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physical document security

Hello everyone,

I have an unusual request. I have the need to send printed documents to overseas business associates and I would like to make sure that my documents are not copied or altered in any way. I have considered copy-proof paper... you know the kind that shows "void" or "unauthorized copy" when someone tries to put it through a copyer or scanner. I wonder if there are any inks or special printers that will generate a printed letter with text that breaks down if someone tries to copy it? I know this sound a little crazy, but I would be interested in any ideas that any of you have. The reason for this is simple. The copy-proof paper keeps people from forwarding unauthorized copies as originals but it does not keep people from copying and retyping a document on fresh, regular paper.

Please let me know if the request for information is not clear.


1 Solution
The pdf/ebook format has provisions for protecting content.

Another way is to distribute the text as a watermarked jpeg.  Commercial products such as Digimarc will put a 'hidden' watermark into the jpeg which can be detected.  Such products are supposed to be able to build up a repository of images encountered on the web that have been watermarked, which is useful for enforcing copyright.  How effective such products are is open to dispute.

You used to be able to buy non-copyable paper (dark red in colour), but it was difficult for authorised recipients to read.  Other than that, fugitive inks (as suggested) will protect against copying to a small extent, but if someone is paid to forge the document by retyping it then there is little that can be done to prevent that, other than by pointing out that the document is copyrighted, and that you will pursue breaches through the courts.
I remember those days when games password are typed on dark red paper. way to copy it... scan it and turn off the red channel by photoshop :-)

I agree with moorhouselondon that pdf is the way to go. you can encrypt it that the page is not printable, password to read it. still people can 'printscreen' to make a copy. bummer.

check out secure printers from lexmark http://www.lexmark.com/US/virtual_press_room/pdf/PrintCryptionWP.pdf
you can do it yourself by inserting some non-standard punctuations (maybe a simley face in a comma) using high res laser printers. I am sure this is not easy to reproduce using photocopier.

and also uv inkjet refills from http://www.fxsupply.com/uv_ink/uv_ink.html
I vote for this one, since it is difficult to get, and difficult to reproduce. it is also cheaper than buying a whole printer.

get a lawyer to chop and seal the document. then sure not reproducable.

Why dont u sent data instead of paper?
A locked flash drive, or a cd and embed any kind of security. Zipped, encryption, compression, locked cd ... etc
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wmsunderAuthor Commented:
As additional information....

I agree with the opinion that many of you share about digital document protection. I use this form of document protection in a vast number of cases where I am transmitting information that is proprietary.

Unfortunately in this case, a paper communication is the only option available, and consequently, the reason for this request.

I hope this provides some additional perspective. Thanks for any help or hints that you can provide.

Is the (1) information on the paper the important thing, or is it (2) the proof that it is the original document?  

For instance, a £5 note is a document that comes under category (2)
The recipe for Coca Cola would be category (1)
I suppose you could have the recipe for Coca Cola printed on the same sheet as a licence to manufacture the product, which would be (1) and (2).

If the pieces of paper contain non-disclosure information then simply make each copy unique in some way, then you can find out the source of any security leak.

--- Upon re-reading your Q:
To prove whether a document has been altered can be done if you have some kind of OCR scanner at the receiving end, similar to the principles used in bar code technology.  At the end of each line of text will be an integrity check (which is calculated at time of printing, and printed as part of the text) - a series of digits which is included in the OCR scan.  Similarly at the end of the document there will be a series of digits which will act as an integrity check of the whole document.  Do a search for Hamming code, Cyclic Redundancy Check on Google for the rudimentaries.  
i think you are able to put a password on using office you can check it out http://www2.uwsuper.edu/cms/tutorials/DocumentProtection.pdf
>but it does not keep people from copying and retyping a document on fresh, regular paper.
The way to tackle might be to have specially printed holographic stickers on the original sheet to indicate authenticity.
Hi Wmsunder.

You have quite a problem here.  Since you need to use paper as your document medium, then physical document security will be difficult (unless you are willing to travel with your document).  I see only a few options for your situation and neither are going to be 100% perfect.

Option 1.  Get some custom watermarked paper and put your documents on thst.
Option 2.  Print your document and have each page notorized by a notory public.

I would suggest you combine options 1 and 2, to ensure your originals remain intact.  Of course, this will not stop anyone from retyping the original text and making their own copies.

If this paperwork is potentially worth a considerable amount of money, consider having the content of the document copywrited.  That way, if other versions of the text appear else where, you'll have legal recourse.

If physical document security is absolutely essential, then really your only option is to travel with the documents and maintain possession.  

Good luck with your docs.  Hope some of this info helps.

I think you're out on a very frail limb here.
"Not copied"
Right. I have heard of copy-protection systems of various kinds, but what would stop someone from take a photograph of the document and then process it in whatever way needed to reproduce it? If you can read it you can photograph it and go on from there. Using something like a normal 35 mm camera and a good lense... Then you scan the film and OCR it....

I think jcouture has the idea here. Get every page signed by whomever has influence on the subject, notarize it and deliver it by hand. Unless you happen to trust your business partners.
take the documents to your business contact yourself, let them read them in front of you and take them away when they have finished.
even that won't work.... he could run off and type it up from memory.
Just kidding.
Want to keep something secret... don't share it and only keep it in your head... then forget it.
EirmanChief Operations ManagerCommented:
Use a company stamp embosser in several places on the documents

Send your documents by FedEx - You can check on line to see who signed for the documents

It is easy to spot a signature that has been scanned and printed

Look, face it man, what you want to achieve just can't be done in the way your expecting.  If the contents of these documents are that precious, then perhaps you shouldn't be showing them to anyone, eh?

Like I said in my previous post: "take the documents to your business contact yourself, let them read them in front of you and take them away when they have finished".  

This is the only way I can see you being sure the documents have not been altered or copied in transit. (Whether your business associates can remember the wording well enough to "copy" them from memory once you have gone is just a risk you will have to take.  Although for 99.9999999% of people, this would be impossible!).  
Microsoft word has an option to put a watermark I believe.
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