Image theft is nothing to joke about. It’s a real concern not only for professional photographers, but for all of us who upload original images online on social media, on our websites and blogs. We strive to provide the best possible visual content for our visitors and followers, only to discover some of our quality photos on other people’s profiles or work projects.
This is not something new, it has been happening ever since the internet has made it possible to share pictures with so much ease. Unfortunately we can’t just put an end to theft, but we can definitely strengthen our defense and make it more and more difficult for thieves to steal our authentic photography. Here are a couple of methods you can implement in order to protect your images from online theft.
Watermark your Images
One of the ways you can discourage content thieves is to add a watermark to your photos. By inserting a text (your name, company name or website) or a logo you publicly claim ownership of those pictures and implicitly make it clear they can’t be copied without your prior authorization.
In order to watermark your pictures you can use two types of software. You could go for a powerful, all-round program like Photoshop, but it’s advisable to take into account its complexity and cost. Another option is to opt for a tool specially-built to serve this purpose, like our own PhotoMarks.
In comparison to Photoshop, PhotoMarks is more budget-friendly and significantly easier to use. Practically the process is as straightforward as it gets: add your photos, apply the desired watermark and select the output format and folder. Next the program will automatically apply it to all the selected photos.
With PhotoMarks you can insert both text and logo marks and completely adjust them to your preferences. This means you’re free to position, rotate and resize them how you want, change their opacity, spread them across the entire image if you’re looking for complete protection or apply special effects like stroke, shadow and bounding-box. A truly useful feature is the fact that you can save your watermarks as profiles and just load them in future sessions, without having to perform the same operations again.
Edit Image Metadata
In order to further safeguard your pictures from misuse, you can tap into the EXIF and IPTC data and customize them with your personal information. The metadata, which is embedded in the images itself, contains a wide range of details. These can vary from the date and time a photo was taken to camera settings like the model and make, aperture or ISO speed and of course copyright info.
The great part about it is that you can edit the metadata with your photo editing software. This means you can add all the personal information that can help you claim ownership of your content, such as a copyright notice, your name or company and contact details like your website or email address.
Copyright your Photos
In theory you become the rightful owner of the rights for an image from the moment you capture it. Therefore, when we see a photo on a certain website or blog, we have to assume that it belongs to someone and it can’t be copied and used without asking the original author’s permission first. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many steal shamelessly other’s work. A more formal way to prevent it is to register a copyright with your government.
Getting an official copyright protection is an ideal solution particularly for those who make a living out of selling their original work, such as professional photographers and designers. The process is simple, but not exactly affordable: all you have to do is to file an application (preferably online) with your photography and then pay the required fees. For example, if you want to register your photos with the US Copyright Office, there’s a $35 fee for just one piece of content. At the same time, according to section 504 of the US Copyright Act, the statutory damages you’re entitled to vary in general between $750 and $30,000 per work.
Disable Right Click
Think about it, how do most people save an image? They right click on it and then select “Save image as”. This is a textbook procedure for all those ill-minded users who wish to copy other’s original content and implement it in their own projects. Fortunately you can disable this form of direct downloading with ease.
If you’re using WordPress, it’s good to know there are numerous plugins available to serve this purpose. You can opt for plugins like Envira Gallery and No Right Click Images, which will disable right clicking on photos. Another option would be to choose the WP Content Copy Protection plugin, which will disable right clicking on all content (both text and photos).
Disabling right click can be efficient, but unfortunately this is the case only if you’re dealing with users with average computer skills. Tech-savvy users can resort to other means to download your photography, such as viewing the source code or simply taking a screenshot and cropping out the unwanted parts.
Copyright Notice on your Website
Another way you can deter evil-minded users from stealing your authentic work is to insert a copyright notice on your website. For instance, a simple “Copyright © 2005-2019 Bits&Coffee™” will let everybody know that all the pictures available on your website represent your intellectual property and can be further used only with your prior permission.
Of course, this is not the most powerful method to bulletproof your images against theft. It is rather a way to discourage those who are feeling doubtful about what to do. If they see that copyright notice, they should understand that the content is not free and therefore can’t be copied and used for their personal needs.
All in all, it’s important to do as much as you can in order to protect your creative content. After all this is the result of your hard work and no one should take the credit for it. Do a little bit of analyzing, see which protection methods suit your needs and preferences and take measures. You won’t be able to completely put an end to image theft, but you’ll most surely make it more challenging for thieves to thrive.