Are pdf files traceable to their creator?

Posted on 2006-05-23
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
If they are created with Acrobat?
What about other pdf creation software?
Does the license number get embedded inside the file if it is not digitally signed?

I have on my hands a slanderous pdf file in a corporate environment (don't ask...), and the visible metadata is not enough to identify the offender.

Question by:shalomc
    LVL 32

    Accepted Solution

    I don't think a license number is embedded with each document, but you should confirm this by contacting Adobe Tech Support.

    There may be other ways to sometimes get a clue, such as examining the entire file with a raw binary editor/viewer (e.g.

    You may find this of some minor interest:
    LVL 32

    Assisted Solution

    >>a slanderous pdf

    A PDF, being a written document which can be read, would be libelous not slanderous.

    Slander is spoken and heard.

    Libel is written and read.

    Remember also that for it to be either slander or libel it must be FALSE.

    On the technical side.  How did you come into possession of this PDF file?  Tracing the path of the file back from you to its source might be more fruitful than trying to identify how it was authored.  Note also that Adobe is far from the only say to produce a PDF file.  It may be helpful to see what application produced the PDF (they usually identify themselves in the PDF in the /Producer tag) and see who/where that application is available.

    Note also that PDF are usually produced from source documents.  Finding the source document (i.e. MS Word) file would certainly help identify the source.  If you have a server-based version of Adobe Acrobat (or some other products that create PDFs) your server's print logs may have a record of when, where, and who created this document.  You might what to check that.
    LVL 32

    Author Comment

    Thank you for the grammar lesson.
    The PDF file was traced to an anonymous email account on a server that was closed since the initial sending ( The application that created the file is Microsoft word via Adobe 5.0. This version of Adobe is used on multiple desktops in the organization. The author name in the PDF metadata is "xxx".

    Well, I suppose that the lawyers will take your answers as a no.

    LVL 32

    Expert Comment

    Can you determine from the logs on the server WHERE the anonymouse email originated?  It's hard to hide all your tracks.  Even an anonymous email connection had to come from somewhere.  The origin IP address is probably in the logs.  Perhaps that will help identify the origin.
    LVL 32

    Author Comment

    This was an anonymous email account on a public korean email service that went belly up.

    thanks anyway.

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