Tim Macer
examines an online service that allows market research reports
to be created and disseminated in a safely 'sealed' format
How to keep it secret
DotEnctypt is a new web-based digital rights management product that could usefully fill a void for the market research community, when it comes to putting reports on the web. While most discussions of the internet for research have focused on data collection, the greatest opportunities probably lie in disseminating and publishing results. But who wants to create an online boutique of valuable research reports amid fears of cyber-shoplifters and plagiarists paradise?
DotEncrypt is a web-based service that, very simply, allows you to ‘seal’ reports so that only those entitled to, examine them. It is based on Adobe Acrobat portable document format files (PDF) which have a number of benefits. They are easy to circulate, the browser is free and you can view, text search, copy/paste and print any PDF. How many of these you are allowed to do to a DotEncrypt document, though, depends on what the publisher decides.
If you try to open a DotEncrypt sealed document, your PC will fire up a special reader utility, or attempt to download it. Next, it validates your access by checking DotEncrypt’s licence database over the internet. Without this authority, the PDF is impenetrable. The special reader will run on any PC with Internet Explorer 5 and an internet connection, but alas not yet on Macs or under Linux.
The encryption process
For that reason, Policybrief opted for DotEncrypt to protect and raise revenue from its documents. Evans was attracted by the flexibility DotEncrypt provided in licencing, by its use of Acrobat PDFs, which he sees as "the most under-estimated resource on the internet" and the simplicity of document and licence preparation.
Using DotEncrypt to licence and publish documents is no more difficult than sending an email, says Evans. "The most difficult thing about this is the concept, because you are looking it at something quite revolutionary. We don’t know how long this will take for people to start using it, but the signs are promising"
With reports from all the major think tanks, from Adam Smith to Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Policybrief portal could provide a good role model for market research institutes. As a desk research resource, it could be something that makes us wonder how we ever managed without it.

DotEncrypt: www.dotencrypt.com

Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist in software for market research. His website is at www.meaning.uk.com

Publishing a report is a simple three stage process: create the PDF, seal the document, log on to DotEncrypt to register your document and choose what levels of access to permit, then circulate your document.
Sealed documents can be offered free of charge, but tied to a closed list of users; or open to all, after a secure credit card payment has been made; or they can be time locked. For instance, users could have a free ‘taster’ of the whole document for a few minutes.
To be able to seal documents, you need to open an account with DotEncrypt for £50 per month. After that, there is a nominal fee for each document that you seal, and a small percentage revenue share on any money you collect, making it an affordable solution for even the smallest enterprise.
DotEncrpyt also provides secure web payment facilities.
The flexibility of the solution gives it many potential MR uses beyond the obvious e-commerce, such as for syndicated reports, or for documents where a restricted circulation must be rigidly enforced. You can even control the frequency with which the license is re-validated. Typically it will check over the internet every 10 or 30 minutes, but if you wish to allow people to read your documents offline, for instance, the frequency can go down.
Policybrief is a new initiative, sponsored by Poptel, the UK’s largest cooperative internet service provider, to make public policy reports and think tank discussion papers available over the internet.
According to Policybrief’s md, Paul Evans, "the internet has a terrific reputation for publishing rubbish - and that this is partly due to the fact that most people with ‘high value content’ won’t publish it on the web with confidence".
Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, May 2001, Issue 421.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2001. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.