how to put a paywall on Google Drive:

With Google Drive’s enormous storage capacity and widespread usage, content creators are always looking for new ways to monetize and protect valuable files hosted on the platform. While Drive doesn’t support native paywalls out of the box, there are a few clever workarounds you can implement to restrict access to paid content.

In this article, we’ll explore different methods for setting up a paywall on Google Drive and providing conditional access to files and folders based on a user’s subscription or payment status. You’ll learn how to build scripts utilizing Google Apps Script and the Drive API to authenticate users, check for paid credentials, and grant or deny access programmatically.

By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of the technical requirements and steps needed to gate your Drive content behind a custom paywall system. Let’s get started!

Understanding Drive’s Access Model

Before jumping into implementation details, it’s important to understand Drive’s built-in access model and permissions system. This will provide context for how paid access can be layered on top.

By default, all files and folders in Drive have some level of access permission associated with them that determines who can view, edit, comment on or otherwise interact with the content. The permission options are:

Public on the web: Anyone with the link can access. Intended for truly open content.

Anyone with the link: Anyone with the link can view. More restricted than public.

People in your organization: For Workspace domains only. Gives access to all members.

Custom: Lets you select specific users or groups by email. Most granular control.

When a file or folder is first created, it inherits the default access permissions of its parent folder. You can later adjust these permissions individually as needed.

Drive also supports different types of files like Google Docs, Sheets and Slides that can have their own sharing settings controlled through the Google Docs editor. For example, visibility of comments or ability to edit content.

So in summary, Drive natively allows granular access control through permissions at the file/folder level and within individual file types. Our goal is to layer an additional authentication check on top to further gate content for paid users only.

Authentication with Apps Script

To implement user authentication and validate paid credentials, we’ll utilize Apps Script – Google’s JavaScript based scripting platform that integrates deeply with Drive and other G Suite apps.

Apps Script is ideal for this use case because it allows:

Programmatic Drive API access to query and modify permissions
User interface building with HTML templates
Storing and retrieving configuration values in Script properties
Making HTTPS calls for payment validation
The basic workflow will consist of:

User accesses a locked Drive file/folder
Apps Script runs a onOpen(e) trigger script
Script checks user authentication status
If not authenticated, show login prompt
Authenticate and check payment status
Grant/deny access based on result
Let’s break this down step-by-step:

Showing the Login Prompt
To start, we’ll build a simple HTML dialog window to collect the user’s email address for authentication.

Create a new script file called Paywall.gs and add this code:

js

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function onOpen(e) {

var html = HtmlService.createHtmlOutput(‘

Please sign in:’ +
” +
‘Sign In’
);

var userInterface = HtmlService.createHtmlOutput(html);
SpreadsheetApp.getUi().showModelessDialog(userInterface, ‘Sign In’);

}
This uses HtmlService to build a basic form and output it as a dialog. When the user clicks “Sign In”, it will run the authenticate() function and pass the email.

Authenticating the User
Next, we need to actually authenticate the user’s email address. Apps Script provides the Session class to handle user sessions.

Add this function:

js

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function authenticate(email) {

var user = Session.getEffectiveUser();
if (!user) {
throw ‘User not authenticated’;
}

if (user.getEmail() == email) {

// user authenticated
Session.setCallbackUrl('Thank you for signing in');
return true;

} else {

throw 'Email does not match authenticated user';

}

}
It first gets the current user from the session, throws an error if not logged in. Then it validates the passed email matches their actual account.

On success, it sets a callback url to redirect to after sign in. This url will route to our payment validation step.

Checking Payment Status
Now that the user is authenticated, the final step is to actually verify they have a paid subscription or account.

For this example, imagine we have a simple payment system that stores user subscription data in a Google Sheet. The sheet has columns for Email, Paid Status, etc.

We can query this sheet and check the user’s row:

js

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function checkPayment() {

var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.openById(‘PASTE_SHEET_ID_HERE’).getSheetByName(‘Subscriptions’);

var rows = sheet.getDataRange().getValues();

for (var i = 0; i < rows.length; i++) {

if (rows[i][0] == user.getEmail()) {

  if (rows[i][1] == 'Paid') {
    // user is paid
    return true;  
  }

}

}

// user not found or not paid
return false;

}
This iterates the sheet values, compares the emails, and returns true if their status is “Paid”.

You could also call an external API instead of checking a sheet if the payment data lives elsewhere.

Granting Drive Access
Finally, with authentication and payment validated, we can programmatically grant the user access to the locked Drive file or folder.

First, get a reference to the item:

js

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var file = DriveApp.getFileById(‘FILE_ID’);
Then add the user to its permissions with a role of “viewer”:

js

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var permission = file.addViewer(user);
We could also adjust existing permissions if needed.

And send the user to the newly accessible content:

js

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Session.setCallbackUrl(file.getUrl());
This completes the full workflow – user signs in, payment status confirmed,Drive access granted.

Putting it All Together
To tie everything into a single callable function:

js

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function checkAndGrantAccess() {

// Authenticate user
var authenticated = authenticate(email);

if (!authenticated) {
throw ‘Authentication failed’;
}

// Check payment status
var paid = checkPayment();

if (!paid) {
throw ‘Not a paid subscriber’;
}

// Grant Drive access
var file = DriveApp.getFileById(‘FILE_ID’);
file.addViewer(user);

Session.setCallbackUrl(file.getUrl());

}
Finally, call this from the original sign in handler:

js

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function onOpen(e) {

// Show sign in dialog

google.script.run.checkAndGrantAccess();

}
Now when a user accesses a locked item, it will run the full workflow.

Additional Features

With the basic paywall functionality in place, there are many ways to enhance and expand on it:

Multiple Access Levels
Instead of a simple paid/not paid check, you could have different subscription tiers that grant access to specific Drive folders or even individual files.

Check the user’s subscription level in your payment data and adjust permissions accordingly for each tier.

Expiration Alerts
Periodically run a script to check all users’ subscriptions against their expiration dates. Send expiration warnings to those nearing the cutoff.

Revoke Drive access programmatically once a user’s subscription lapses until they renew.

UI Improvements
Build custom HTML UIs instead of using generic dialogs. Integrate login/logout flows, subscription management pages, payment forms, etc.

Use more durable user properties and sessions instead of relying on temporary Script properties.

Restrict Sharing
For individual editable files like Documents or Sheets, enforce sharing and commenting permissions based on subscription level to restrict collaboration.

Advanced Payment Integrations
Directly integrate payment gateways like Stripe to handle subscriptions, recurring billing and profiles directly from Apps Script. Simplifies payment workflow.

Live Monitoring
Constantly monitor Drive for access violations and handle them programmatically. For example, revoke a user’s access if they try sharing paid content externally.

Deploying the Script

Once your paywall code is complete, you’ll need to properly deploy it as an Apps Script web app for continuous execution.

In the Apps Script editor:

Publish > Deploy as web app