Recently on IRC the issue of PDF’s usage restrictions flags came up again. Should free software implement them? Here’s my take on this.

It is unethical for software to restrict what I can do with a PDF file that I have.

The PDF format allows, for example, the creator to set a flag that prevents the user from saving a copy of the file. That is not a power that the creator should have, and it is wrong for software to implement the feature.

Now, I’m fine with software implementing it as a suggestion: “the creator of the document would prefer it if you didn’t save a copy of this file”. Preventing the user from saving a copy, however, is not acceptable.

I would welcome a Debian policy change to make software that implements these PDF features, or any other form of DRM, in a manner that makes them more than suggestions, unsuitable for the main part of the archive. Such software should go into non-free.

Software that is used to directly undermine people’s freedom should not be considered pro-freedom, even if it licensed using a DFSG-free license.