Monday, July 27, 2009

Associated Press Experiments with Increased Content Control

The Associated Press is trying to combat online piracy by adding a bunch of tracking to their documents. I don't really understand exactly what they will be doing, but it looks like they intend to include some kind beacon or other tracking technology that will supposedly tell them when and where their content is being used, so they can go after illegal uses.

It's too early to tell, but here are a couple of predictions:
  • The system will be buggy, annoying and will outright fail in many instances.
  • The backlash will come in the form of users actively working to defeat the controls.
  • The backlash will also come in the form of users choosing to use other news sources.
I don't see how the AP can achieve anything with this strategy, but who knows?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

PDFs Now Face More Security Threats than Microsoft Windows

By one measure, 48% of all computer attacks (viruses, worms and the like) are now targeted at PDF documents. I don't think many consumers are aware yet of the threats associated with PDF files.

However, I'm willing to bet that in the future, we will see more and more people and IT departments being wary of PDF files. In particular, files that contain scripts or other security features may be banned completely at some companies and be shunned consumers in general.

If you're relying on a PDF security solution that involves tracking opens, forwards, prints, etc., this could be a serious problem. To a virus scanner or IT department email filter, it may be impossible to tell legitimate tracking technology from the malicious scripts that might be embedded in a document. You may find that your documents get caught by filters or go unread as a result.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are Legal Briefs Protected by Copyright?

As I understand it, legal briefs filed in court are in the public record but not in the public domain. Where does that leave companies like Lexis and Westlaw who sell access to these works?

Monday, July 20, 2009


One thing that I fervently believe high-value information publishers need to understand is that it's probably not a good idea to engage your customers in a copyright arms race.

What do I mean by "copyright arms-race?" I'm talking about publishers who have a strategy of doing anything and everything they can to make it hard to share their work. I believe that if a publisher adopts this approach, he should not be surprised when his customers (who really are good, honest people most of the time) start devoting significant time and energy to defeat any and all controls and restrictions on sharing copyrighted works.

The music recording industry is probably the best example of this. They tried everything they could think of to ratchet up control over users' copying, including annoying "Digital Rights Management" schemes for online purchases and lawsuits against file sharers.

That strategy resulted in music fans adopting an "anything goes" attitude that basically declared that anything that could be done to defeat the copy protections was fair game. Rather than appealing to the decent character of their customers, record companies aroused the warrior instinct inside music fans. The music fans then proceeded to win the war of piracy and cause significant pain for the recording industry.

I absolutely believe that publishers have the right to control the copying of their work, and they have the right to impose technological tools to thwart copying. However, I also believe these rights should be exercised wisely. Just because it's a right, doen't mean that you have to exercise it. In many cases it is wiser and more productive to have a light touch.

Respect your customers and they might just respect your copyright in return.

Welcome to DocMonk

This is the inaugural post of the DocMonk blog. To kick things off, I'd like to take a moment to just introduce myself and very briefly explain what DocMonk is about.

My name is Jay Muntz. I have over 12 years of software development experience. Over that time I've built many different web-based applications including marketing, email and content management.

For the past several months I've been working on building DocMonk. DocMonk is a web site that allows print publishers to send their readers personalized PDF document and to track when those documents are downloaded. This idea is driven by a specific philosophy I have which says that you must demonstrate respect and trust towards your users, if you want them to respect your copyright.

There's a lot more to say but I'll leave it at that for now. DocMonk will transition from private beta to pubic beta within a few days. Contact me anytime if you'd like to know more.