Sunday, February 16, 2014

“My Babies! My Babies!” How to Increase Document Security and Protect Your Work from Thieves

“My Babies! My Babies!” How to Increase Document Security and Protect Your Work from Thieves

You’ve spent all this time creating products for TpT and you’re finally ready to upload them to the site. It’s kind of like sending your babies off to meet the world on their own. How do you protect them? Unfortunately, there are thieves in the world who are ready to take your work and claim it as their own, even profit from it. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent them from trying, you can do several things to make it extremely difficult for them, so that hopefully they decide to leave your work alone.

First, TpT is primarily a site for teachers. Being a teacher myself, I believe that most teachers are good and noble people with high moral characters. However, every group has a few rotten apples, and our profession is no exception. We’ve even had a few new sellers on TpT who stole the work of others and posted it as their own! While TpT site administrators take a dim view of these thieves, it can be extremely traumatic for the victims to go through the process of having to prove their work has been stolen. As sellers, we share best practices for copyright protection with each other. Here are a few of the ones I have learned from others and which I use on my products.

1. Appeal to their good side.

Every one of my products contains a page with my copyright information. I can’t take credit for writing it, as another TpT seller (I don’t remember which one) shared her wisdom with the rest of us on the Sellers Forum. I gave it some minor tweaks, including my name instead of hers, things like that. I tell my buyers that I am a teacher, just like them, that I work hard on my products, and remind them of the law concerning my copyrighted works not being copied or posted to the Internet, as this allows my hard work to be stolen by others. I think most teachers respond to this and act in good faith to follow the rules.

2. Make it difficult to copy your work without knowing it’s wrong.

You’ll also notice that the bottom of every page of my products includes my store name and the year, “Copyright Carol’s Garden 2014,” along with the name of the product. This goes at the bottom of EVERY PAGE of my products, except the cover, which has my store logo prominently displayed. If someone tries to copy my work, they will have to white out or digitally remove that copyright information. This is a pain, but also forces them to re-examine their intentions, again appealing to their good side.

3. Use a phantom phrase.

Another protection I use is the phantom phrase. I learned this one from Tools for Teachers’ Laurah J. Torres. She’s one of the “tech gurus” among the sellers on the forums, and she answers many of our copyright questions. Laurah knows computer language inside and out. She recommends placing an unusual phrase, which only you know and will remember, behind all your work, on every page. No one but you and your computer will know it’s there, but an Internet search will help you locate any documents which contain that phrase.

For instance, let’s say that I use the phrase, “Penny’s purple purse was eaten by broccoli!” as my phantom phrase. The easiest way to insert it in my document would be to start with a blank page, type the phrase in white text so that it blends in, and then add all my other text and graphics on top of the phrase.

However, let’s say that either I forgot to do that, or else I just found out about this “phantom phrase” technique, and want to add it to an existing document. It’s not too late. J

First I open the document. Then, I click “Insert, Text Box” and use the mouse to click and drag the box to the desired size. I type the phantom phrase,  “Penny’s purple purse was eaten by a broccoli!” 

Next, I change the color of the phrase to white so that it “disappears” into the background of the paper. 

Finally, I click on “Arrange, Send to Back” so that it is hidden behind all the other elements on the page. I know it’s there, and most importantly, the computer knows it’s there, but anyone viewing the document will never see it, and would not know what to look for unless I told them my secret phrase. 

Later, after posting my product to the Internet, I can type this phrase into a search engine to search for any illegal postings of my products.

4. Save each page as a picture.

This step is a fabulous way to prevent anyone from modifying your work. It also “locks down” any graphics or clipart (which most clip artists require in their TOU’s) so that they cannot easily be lifted from your product and used elsewhere. PDFs are NOT secure!

(If you did NOT use PowerPoint to create your product, you can take a screen shot of each page and use those to complete the next step. Otherwise, you may follow these directions.) With your finished document still open in PowerPoint, click on, “File, Save As Pictures.” Change the format from JPEG to PNG (clearer than JPEG), and click on “Save.” You will see a screen notifying you that each page has been saved to a new file with the same name as your product.

Next, open the Finder to locate the new pictures. They will be named “Slide01.png,” “Slide02.png,” “Slide03.png,” etc. Double-click on each slide until all of them are open on your desktop. (I like to do this in numerical order to keep the pages organized.)

Find “Slide01.png” and click on the name “Slide01.png.” You should see a drop-down menu. Click on “Rename,” and delete just the part that says, “Slide,” leaving the “01.png” and type in the name of your presentation. Then move your cursor all the way to the right before clicking on “Save.” (Otherwise, the name will revert to “Slide01.png” and you will have to start all over again!) Repeat these steps for each slide of your product.

5. PDF It

Once that’s finished, it’s time to create the final version of your product. Go back to PowerPoint, open a new document, and set it up with the same format (page orientation and size) you used for your product. Then copy and paste each slide in the correct order into the new PowerPoint. Click on “Save.” (I like to add the word, “FINAL” to this version, in order to distinguish it from the previous version, which I keep in case I need to make changes later.) 

Then click on “Save As,” and change the document format to PDF. Each of these steps is important, and all of them add to the security of your document.

Now your product file is ready to post to the site! You still need to create a preview, description, and tags the standards, but the hard part is done! Congratulations! Your product “babies” are ready to face the world!

I hope this post was helpful to you! If it was, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I hope you’ll stop by my blog again soon for my next post, “How to copyright your preview and protect your pins on Pinterest.”

Thank you for stopping by! Have a wonderful week and come back soon!
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