In All, Archived, PDF/A by ChrisLeave a Comment

Question: Is there a problem with view-protecting my PDFs, while at the same time converting them to be PDF/A – archivable PDF format?

Answer: There is a problem with security and PDF/A that needs to be addressed. In particular, there is a lot of buzz about PDF/A but it does not necessarily meet all the requirements of industry: financial, legal, banking, etc… The PDF specs, in general, were made to be versatile. So protecting your files either through view protection or print protection is clearly a useful feature in many areas, though not compliant with PDF/A.

The fact is that the concerns involved in the PDF/A spec design mostly reflected issues of libraries, more than industry. While the goals involved in PDF/A are generally worthwhile, they can also be shortsighted. Almost all compression of image types involves some change to the underlying images. Hopefully, these modifications, such as resolution reduction of the original images for tele-radiology, do not affect the use of the image document within its application. But these decisions are best made within an industry, not by the PDF/A committee.

For long term archiving of text-based documents, where there are no security issues, such as library archives, the PDF/A specs seem well-advised. No no-embedded fonts, no javascript – reasonable restrictions on the PDF specs. However, for active PDF files used in various applications such as investment banking, the lack of security within PDF/A and the inability to modify a document in any way, e.g., deskew, is apt to be a problem.

So while PDF/A is generally useful and most of the recommendations in it are well-advised, it is not ideal for every industry and application. Rather, it must be considered, with its limitations, on a per application basis.

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