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I laugh at your PDF encryption lock and your watermarks!

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  • I laugh at your PDF encryption lock and your watermarks!

    Locking your PDF so I can't edit it is a joke. I've got more than one way to crack it (freeware PDF unlockers) and I've got more than one way to get rid of your vector watermarks.

    In the newspaper industry which I work there are two schools of thought about ad ownership. The first school (which I and my boss subscribe to) is that you bought an ad from us, you own the ad.

    The second school, whch many newspapapers subscribe to, is that all you have bought is ad space and any ad designed for you is the property of the newspaper.

    It's the second school of thought that sends out locked PDFs to their customers.

    In my industry, 'camera-ready' usually means a proof that the customer is forwarding you from an ad designed at another newspaper. There are also companys that serve the newspaper industry, magazine industry, and those stupid throw away coupons/flyers you get in your mailbox and throw away. Those shopper leaflets you get on those racks at the grocery store also fall into this category. All of these tend to lock their PDFs.

    Such was the case yesterday when putting together an ad for a new customer.

    You can usually tell who locks and who doesn't, so a quick check of PDF info and permissions that say "Not Allowed" mean the PDF is locked.

    Run it through the unlocker, it spits out an unlocked PDF.

    Only this customer's design firm had a watermark over the entire thing. Luckily it was vector. Load up the PDF in Illy, find the layers the watermark is on and start clicking and deleting. Save out new PDF and drop into InDesign.

    My point in all of this is that if anyone out there thinks that by locking a PDF they are preventing this kind of thing, sadly they are not. I have a variety of tools at my disposal (including Pitstop Pro) to render this entirely meaningless.

    I don't know an alternative to suggest, but no one should believe that their locked PDF is secure. Perhaps for your average customer, but certainly not to us professionals.
    Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
    2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

  • #2
    Most of my clients would be deeply offended if I sent them a locked PDF.
    A photoshop pdf with the watermark flattened into the artwork would slow some people down a bit. Not sure what the point is in handing off artwork to a client as a PDF that is live, even if locked and with a watermark, if you didn't intend to sell it to them anyway.
    Last edited by PrintDriver; 10-14-2017, 08:42 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
      Most of my clients would be deeply offended if I sent them a locked PDF.
      A photoshop pdf with the watermark flattened into the artwork would slow some people down a bit. Not sure what the point is in handing off artwork to a client as a PDF that is live, even if locked and with a watermark, if you didn't intend to sell it to them anyway.
      On your side of the business you've got a contract and you are providing work that has either had a downpayment or been paid for already. Your proofs are generally for client adjustments and minor typo fixes. Wholesale changes require new contracts and such.

      It generally works a little different on my side.

      Newspapers traditionally offer their customers design services for free. They make up the cost of the designer (me) in advertising costs for ad space and for how long you run your ad.

      We are a small weekly newspaper but if you pay full price for four color, full page for one run you are paying over $1000.

      What will happen is that a customer books space, provides materials to the ad rep and the ad rep returns a proof. Now the customer has an ad freely designed for them but they decide they want to cancel their ad.

      How do you recall the ad proof you just sent them?

      You can't. And the former customer can send that ad anywhere for their advertising.

      Suing that customer is more expensive and more trouble than it's worth. So, some newspapers and other sundry agencies lock and watermark their ad proofs to make this more difficult. Once payment is made the ad runs. If no payment is made the customer didn't get something they can easily turn around and use at your competitor.

      Another example is spec work. A customer wants to see what the newspapers ad designers can come up with before they commit to buying an ad. They get a proof, they don't run in your paper, they have a free ad designed for them. My boss does not allow spec work.

      Our company policy is for the ad reps to have a signed contract before design work even begins, so that's another way around a customer doing this.

      But passing proofs around to different newspapers is a common thing in the newspaper business.
      Last edited by eyoungren; 10-15-2017, 10:49 AM.
      Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
      2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

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      • #4
        Then I stand with my low-rez photoshop jpg or pdf.. takes no time at all to do a screen cap for approval.

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        • kemingMatters
          kemingMatters commented
          Editing a comment
          exactly what I do, low res proofs, no watermarks or locking,

      • #5
        thanks for sharing!

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        • #6
          This really sort of sounds like the type of client who would go to a designer for a logo concept, then to avoid paying the fee to the first designer, says they don't like it, then takes a PDF of the concept to another person who will ignore the lock and the watermark to recreate it for them.

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          • #7
            Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
            This really sort of sounds like the type of client who would go to a designer for a logo concept, then to avoid paying the fee to the first designer, says they don't like it, then takes a PDF of the concept to another person who will ignore the lock and the watermark to recreate it for them.
            Yep. It's exactly that. And it is why some of these newspapers and agencies lock and watermark their stuff.

            At a certain point I'm just the paid help so the legality I have to leave to the customer, ad rep and the publisher. If I don't have instructions to "make it look different" then I proceed.

            I do bring up issues when a customer is using watermarked stock art and licensed art, but I have no idea if one of these proofs was actually paid for or not.
            Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
            2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

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            • #8
              Am I missing a point or new trick here? I'm pretty sure you are the reason we all send out flattened jpegs and charge a deposit anyway.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by velocifero View Post
                Am I missing a point or new trick here? I'm pretty sure you are the reason we all send out flattened jpegs and charge a deposit anyway.
                I am not the reason.

                The customer who orders ad space with the intent to only have an ad designed (for free) and then cancels their ad is the reason.

                I am simply the one who processes the ads when that customer actually runs in OUR newspaper.

                My point to this thread is that anyone who thinks that dropping in a vector watermark and then locking the PDF is going to prevent repurposing is mistaken.

                As to your flattened jpg as one way to combat this you should know that the customer has no f*ing clue and passes that kind of thing along to me anyway.

                Where I am expected to make edits.
                Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
                2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by eyoungren View Post

                  I am not the reason.

                  The customer who orders ad space with the intent to only have an ad designed (for free) and then cancels their ad is the reason.

                  I am simply the one who processes the ads when that customer actually runs in OUR newspaper.

                  My point to this thread is that anyone who thinks that dropping in a vector watermark and then locking the PDF is going to prevent repurposing is mistaken.

                  As to your flattened jpg as one way to combat this you should know that the customer has no f*ing clue and passes that kind of thing along to me anyway.

                  Where I am expected to make edits.
                  I think we all completely understand this, especially on this forum. A certain few will claim niaveity to make an attempt to pull a greater importance from your post, in, which I see none. Are you bragging that you can execute a Google search, or are you providing any insight into what may or may be not in an agreement a client "actually" signs.
                  My contracts are signed and if per the agreement, paid prior to working on a project. Locked, flattened or otherwise is not my concern.

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                  • #11
                    As to your flattened jpg as one way to combat this you should know that the customer has no f*ing clue and passes that kind of thing along to me anyway.
                    Yes, the client with no clue could do that. And if your company doesn't charge appropriately for your time to ''fix'' it, oh well.
                    If they do charge appropriately, there is the absent sense of satisfaction that the client ''paid for it'' in some way.
                    Thieving is bad.
                    But I don't believe in making it easy for the thief either.

                    I don't believe there is any encryption out there that can't be hacked.
                    If anyone believes any digital file/information/website is secure, they are naive. Unfortunately, that's most of the population.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by velocifero View Post
                      I think we all completely understand this, especially on this forum. A certain few will claim niaveity to make an attempt to pull a greater importance from your post, in, which I see none. Are you bragging that you can execute a Google search, or are you providing any insight into what may or may be not in an agreement a client "actually" signs.
                      My contracts are signed and if per the agreement, paid prior to working on a project. Locked, flattened or otherwise is not my concern.
                      I'm not bragging. I am shaking my head at those who lock PDFs because they believe it will work.

                      As to signed contracts, good for you.

                      I work for a newspaper with 10 employees. I've worked for newspapers since 1999 when I started. What I do is entirely different business wise from the standard process of graphic design where you get a contract signed before any work is done. Our particular paper wants a contract up front and most majors do (we aren't a major at all, just a small community weekly).

                      But there are plenty of small newspapers out there that do not. So much so, that this kind of thing is a thing.

                      If you want to see me as bragging or as some sort of Captain Obvious I can't stop you.
                      Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
                      2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post

                        Yes, the client with no clue could do that. And if your company doesn't charge appropriately for your time to ''fix'' it, oh well.
                        If they do charge appropriately, there is the absent sense of satisfaction that the client ''paid for it'' in some way.
                        Thieving is bad.
                        But I don't believe in making it easy for the thief either.

                        I don't believe there is any encryption out there that can't be hacked.
                        If anyone believes any digital file/information/website is secure, they are naive. Unfortunately, that's most of the population.
                        It says on our ad requirements that fees will apply if we have to do this type of thing. I managed to get my boss to allow for that.

                        In reality the pursuit of comission/profit and the sheer fear on the ad reps part of saying "No" to the customer wins every time. And it all gets passed along to me where I am expected to honor the "Yes" the ad rep (or the boss) gave to the customer.

                        I also do not believe in making it easy, but my boss is part of the faction of newspapers that believes you are buying your ad and not just the ad space. I have seen many times the ads I designed for customers go on to be run in other newspapers. That's fine because they paid for that ad.
                        Erik Youngren Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
                        2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

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