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How Do I Copy a Copy-protected Webpage?

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How do I copy/paste from sites that don’t permit it? There is info I’d like to send to a friend without a computer but has a machine that only sends/receives plain text. I want to send her stuff from this site as an example but they don’t permit copying/pasting. Is there anyway around that?

As you might expect, the website in question is trying to protect its content from theft. They have valuable information and I’m sure that people try to steal and republish their content frequently. That is, of course, quite illegal and a violation of international copyright law.

So I’ll assume that’s NOT what you have in mind. (Though technically even what you have in mind – while morally acceptable in my opinion – may still be in violation of that law.)

Copy protection on websites – be it just for pictures or for entire pages of content – is in my opinion pretty close to useless. It keeps honest people honest and that’s about as far as it goes.

Web pages, emails, whatever: if it can be seen, it can be copied.

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Above Board Techniques

By “Above Board” all I really mean is using normal website behaviour to gain access to the text in ways that perhaps the web site owner hadn’t thought to prevent … yet.

The most common: printing.

… if it can be seen, it can be copied.

In this case, if you install a print-to-PDF printer driver such as PDFCreator and print that page to create a PDF, two
interesting things happen:

  • You have a nice PDF of the page. Perhaps that might be enough to get your friend a copy of the page. Certainly it has the highest “fidelity” in that it’ll include all the formatting and images as the original web page.
  • That PDF may, itself, have copy enabled. In my test of the website in question, I was able to print to PDF, and then select the desired text from the PDF and copy it elsewhere.

Another approach is to use the File -> Save As… option in the browser when viewing the page, and save it “as” plain text format. The results may vary from browser to browser, but you’re likely to get a good starting point from
which you can then copy the desired text.

Copying DataYet another approach is to use the “View Source” option available in most browsers which will allow you to view the underlying HTML for the page, and copy out the relevant content as needed. You’ll want to clean up the results, though, removing the HTML mark-up to make the results readable.

Underground Techniques

By “underground” I mean actually taking steps to actively disable whatever copy protection has been placed on the web page or image.

Two techniques come to mind:

  • Disable Javascript. Many sites will use Javascript to implement copy protection. Disabling Javascript, in turn, disables the copy protection completely. (That happened to be the case with the example site. It also disabled a number of popup ads as a bonus.) The easiest way is to use Firefox and the “NoScript” plugin which allows you enable or disable Javascript on a site-by-site basis.
  • Disable or circumvent CSS. CSS, for Cascading Style Sheets, is actually an incredibly powerful approach to defining web page look and feel and behaviour. Using CSS it’s quite possible to disable or modify the way web pages behave. It’s also easy to turn off: in FireFox click on ViewPage Style and then click on No Style. The page will be re-rendered without CSS and the result, which typically visually unappealing, may well be copy-able.

There may be other approaches as well, depending on the specific techniques used to disable copying, but those are probably the 95% solution.

Off The Wall Techniques

“Off the wall” as in things that sound really stupid or something you’d never think of, but are last resort measures.

If nothing else they’re proof of my original statement: if it can be seen, it can be copied.

  • Take a picture. Get your digital camera and take a picture of the screen. Instant copy.
  • Take a screen shot. Tools like SnagIt will not only automatically “page down” to get an image of the entire page (in perfect resolution, unlike your camera), but it also includes a “copy text” options that may well copy text for which traditional clipboard copy has been disabled.
  • OCR. Short for “Optical Character Recognition”, OCR tools can take that “picture” of a web page (ideally the screen shot since it has the best quality) and extract from it all the visible text as editable text.

There are probably more odd and unique ways that I’m not thinking of.

If It Can Be Seen, It Can Be Copied.

I present this not as a “how to” for people wanting to make illegal copies of web sites, or even for people who want to do more acceptable things like share otherwise inaccessible content with others.

My intent here is really to point out the futility of copy protection
schemes.

If you must present your information in a way that humans can read, listen or watch it then there exists a way for that content to be copied. Placing roadblocks just punishes those who would view or use your content in ways that are, ultimately, only beneficial to you without stopping those who would steal it anyway.

If someone can see it, they can copy it, forward it, publish it, whatever.

That’s simply the nature of today’s technology.

Not that they should, but they can.

73 comments on “How Do I Copy a Copy-protected Webpage?”

  1. Why not just press the print screen button and paste it into painbrush, and then save the file.

    That gets you a picture of the text, but not edittable text that you could reformat and perhaps copy into word or notepad. (Also fails if the text goes below the bottom of the screen.)

    Leo
    06-Jul-2010

  2. Use the printscreen key on your keyboard. Then open Paint and paste. Rename and save in whatever format you desire. You can edit the file later, or keep it entirely, complete with webpage url…

    • Or use “Alt+Printscreen” if you want to only capture a single window (assuming you have multiple monitors or are only browsing in a partial window.

  3. Hi Leo,
    I have used Snagit for years and have never found anything it wouldn’t copy including videos.
    Thanks,
    Steve

  4. Turning off CSS may stop JavaScript from using CSS class names and IDs, but if you are already going to turn JavaScript off you don’t need to turn off CSS. Basically, the PDF solution is the best, because the only other choice is to learn how to remove the code for copyright “protection.” I am surprised anyone uses such techniques, because they are very easily circumvented. What the webmasters of such sites need to really do is put such material in a secured PDF, and any amount of information that is more than very brief belongs in a PDF instead of on a web page anyway.

  5. Anyone who uses either Windows Vista or Windows 7 had a nifty utility called “Snipping Tool” that simplifies copying of any part of what is displayed on the monitor. Try it, you’ll like it.

  6. In some very real sense, this is exactly the sort of sharing that digital restrictions management is aimed at stopping… text is just the degenerate case of a form of digital media is all. An effort to insure that only the immediate end consumer of digital data may view that digital data (and perhaps also add time or count limits on such consumption).

  7. The easiest way I found was to highlight all the Text and copy with Ctrl-C and paste it in a new Word document and make all the changes I want, or just print it.

    The whole point here is that your “Ctrl+C” approach has been disabled by the web page author.

    Leo
    07-Jul-2010

  8. With Firefox you don’t need to turn off javascript. Simply Click on (for windows) Tool–> Options –> Content –> Advanced and uncheck Disable or Replace context menus.

  9. There’s a variant for the “copy as” solution. One should copy all the page to a file in a local directory and then open it with a HTML editing program. After this, just select and copy the desired text to paste it elsewhere. I did it a couple of times successfully.

  10. Ashampoo make a program called Snap, i think they are up to version 4 now. and what it can not do is not worth mentioning!

  11. Has any noticed “has a machine that only sends/receives plain text”?
    I don’t see that you can do much better than ctrl-A, ctrl-C, ctrl-V, to copy all the text into a text editor.

    Of course, you’ve lost all the formatting, and you have to delete all the stuff you don’t want, but at least you’ve got plain text.

    The point of the article was that CTRL+C for copy had been disabled by the website author.

    Leo
    07-Jul-2010

  12. The easiest way to copy anything that you can see on your computer screen is by downloading and using a small program called “Fast Stone Capture “.I use it on a daily basis and has become very attached to it.

  13. Leo, you forgot the absolute easiest way to copy that page. All someone has to do is to use that “prtScrn” button that has been on computers since the beginning in the 1970’s. Using “Ctrl” PrtScn the computer places a copy of the screen into your memory. Then open a graphics program and past that immage. Resize, etc and save it as a .jpg, etc.

    Unfortunately that only gets you a picture of the page, not the text that the questioner was asking for. (And of course if the page is longer than a single screen it doesn’t get the whole thing.)

    Leo
    08-Jul-2010

    • IF it’s txt the questioner need :
      Using the PrntScreen Key Formular:
      Procedure: (windows environment)
      1) Ctrl + PrntScr to copy screen in clipboard. or wherver. what matters is, you got it captured!!
      2) Open run.
      3) type mspaint and press enter. Ms Paint will open (would be surprised if you expected anything different program)
      4) Paste Image
      5) Save Image (u can it as my name: WebExtremist)
      IF it’s image the questioner want, END!!

      To get txt:
      1) Open the saved image using Microsoft Onenote
      2) Right click the image (inside the onenote). there it is: “extract text from image”.

      If page too long, scroll and take different shots….and set the process in loop…..whiles a shot remain

      • 1) Open the saved image using Microsoft Onenote
        2) Right click the image (inside the onenote). there it is: “extract text from image”.
        If page too long, scroll and take different shots….and set the process in loop…..whiles a shot remain

        hello mr.web…
        ‘m not getting that how to open the image inside the onenote??
        can u please explain it?

        • It may be that you’re using the OneNote MS Store App instead of the OneNote component of MS Office. The Store App doesn’t have the “extract text” option.

  14. This method can also be tried…
    …I’m using Win 7 Ultimate (if that is significant) ….and I copied (Control+C) some letters/comments from a newspaper site into Word, then moved that file into Open Office, and from Open Office I sent it in PDF form to myself as an email.

    Brilliant?….probably not, but it worked….previously the “comments” on that website did not survive emailing, but somehow the insertion of Word and Open Office as middle-steps eliminated any anti-copying measures.

    Cheers….

    This also misses the point of the article, where CTRL+C has been disabled by the website author.

    Leo
    09-Jul-2010

  15. Another easy way is to use a C++ or vbs script to access the email or the web page, there are countless SMTP and HTML libraries out there, and if it’s a simple web page, I even have native C++ and C# code that can do it without the use of a library.

    You can also right click-> view page source, and then extract whatever you can from that. However, CSS and frames can be used to prevent you from getting any useful info out of that.

  16. As a web developer I get this question all the time “I want to put my pictures/text/pdf files/whatever on the Internet, but I don’t want people to copy them”

    To which I always respond “Then you shouldn’t be putting it on the Internet!”

    In the end we usually compromise for some basic protection from novice users.

    But I will keep this link to demonstrate how many different ways you can get around copy protection.

    (shameless plug, hope it’s OK: {URL removed}

    • Steve, I agree.

      The web was initially created as a place without borders or political interference for people to share by that guy from the UK.
      But we have foolishly allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into controls by so called international copyright laws which is actually NOT international and applies mostly to poor overly legislated and controlled US citizens and its followers.

      Yes, it can be frustrating to have people “steal” content, but only because we think of it as stealing because we think we own it.
      Once we put it on the web it is no longer ours.

      That is how it should be, the world needs to be able to share information freely and easily without ANY restrictions.
      If you don’t want it shared, then don’t use the Internet.

  17. Another useful copy mechanism is using ALT + printscreen to copy an open box within a page, without copying the rest of the whole page behind. You can then paste this into whatever other program you use.

  18. Hey Leo, thank you for your guide, but I can’t still copy texts from some sites, for example: moon.vn. They use JS code to load the page, so if I disable JS, it’s also unable to load the text inside, too. I used Opera to disable JS after page is loaded, but they’re no longer allow Opera. Is there anyway to workaround here?
    Thanks so much!

  19. Snagit…best new software “toy”! Love it! Thanks for the tip! All the other tricks which I already knew about did not work…tried Snagit and it worked for getting the information I needed from a webpage. All I wanted to do was print the page so I could have the info in front of me for comparison when I make phone calls. Seems like the site I was looking at is being little too overly cautious with protecting their information, not sure why. Like you said…if you can see it, they can copy it and use it. But with regards to Snagit, looks like it may have some other great uses as well. Thanks again!

  20. Most copy protection techniques are not very secure, but there are some that cannot be exploited at all. For example ArtistScope provide a Site Protection System (ASPS) which uses a custom web browser, which unlike all other web browsers, has been designed to protect page media rather than expose it.

    I’m not at all familiar with the technology you mention, but my first reaction: I’ll bet I could copy everything using screen capture, or screen capture over remote access. Basically my position remains: if you can see it, it can be copied.

    Leo
    04-Aug-2011

  21. Thanks dude… Really useful .. i have a doubt , if i disable javascript , will the website admin find this trick that we are using this facilities (copy & paste)??? Pls help me … Again Thanxxxxxxxx

  22. I’m trying to do this right now so that I can copy the text of a user licence agreement for some software that I’m downloading. I want to be able to refer to the text afterwards, without having to refer to the website. So this has legitimate uses too!

  23. right click on the web page.use view source….the new tab contains the html link….copy what you need.remove the tag parts.

  24. Another way to get around is to Save the Webpage in text format, open the saved file using Notepad and copy the information.

    • Java trick worked here too
      Fantastic solution
      I just wanted to copy a receipt for cooking
      No idea why they protected it
      Hardly can bring my computer to the kitchen

      Roland

  25. I try to block the javascript of the website I want to copy but no success.
    I have learned here that website also uses CSS to prevent copying/highlighting of text.
    So I use “Pendule” an extension for chrome that can view or disable css of the websites.
    Finally, I succeed in highlighting the text. Now I can copy it… 🙂

  26. Oh yeah, I can’t fathom why are some web programmers so dumb so that they think that they can prevent people from copying the contents of their websites. Even now as I speak, many websites do it. So dumb. As if it can achieve anything. As you said, as long as it’s shown to people, it can be stolen. Even when I was just a computer newbie, I can already steal the pictures using the Print Screen button on the keyboard. I think I was still using Win 9x during that time.

  27. Hi. Does it mean you cant crack ASPS i.e ArtistScope Site Protection System? Someone said any site protected with it is beyond copying, printing, saving, downloading, etc. Is it true?

    • If it can be seen it can be copied in one form or another. Worst case you can take a photograph of the screen, but generally there are techniques that give better results as well. I’m not at all familiar with ASPS.

  28. My method’s very slow, but good for copying paragraphs of text, or if you don’t want to download any extensions- right click the text, select “Inspect element,” then find the text inside the body of the code, which will be inside … codes. Double click them and the text will show (I have only tried this in chrome so it may differ in other browsers). Or you could possibly delete the codes used to make it unable to be copied?? I haven’t figured this out yet though.

  29. haha! microsoft one note just worked right now for “scribd uncopyable content”. thank you for the one who suggested. i’ve been looking for hours and finally! off to do some pirating =)

  30. THU-16-JUL

    Hello,

    ref: XPath Query ?

    I am seeking a tool that shall allow the search for meta title element/tag “ABOUT” or “CONTACT” page URL.

    Know where I could find this?

    Please recommend.

    Jon Alex

  31. Actually i had a question that i am working online but i am not getting the copy paste option so can you please revert me as how can i do my copy paste work so that i can get completed my work as soon as possible.Anybody if can be helpful to solve my query.

  32. If you want to protect your pdf files, you can use . With this tool you can enter DRM restrictions to your pdf file. It is pretty awesome

  33. In the search machine or anywhere click right on website and choose print and you will able to copy there

  34. Thank you! I had a mobile Facebook page post that wouldn’t select the text. Weird. Some glitch, Selecting print with the PDF Creator but not printing, makes the text show up there as selectable.

  35. I found that sometimes, the inability to copy text can be remedied by clicking on the Compatability icon in Internet Explorer ( or on Tools and the Compatibility View Settings) depending on the version of browser.

  36. I was having my PC scanned to detect problems. The online scan, scanned my computer and came up with technical information that I did not know about on my PC. I would like to be able to copy and paste my PC’s information into MS Word. The scan was done online, automatically, by Reimage which is a part of Major Geeks.com. I am not able to highlight or copy my own computer’s system information. I have asked Reimage three different times, via e-mail, over the past week to inform me how I can get a copy of all my PC’s information. They have not even been polite enough to respond to my inquiries. They were quick to take my money. I have tried turning off Java Script, I have used the “Ctrl + u;” F12 key (in Firefox); and “Ctrl + F.” None of them had any affect. Would you know how to get around their protection of my PS’s information? Thank you.

  37. Can anyone copy part 2 of the post from the site http://securebit.xyz
    The only method i know is ocr or taking a photo. In ocr, one should manually check the content for any errors in recognition which is more tedious than typing the content and the latter method, including screenshots, output non editable content. So those methods are not really copying.

    • Oh and i forgot to mention that ocr, screenshot, snipping tool etc could also be rendered useless. I have developed a script for that too. But the above webpage does not block ocr or screenshots.

      • It’s an interesting technique that certainly seems to make plain old copy/paste difficult. I didn’t look at it too closely, but from what I can see … all I’d need to do is a simple cipher substitution based on the custom font you’re using. (But they key seems to be that font.) While it would keep the casual user from copy/pasting, it does NOT *prevent* copy/pasting, or the results from being able to be restored to their un-“encrypted” form. I believe.

        My claim is that screenshots cannot be blocked. (There are ways around every block I know of.) And with a nice high-resolution image you could get from a screen shot, OCR would be extremely accurate.

        • Yes, but the font could be scrambled randomly for each post. A simple script could be used for substitution even though i did it manually.
          Random scrambling of the font at page render time could also be done or assign a random key to encrypt instead of simply replacing a character.
          As mentioned earlier, the whole point of copying a content is to paste it somewhere else with minimum effort. Deciphering each font is far more difficult than typing the whole content by hand.
          I think all the other methods till date could be easily disabled in a few mouse clicks.
          Regarding screenshot, i can say that you could only use a screen recorder and not an image. It’s a simple script combining 3 or 4 known methods.
          The screenshot could be taken with a custom app which could overcome the limitation the current softs have.
          All these methods combined will prevent 90% of content theft without compromising SEO.
          I’m currently outside of my home country. When i get back I could demo the screenshot prevention script. I tested it with tools like snipping tool and a bunch of other tools whose name i don’t remember. But you could still record the screen and take a snap from that.
          90 to 95 % people who copy content would not want to go through all these processes as they are lazy.
          I would like to know from a veteran like you on how you rate my idea on practical grounds.
          Thanks

          • I hope my arguments were not offensive. The reason I came to this website and argue with you guys is because i want to improve the script to make it as good as possible. I’m aware of the method you already mentioned. I wanted to know whether there were more methods to defeat the logic.

          • I think my biggest objection is that you’re claiming to “prevent copy/paste”. That is not the case. You ARE making it harder, which can be valuable, particularly in a classroom setting where people are attempting to cheat. But it does not prevent copy/paste at all. (Thinking about it a little more whatever algorithm you come up with could be reverse engineered and an enterprising student could set up an un-scrambling page for his entire class. So the process to copy paste for lazy students would be copy from the original, paste into the unscrambler, and then copy from there.)

            And if there is enough motivation — say someone tries to use this plugin to prevent copy/pasting of something both large and valuable — they, too, have incentive to perform the various work arounds discussed.

            Screen shot: no recorder needed. Just remote desktop from one machine to another. Bring up the page on the remote machine, and then screen shot on the local.

          • Regarding the remote desktop i think there is no possible way to prevent copy paste. But I doubt who would do that in the first place where he has to do it for all the posts in a website with loads of active users. It’s easier to just type it down i think. Taking a screenshot via rdp would be hard of the content is lengthy.

            Reverse engineering is possible but in the real world, if the encryption method or keys change, would it be practically possible?
            Every hashes could be cracked but that doesn’t mean every passwords are cracked. Brute forcing hard pass could give you the result in years but is that practically done?
            What is not practical should be considered impossible at least for one or two generation (wink).

          • I disagree. Consider the classroom scenario… you have 30? 100? people tasked with typing what should not be copy/pasted. All it takes is one enterprising entrepreneur to reverse engineer it and provide it as a service to his classmates.

            As for RDP screen shots — particularly when it’s long it’s easier to make a series of screen shots (snip, page down, snip, page down, etc….) than it would be to re-type it all. So again we disagree.

            Again, you’re making it more difficult, but you are not preventing it. Anyway, we’re going around in circles. No more on this topic.

      • As i mentioned earlier the website only blocks copying from source or using any devtools or by disabling javascript. The site was put up to showcase this ability. I said that i can add a small little script with it to render screenshot softwares or key combination useless.
        Since it was a demo for a wordpress plugin, i did not add this extra feature which could be added on demand.

        Mark, did u find any other way to copy the content? Screenshots are not editable. Even jf you ocr it, there may be errors or i could evwn develop a custom font to defeat the ocr.

        The whole point of copying is to make the job easy. So ocring is not really copying. Ita pretty useless to copy the content add a screenshot and post somewhere else.
        Please let me know if you find a real method to copy the content.

  38. I did read each word in article and comments. Just the two most objectionable copy protection cases: 1) Tiko, August 22, 2017, on software tools that offer free run – just for selling purpose, but do not allow saving their reports; and 2) Jon, March 8, 2012, the inexcusable case: software products that are regularly paid, present you a contract text you must agree – ‘sign’ – to be allowed to use what you have already paid, but the supplier makes it very, very difficult for you to save a copy of the contract you obligated yourself to‼! I cannot agree they are excusable by any means! Of course, as Leo goes to the point, you can ‘print screen’, even long texts (a number of screens), run an OCR, and get it. And they may have used even other resources besides all those to copy protect just web contents. Please, Leo, do you have any other suggestion for this case (number 2)? By the way, on smartphones, there is the “Universal Copy app”, working on Android. But I did not find anything similar for Windows (mine is 7, for a few days yet!).

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