GO(ogle)dzilla Eats K(ad)obe

Lawyers use PDF files a lot. One of their virtues — the files’, that is, not the lawyers’ — is that they can be “locked down,” as it were, fixed such that the content can’t be altered once released, or, if the author wishes it, copied or printed. Well, it turns out that Gmail has the capacity to produce an HTML version of PDF files that are attached to emails: even if they’re protected to prevent copying or printing of the content, Gmail’s HTML makes it easily possible. Of course, the formatting is messed up, but that might not matter to the copyist.

Test it with this PDF file from Adobe. Download it, open it in Adobe’s Reader and click on the lock icon down in the lower left-hand corner; this will reveal its restricted status. Try copying or printing content, to see that Adobe has prevented it in this case. Now send the file to your Gmail account as an attachment, go there and open the email, and choose “view as html.” Voilá: liberated content!

This isn’t the end of the world as we know it, of course. For one thing, Gmail respects PDF files that won’t even open without a password. And for another, the prohibition on copying or printing content is probably not high on lawyers’ lists of why they use PDFs — files in that format that are protected still can’t be altered directly.

[via Boing Boing]


  1. There’s now a Firefox extension that will allow you to choose whether to view a pdf file as html or to treat it in the usual way.

    [also via Boing Boiing]