How big a deal is blocking copy-pasting on a website?

  • I'm working on a website on which the client wants to disable copy-paste.

    It's not to do with security or passwords, but that the data on display is valuable if taken en masse (and almost no value if taken singly), though the user can only access the data one at a time. (There is no page a user can access with multiple items.)

    I have advised that this is probably bad UX, and that it won't block screenscrapers or similar, but at the end of the day it's his decision.

    How much of an impact does blocking this functionality have on a website? Is it likely to turn off users from engaging, or is it a non-entity and I am putting too much value in this?

    If it's a big deal, do you have any recommendations on how to advise the client?

    The client knows it won't stop even semi-skilled or determined individuals but wants to stop any casual attempts to retrieve data. I'm minded to just show him some of these answers in response.

    You've answered your own question.

    Anyone who wants to take the data en masse will use some kind of automation, not copy/paste. So it will only inconvenience the people who want to copy it singly.

    Disabling copy/paste is pointless. You can literally just save the webpage to your local machine and do _whatever_ you want with it.

    Whenever I am on a website with blocked copypasting I know that I am dealing with idiots.

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    Any content on a website should be deemed to be public information, and as such it's not secure no matter what. Anyone determined to get the data are not likely to use standard copy and paste, and if they wanted to they can save the web page and copy/paste out of that anyway. Your client will spend more time and money "preventing" the content being copied than it's likely worth, and there's always a way round it. Advise them as such, and be sure to bill them for all the time spent trying to prevent it

    Ask the client to right click on the website and select **View Page Source**.

    I would do a mix of things: update the privacy policy / eula to state your clients intentions, put a message by the data reiterating intentions. Disable copy paste on the data ONLY, leave the rest of the site alone. An alternative to disabling copy paste is to present the data as an image.

    How big? I'm-going-to-find-where-you-live-and-do-unspeakable-things-to-you big. Is that big enough? As a professional, it's your duty to tell the client that it's never acceptable. *Never*. It's just about on the same level as building a house without a roof. Of course, if they insist on having no roof, as we say in Italian, *attacca il somaro dove vuole il padrone*. Relevant Oatmeal comic.

    @mikeTheLiar if the user has control over his/her machine then you are correct. there may be situations where disabling copy/paste might make sense such as students taking a proctored exam on locked down university computers. If the exam had students read a text, click next, and answer questions on the text without the benefit of the text (to test memory?) then we would want to prevent copy/pasting. Though in general, it is a bad idea.

    See... the thing is... although copy-paste restrictions do not STOP copying... they effectively prevent honest theft. Fare gates on a metro system work the same way. They're usually not designed to stop criminals and fare evaders, but rather to prevent "honest theft" or in other words, make the system **feel** more secure and **fair**. They're not securing the system, they're simply creating the feeling of security and fairness... which is really what most people value. copy-paste restrictions will tend to make **most** users share the pagelink rather than copy... still super annoying though.

    It is not possible and it will never be. If you give information/data to a "machine" (can be a computer, a human or something else) which you can not control, you can not avoid that this machine will store this informations (as long as this machine have big and fast enough storage). What your client really want is mathematical not possible. The only way to do this, is to do not give the information/data in the first place (do not put it on your website)

    You should ask your client if he or she would also like you to block people from taking pictures of the screen with their phones.

    If anyone suggests either disabling copy/paste or showing the text as a picture, show them the CopyFish browser extension. Problem solved.

  • Armstrongest

    Armstrongest Correct answer

    4 years ago

    Ask your client what he's actually trying to accomplish.

    Copy-paste restrictions are about as effective as a toddler gate preventing access to an unmonitored garden in a remote area.

    Perhaps you could ask the client where he saw copy-paste restrictions being used. Then, while he's there (or via screen share) show him how you'd defeat it.

    When the client says:

    "Yeah, but you're a professional hacker/coder/computer/nerd"

    Then search the internet for:

    "Why can't I copy text on a website"

    If the goal is to inconvenience people, or if the information isn't extremely valuable... blocking copy-paste may be useful.

    You may think that there's no legitimate reason to copy a piece of content, but then you forget use-cases like people using translators. They will copy a word or a phrase and pop it into their translator program... and no, not always Google translate.

    I wouldn't rule out copy-blocking, but point out that it a copy-hurdle, not a copy-block and if someone wants the information, it's relatively easy to get access to it.

    It was a tough call but I chose this as the answer because of the legitimate reason not to c&p block. While people are unlikely to be using translators, some users may want to research some of the field specialised terminology, which is notoriously long

    Blocking translators might be useful if you offer your service in only one country.

    Another goal that blocking C&P can accomplish is to make legitimate users think your site is broken. This in turn can help minimize your bandwidth and hosting expenses.

    It's not just translators. If I want to tell you about an error on your site, or ask you a question about what some text means, it's easier to copy-paste the text than type it out again. Or if I want to quote the website to answer a question from a friend -- or on Stack Exchange!

    Hah would be a great april fools prank. Popup an error code and ask the user to submit it to a specific email and if he tries to c&p it, tell him that copy pasting is disabled.

    But how does disabling copy paste stop me from typing words into translater?

    @Zaibis: You might not know how to type the words if they are in written using characters not found on your keyboard layout.

    @DamianYerrick: I have never seen a service that legitimately offers a service in only one country, exclusively to people who speak a particular language.

    @Zaibis. そうですね!どうして書けない?<= That's why.

    @DamianYerrick As someone who has lived as an expat in a country that's basically linguistically homogenous, I hate people who arrive at this conclusion. I will prefer English whether I'm in Canada, Brazil, Korea, or Hungary. If the website I'm using can't facilitate using my native language, I'll try to find another website.

    @O.R.Mapper Country-specific services tend to be more common in entertainment, where a publisher may have licensed a particular work exclusively to a distributor specializing in a particular regional market, or a publisher uses language barriers to prevent gray market imported copies of a work from competing unfairly. One example is the Game Boy Advance game *WarioWare*, as I've explained in another comment.

    @Myles Good luck paying Korean income tax without knowing Korean or Brazilian income tax without knowing Portuguese.

    @DamianYerrick I used the tax service website in Korea to try to figure out if I'd be owing extra at tax time and it sucked hard. Luckily eventually they acknowledged that not everyone paying taxes speaks Korean and started offering their services in multiple languages.

    @DamianYerrick: Those are good examples for country-specific services that some users may legitimately want to translate nonetheless.

    @DamianYerrick> perfect examples of broken design. Unless the goal is to deter foreign residents from paying taxes, that is.

    "Yeah but you're a professional computer", that's an interesting quote.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM