

            If they open my PDF they have to optin BEFORE they can read it.

            It's a simple strategy really, and it works great as a defacto 'squeeze page'.

            So in all honesty, I don't much care who might 'steal' my PDF.
            Can you please explain how to do it?
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  • Profile picture of the author GlenH
    Originally Posted by BenShaffer View Post

    I am looking to sell a PDF file which I do not want shared once someone has downloaded it.

    Do you know of a solution where a PDF can only be displayed on 1 or 2 computers

    From what I know, this can't be done with a normal PDF file but would have to be converted to an exe file.

    It is important, that once someone has downloaded that they can't just share it with their friends. So, the download link itself doesn't actually have to be secure, but what happens after that does.

    Thanks,

    Ben Shaffer
    For years I've been looking for something like that also.

    I've spoken to dozens of programmers and no on has ever come up with a proper solution.

    And converting a PDF to an .exe file, is 'old thinking'

    So I changed my approach and thinking a little.

    I now embed all my PDF eBooks with a function that forces anyone who wants to read my eBook to have to give their name and email BEFORE the can open and read it.

    If they don't give their name and email, then the PDF won't open, so they don't get to read it.
    So if anyone 'steals' my eBook, at least I get their name and email added to my list before the can see the content.

    Sure, it's not the ideal solution but I'm building my list faster than I have ever done, and it definitely put a roadblock in the way of eBook thieves
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    • Profile picture of the author Harvey Segal
      Originally Posted by GlenH View Post

      I now embed all my PDF eBooks with a function that forces anyone who wants to read my eBook to have to give their name and email BEFORE the can open and read it.

      If they don't give their name and email, then the PDF won't open, so they don't get to read it.
      So if anyone 'steals' my eBook, at least I get their name and email added to my list before the can see the content.
      A question.

      Is it possible to check the email address against the list of customers who purchased and prevent access if no match ?


      .
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      • Profile picture of the author GlenH
        Originally Posted by Harvey Segal View Post

        A question.

        Is it possible to check the email address against the list of customers who purchased and prevent access if no match ?


        .
        The functions you describe (being able to check and verify a valid purchaser to a DB of purchasers) is what a true security function would and should do.

        With the method I use, it can only capture names and emails ( or other data, such as address and phone) in the first place, and then allocate that data to whatever autoresponder system you use.

        It is not possible to have the user /purchaser verification process as you describe within the process I use, because, to start with, you then have to involve all the different payment gateways.
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        • Profile picture of the author Harvey Segal
          Originally Posted by GlenH View Post

          The functions you describe (being able to check and verify a valid purchaser to a DB of purchasers) is what a true security function would and should do.
          Ok, if we could use such a function would the following
          be a possible solution.

          When you try to open the book the system requires the
          email address of the customer to be input. It then
          sends back an email containing a time-based access code
          that is needed for access.

          This code is valid only for a short time e.g 2 minutes
          to prevent the original customer sharing it with others

          .
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          • Profile picture of the author GlenH
            Originally Posted by Harvey Segal View Post

            Ok, if we could use such a function would the following
            be a possible solution.

            When you try to open the book the system requires the
            email address of the customer to be input. It then
            sends back an email containing a time-based access code
            that is needed for access.

            This code is valid only for a short time e.g 2 minutes
            to prevent the original customer sharing it with others

            .
            That is a possible element in a solution to secure PDF's , but as I said, my software was not developed to be a PDF 'security' app.

            When contemplating trying to develop a PDF security app. there are major issues to find solutions to.

            As I previously said, programming needs to be done to integrate payment processors (eg Clickbank) in order to manage the validity of payments, refunds etc.

            Data from payment processors needs to be integrated with any user database in order to manage the security. It would also be impossible to integrate every payment processor, you'd have to decide on two or three or the main players)

            There are also issues if the end user changes the file name of the downloaded PDF.

            As soon as the file name is changed, the covering security is removed.(and you can't prevent the purchaser from change the file name of the PDF and saving it under a new name)

            And of course 'sunray' is right!

            I don't know too many people who read PDF's online.

            I like to print them out and read at my leisure.

            So there are so many overlapping problems to solve with this issue
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  • Profile picture of the author sunray
    Actually, this is not a natural way of selling books. Traditionally, if you buy a book you are not limited to where you can read it (only one computer equals only behind the desk), and you can also lend it to your friends. This is what people expect of books. If you succeed in modifying your PDF in a way that it becomes in principle a disposable single-use item, they expect it to be cheap. Very cheap.
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  • I used Vitrium Systems, Inc "Protected PDF" for this purpose but they are quite spendy.
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    I hate to say it, but Michael Oksa is right. There is only ****ONE**** way to protect a standard PDF, and that was broken some time ago. The cracker was thrown in jail, etc... and the software has been banned, but you KNOW people can get it. If I say simply ROT13, you are half way there.

    So what of Martin Luxton's solution? It isn't PDF! It relegates the self contained PDF to a storage device, and requires a program that is only supported on windows and mac. What of android? What of Linux? What of the THOUSANDS of devices based on them? I have 2 ebook readers, and they can BOTH read PDFs, but NOT this one.

    I can't speak to the vitrium product, but the subscription model seems odd, and it IS expensive.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author lanew
    I don't understand this mentality. I know things I've sold get shared all the time. I also know by putting a link in it back to another offer (that is tracked) I've gotten more sales from my purchased product (that I know was being shared illegally) that more than covered the initial selling price. Free advertisement. Locking content down hard core for those honest people who do buy your product, only turns them off. No one likes to be treated like an idiot thief. I highly suggest you just throw a tracking link back to another offer, or if you have to an a-hole then look into making it only viewable through adobe air or something.

    Good luck.

    Be well,

    Lane
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  • Profile picture of the author xlfutur1
    I"ve been selling jazz music charts (password protected) as PDF files for 10 years and I've found there is really no way you can protect from someone if they want to steal your stuff.

    That being said, the vast majority of people are honest and don't rip you off, but there will be people that do. No matter what protection you have on a file, all someone has to do is print the file to a hard copy then scan it to PDF again. IM is no different than a retail store - you will get ripped off, but life is short so don't worry about it so much.
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  • Profile picture of the author BenShaffer
    So, I have actually been using the protection that is provided by drm-x.com and generally it is pretty good apart from some minor bugs.

    The way that they do it, is to have their own PDF reader which has some sort of decrypter for PDFs which have been created with their software. That reader is available on IOS and Android and Mac and Windows etc.

    It is pretty foolproof that someone won't be able to open it unless they have purchased it or know someone who has purchased. However, once you have purchased it, it is not that hard to then share it with friends with a bit of trickery which I don't really want to mention in an open forum.

    One of the problems I foresee with Glen's solution, is that if I was knowingly stealing a PDF without paying for it, then I would put in a fake email address.

    Seeing how drm-x's solution works, I don't see that it would be so hard to replicate the functionality. In essence, all it does it to phone home to a database to see if the user has permission or not to view/open the file.

    B
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    • Profile picture of the author GlenH
      Originally Posted by BenShaffer View Post


      One of the problems I foresee with Glen's solution, is that if I was knowingly stealing a PDF without paying for it, then I would put in a fake email address.

      B
      Of course that can be an issue, but as I pointed out, I'm not using my solution as a ' 'security' process. But as a 'name capture' process.

      Where ever there's an optin form, there's potential for anyone to put in a fake email address..

      As marketers we've all had to cop that. Nothing is a100% fool-proof.

      You just have try to plug as many holes as possible
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  • Profile picture of the author gepisar
    One thing i thought of, but have never seen, is to create the pdf dynamically upon purchase by inserting a watermark which consists of the name, address and credit card number used to purchase. Might want to seek legal advice first...
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  • Profile picture of the author magestore
    Yes, I agree with GlenH.
    We are not in this topic to find out a solution to protect our ebook/pdf 100%, but to find a solution that is cheap and can protect our work to some extent. In short, it's reasonable to our Goal and Budget.
    I plan to build list by giving away a free ebook, so I prefer the solution of GlenH as anyone who opens the file will have to leave their emails as well. Could you let me know the tool that you use, GlenH? How could I make it work the same as you do?
    Many thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author YasirYar
    Set up your PDF in such a way where you can password protect it and can only be opened once on a specific IP, I think the Angela Edwards backlinks packet does that, you can ask her about it, she's here in WF too.
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  • Profile picture of the author ScottieDog
    VaySoft PDF to EXE Converter,PDF2EXE,PDF TO EXE,Protect PDF,PDF Encryption, PDF Encryption

    Vaysofts solution is ok and locks the PDF to one single computer ID. There are various configurable options.

    Of course, it won't stop the hardcore crackers, but most will be prevented from sharing and that's all you can ask.

    There is a way to add digital signatures via adobe acrobat, this can restrict to a single user and compueter, but I've never worked out how to do that. You could research this though as it will be a solution for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author troy23
    If your product is good enough then people copying it won't make a huge difference to your sales. You'll be selling enough not to worry about who is copying or sharing it.
    I used to think how I could lock my pdf down, but in the end I decided it's not worth all the hassle.
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    • Profile picture of the author ScottieDog
      Originally Posted by troy23 View Post

      If your product is good enough then people copying it won't make a huge difference to your sales. You'll be selling enough not to worry about who is copying or sharing it.
      I used to think how I could lock my pdf down, but in the end I decided it's not worth all the hassle.
      I think its all down to price really. If its an expensive buy in then its worth protecting, if its a standard ebook type deal then its more agro than its worth and better off using link strategies in the book so you can gain potentially by them giving it away... as was said before, every new reader is a lead if you have multiple products.
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    The fact is simply that if you stray from PDF, it becomes less useful and portable. The protection it has is cheap and already broken.

    It IS amazing how everything has gone round robin. everyone and his brother was doing this before 1985. They eventually gave up. Oh yeah, many now have a try and license model, but even THAT isn't perfect. Of course, they don't limit the use of the product on a given platform, or bog it down. Versions before about 1985 typically didn't even allow backups!

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author ampeloi13
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenShaffer
    Well, your facts are wrong. For example, see Martin's link

    I am telling you right now. You give me that locked file and I'll have it shared within ten minutes... guaranteed.

    For every solution there is a way around it. Trust me. In this day and age you (proverbial you) would be a little naive to think otherwise.

    So I couldn't take a photo of the pdf page on my PC screen and then share that photo? Sure, that's going to silly lengths but my point is sharing is always possible if someone wants to do it and there ain't nothing you can do to stop that.

    The best thing you can do is to focus on bringing in more customers rather than worry about the few people who share it. People who download shared products are unlikely to have ever paid for it in the first place anyway.
    LOL! So very true. You may not have the knowledge but, others do.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jarvis Edwards
    I found that a useful deterrent to people who might want to share your product is to add a watermark or footer on each page that includes each buyer's name, email address, date of purchase etc. That helps.
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  • Profile picture of the author edd666666
    If you google "how to copy "locked" pdf's, and look at the number of hits it generates, you will get some idea of stopping that kind of thing. You can make it harder, but that means harder on your customers as well.

    Good luck, Ed
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  • Profile picture of the author mike76
    I use this: WP PDF Stamper Plugin | Tips and Tricks (non-affiliate link) along with the membership and shopping cart plugins from the same site.

    It doesn't prevent sharing, but with printing disabled and a protected file, it means I will always know who shared the file, and with name/address/e-mail all pulled from PayPal, I will always know who posted on a public site.

    I actually stamp the info in white text, so it's invisible to the user. If they post a public link, getting them to remove it is pretty damn easy once you let them know that they are also sharing their name, address, and PayPal account details

    Just beware: the membership and shopkng cart plugins from that site are awesome and have multi-site licenses, but the stamper can only be used on a single domain.
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    DLGuard is a good solution, but once someone downloads your PDF, it's tough to prevent them from sharing it with friends or posting it on their site or a file download site.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    After over 10 years of marketing information products
    online I've found that your products are not as valuable
    as YOU think. There are not these many people who
    want to steal your product as you think.

    So it's just better to think about delivering value than
    "over protecting" your products.

    I once used the PDF password feature to protect one
    of my product and then I forgot the password. It's
    a good thing I still had the original WORD document
    from which I could republish the book, then I removed
    the password protection.

    -Ray Edwards
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