Secure PDF Printing

One of the security features many PDF publishers want to see is control over printing of their PDFs. This turns out to be rather more complicated than it might seem at first. Essentially there are two main options: (i) do not allow printing of any kind; and (ii) allow printing subject to some restrictions. The first option is the most common situation, and applies to many different types of document, especially ebooks. It is relatively easy to handle by not providing print facilities in the reader software or by disabling such facilities if they exist. In the case of standard (Adobe-style) PDFs this can be defined via the Security settings options in Adobe Acrobat. But remember that non-Adobe PDF readers may not respect these settings (i.e. ignore them with the result that the file is not actually secured at all) or may be subject to breach if the security settings are attacked using widely available software.

The second option has many variants, and these have become more complicated in the last 2-3 years. This is due to the rise of printers that are indirectly linked to the PC or Mac or other device, so may or may not appear to be real, physical devices… often they appear as WiFi “air” printers or in-network print server software packages. In general PDF publishers who permit printing wish to limit some aspects of this facility, such as:

(i) never allow printing to PDF or Image virtual printers
(ii) only print to local devices
(iii) only permit printing a certain number of times
(iv) only permit printing of a certain number of pages
(v) include an intelligent (user/computer/date/file-specific) watermark on some or all pages

This functionality has been supported as standard in  Javelin PDF readers for a long time, but the rise of the printer-that-is-not-obviously-a-printer has led to problems, especially with requirement (i). Within Drumlin v6 and the matching Javelin releases, this issue is handled by selecting the “Relaxed printing” flag in the Permissions form when creating a secure PDF. This flag uses a less strict algorithm than is the standard ‘strict’ version, with the result that the newer devices should be accepted as valid printers. If a warning message “Error -30” is issued it means that currently the Javelin reader being used cannot recognize the print device as valid – email us with full details (printer/print software Make, Model, version etc) and we will ensure it is included in our “Relaxed printing” facility.

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