How to stop people printing out web pages (or at least make it a giant pain to)

Originally published at: How to stop people printing out web pages (or at least make it a giant pain to) | Boing Boing


What is the impact on accessibility? Sending webpages to paper seems dumb, but I can imagine lots of people needing to use some of the functionality to put content into a usable form for them.


Sometimes I have to print of spec sheets so I can bring them into an area where web access is restricted. This would be terrible annoying.


…or you can use the CSS media query for print as it was intended: to style your webpage so that it renders properly on paper!

I dunno, I guess I’m not with the times, but I’m still a believer in the original Net ethos of openness.


I think it’s worth considering this person’s comment on Terence Eden’s blog post


Please don’t do this.

It’s arrogant to assume you know what a user wants to do with your webpage, and deeply frustrating when you have to work around stupid stuff like this. If people spent half as much time helping their users as putting up bullshit roadblocks, the world would be a much better place.

Personally, I rarely print out webpages on paper, but I frequently print to PDF to archive, or read later on a tablet, etc. I’m also perfectly capable of foiling css rules, but most users aren’t. They would have to resort to copy/paste or some other time wasting, low tech workaround .


What a horrible anti-consumer/anti-user thing to do. Why do you hate the people visiting your site?


I’m pretty unclear on why anyone would want to prevent someone from printing a webpage. For that matter, does anyone actually print webpages? Like to a printer?


Paper doesn’t care when you spill something on it in the kitchen.


Why not just burden everyone with plastic fantastic water-based printers, then set the cost of ink as needed to enforce such proprieties?


Yes, lots of people print webpages. Besides my own example earlier you can see plenty of people who don’t own computers doing this at libraries every day.


Remember when Kenneth Goldsmith tried to “print out the internet”?


Please don’t do this. It’s stunningly hostile, and largely ineffective. If your content is so precious you don’t want someone to have a permanent copy - cell phone cameras exist, you’re best off not putting the content up at all.


Why would you want to make a web page less accessible? If you’re worried about plagiarism… well, there’s not much you can do about that except not publish your information in the first place. Someone’s more likely to copy bits of text and present them in a new context, rather than print the whole web page, in that situation anyways.


Snagit would handle this no issues.

The way you break Snagit is making your page scroll poorly with too many iFrames.

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I instantly thought of some non-tech savvy people I’ve run into at corporations who print off emails and put them in binders. I’m now imagining people waking up, hitting print on CNN for a pipping hot paper copy of the days news.


Yes, and no.

I print to PDF files often. The browser doesn’t know whether it’s printing to a laser printer, a tape drive, or stone tablets, but this form of breakage will apply to any of them.


My favourite method for this was sadly disabled in most browsers soon after they added @media support to CSS - set the background to black, then hide everything except a single (normally hidden) div tag containing the text “ha ha, I wasted your toner”, at the top, and bottom of the page, to ensure that it came out as a large full page of black.

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Did you actually implement this on a public site, and, if so, what was your motivation?


Printing to pdf is my goto workaround for some websites that limit access to the first paragraph if you are not subscribed. Sometimes opening in a private window works too, but not everywhere.


This is so feckin’ ridiculous… there are many valid reasons to print web pages. As somebody who runs the online learning systems a bunch of universities and colleges in Canada, I can tell you that not everybody has equal access to fast bandwidth. There are some students who literally drive into the “big city” (which many of us would call a small town) to make use of the library’s WiFi and printers to get their assignments and content for the week. We already have trouble with instructors creating ridiculously large files to download (“Oh I’ll just make a PowerPoint with all the videos and 20 megapixel unscaled images… who cares if it’s 2 gigs?”) … never mind the possibility of them linking to content that their students can’t print for later reference.

In any case, the students would likely just use Firefox, or a plugin for Chrome to take a screenshot of the entire page and print that.

I remember the days when BoingBoing was posting DeCSS links/code whenever they could (DeCSS - Wikipedia). Now in 2021 we’ve got articles on how to prevent people from printing webpages. Nice turnaround.