Many PMI Members who downloaded the PDF version of the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition were surprised to find the “Print” button disabled on the PDF file. It caught my attention too, though I had no intention to waste 400 sheets of paper (for an 800-page guide). In an old blog post, I had emphatically stated that PMI allows you to legally print the PMBOK Guide PDF for your personal educational use. I had even linked to PMI’s Terms page and shared an email reply from their customer care confirming the same. I decided to investigate.
The first thing I did after noticing the disabled Print button was to hop over to PMI’s Terms page. On Sep 9, 2017, it had the following paragraph:
3.2 PMI Content. As a courtesy to our customers and members, we have posted to the Site certain PMI Content. Unless otherwise specifically set forth on the Site or we give you written permission, you may only use and access, download and copy the PMI Content (and print a single copy) for your personal use, and you agree you will not alter, erase or otherwise obscure our copyright, proprietary or other notices on the PMI Content.
It clearly stated that you were allowed to print a single copy of the Guide for your personal use. But if that’s the case, then why was the Print button disabled on the Sixth Edition of the guide? Was it due to a technical glitch or have the Terms changed? I thought it would be best to seek clarification from PMI directly. So, I immediately shot an email to PMI customer care.
My Email to PMI Customer Care
Here’s what I wrote in the email on Sep 9, 2017:
I’m a PMI member (membership ID: XXXXXXX). I would like to print 1 copy of the PMBOK Guide for my own personal educational use. However, the printing on the downloaded PDF is disabled.
PMI’s terms section 3.2 states that I can print a single copy of the PMI standards for personal educational use:
How am I supposed to print the guide then if printing is disabled? Please clarify.
Here’s a response I received from PMI Customer Care 1 week later on Sep 16, 2017:
Although previous versions of the PMBOK® Guide were printable, the incidence of piracy has increased significantly in recent years. It is important for us to protect the integrity of our publications so that we can continue to bring you the information you need to drive successful outcomes. As a PMI member, not only can you enjoy read-only access to all of our standards and practice guides, you can also purchase the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition and the Agile Practice Guide bundle in print for 50 percent off the list price. Our terms are now consistent with this change.
We value you as a member and a credential holder.
Update to PMI’s Terms
I again headed over the PMI’s Terms page, and indeed they had been updated. Here’s how they read today on Sep 24, 2017:
3.2 PMI Content. As a courtesy to our customers and members, we have posted to the Site certain PMI Content. Unless otherwise specifically set forth on the Site or we give you written permission, you may only access and download the PMI Content for your personal use, and you agree you will not alter, erase or otherwise obscure our copyright, proprietary or other notices on the PMI Content. You may not do or allow anyone else to do anything with the PMI Content which is not specifically permitted under this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that the PMI Content is made available for informational and educational purposes only without representation or warranty of any kind and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. Your reliance upon PMI Content obtained by you on or through the Services is solely at your own risk. All rights not expressly granted in this Agreement are reserved to PMI.
So, long story short:
You are NOT allowed to Print the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition even for your personal educational use.
Note that the same restriction applies to PMI’s other standards as well.
My Opinion on the Permissions Change
In my opinion, the move is unfortunate and PMI is going too far with their protectionist measures.
- In the Fourth Edition, they added password-protection and disabled the ‘copy’ feature on the PDF.
- In the Fifth Edition, they started stamping PMI Member Name and ID in the footer section of every page of the PDF version.
- In the Sixth Edition, they have added a big, bold and ugly watermark “Not for Distribution, Sale or Reproduction” running diagonally across every single page of the Guide. The watermark is super distracting, annoying, and directly interferes with the readability of the guide. On top of that, they have disabled the ‘print’ feature too.
If the trend continues, I anticipate that they would prohibit the download of the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK Guide, and only let you read it online by logging onto their website.
In my view, the latest move does more harm than good. The only good that it hopes to achieve is to stop piracy. But would it really stop piracy? For anyone determined to break the protection on a PDF file, it takes less than 5 minutes to do so.
On the other hand, it is going to cause lot of inconvenience to thousands of PMI members who prefer to read from a hard copy than from an eBook, despite paying a membership fee. They will now have to fork out more $$$ to buy a hard copy version as well (adding to PMI’s bottomline). It also harms PMI’s reputation as a “nonprofit” organization.
Let me know what you think about the move. Do you have a better suggestion for PMI to stop the piracy without compromising the readability and usability of their standards?
Looking forward to the comments.