Tag Archives: Image theft

Will I get my images stolen online?

• Transparent Covers •

• Transparent Covers •
The picture shows a transparent image slightly lifted off the page demonstrating how a transparent image can be stacked on top of the image below. It is normally invisible when set up properly – it’s shown lifted here only for effect. If you right click/copy the on an actual transparency you only copy a transparent shape not the image you want below.

Can images be protected online?

There are a number of ways to steal an image off of a website. And, yes, there are a number of ways to protect an image on a website. How effective is that protection? When it comes down to it we lose sleep over our images being stolen. So if that protection is not 100% we have a problem.

What protection is available?

Probably the most common protection for images on a website is a programmed solution. A small piece of code detects a right mouse click over an image. The code disables the right click preventing you saving or copying the image or the image address.

The picture above shows another method of protecting images. It is possible to place images on top of each other on a page. If the top image is transparent the image below it can still be seen. When you right click the image you are actually only able to get the top transparent image not the image below. This is an interesting method because it also masks the internet address of the image below. If you try to copy the location of the image you get the location of the transparent image.

Press and grab!

Both the methods above, and similar ones, are sufficient to prevent the casual, non-technical user from stealing images. However, they are absolutely ineffective against one simple theft method – the screen grab. If you click on the window where an image is displayed, hold down [Alt] & press [PrtScrn] the image selects a copy of the window that is currently selected. You can then paste that image into an image editor. If you use [Ctrl] & [PrtScrn] you grab the whole screen as an image. Some web designers have used code to disable these button combinations but it is not reliable. It is also completely ineffective against selection tools. There are many little applications that you can download which will give you the ability to select any section of your screen and copy it. The copy is then pasted into an image editor for saving.

The ultimate solution…

When it comes down to it there is no full-proof method of preventing image theft. If you can see it online, you can steal it. The ultimate solution to preventing image theft online is not to put your images onto a website.

Of course this is not an answer really. If we cannot publish then we cannot get sales, acclaim, support… whatever. These days, if you are not online then your images are not seen. Are there other practical methods of protecting images?

Water marking

One of the more common methods of protecting images is to put a watermark on it. This effectively renders the image unusable on another website or for printing. However, it also makes it difficult to fully appreciate the art in a picture if it has a trade mark or copyright symbol plastered across it.

• Little Langdale •

• Little Langdale •
Watermarks can be rather obtrusive like the large one here (centre). Less obtrusive placement and size is easily cloned out or cropped out (the small watermark bottom right).


Generally speaking the smaller or less obtrusive a watermark is on an image the less effective it is against theft. On the other hand the more obtrusive it is the more impact it has on the viewer looking at the image. Writing in particular draws the eye very strongly. So you are in danger of the viewer having to peer around/behind your watermark because the eye is drawn to the watermark before the subject of your image. This is not satisfactory and rather destroys the point of putting the image online.

Copyright and copyright registration

Copyright refers to the established right of the author of a picture to maintain control over the image. However, the law of copyright differs worldwide. So how it applies in your country is something you will have to research. In basic terms a country like the UK has an assumed right of copyright ownership. So the original image file would stand as proof of ownership. In this case it is best to ensure that you also embed your copyright data in the image data (see: Exif data). The Exif data will then reveal the owner. However the data is not secure so the method is not full-proof.

In a country like the USA copyright owners can protect themselves against theft by registering their image with the Library of Congress  External link - opens new tab/page.

Copyright is good protection in that the force of the law lies on the side of the copyright owner. However, in many countries a dispute over copyright involves a lengthy and expensive legal process. This may be beyond the means of the small artist/photograph. This renders it an ineffective method of protection. However, recent legislation in the UK has made it easier for authors to make small claims for disputes covering them for up to £5000 pounds fine. This could change the balance in favour of the photographer/artist seeking remedy for stolen images.

Show the useless image!

It sounds daft, but if you present your images as a low resolution small size image this is a simple and effective protection against most theft. Image thieves want a quality image to use on their own site or to print or to sell to others. If you limit your image longest side to 500 pixels as a *.jpg image compressed to around 60% you will provide partial protection for your image. This size and compression is an acceptable size on a web page for the purpose of viewing. However, the thief cannot blow the image up larger without damaging it. The low resolution at 500 pixels will make print sizes too small. In effect this makes the image perfectly viewable for your site users, at the same time it renders it pretty useless for the image thief. This is a practical and simple method of protecting against theft. It is not full proof – since thieves can still use it small size. However, it does at least limit the possibilities for commercial exploitation by others.

There is no 100% protection – its about risk

When it comes down to it you have to take a risk. There is no method of absolutely protecting your images online. However, there are enough different types of protection to be able to protect most images enough to feel confident that your images ‘probably’ will not be stolen. In the end you have to decide if you are going to gain more by displaying online than you would lose by having an image stolen. It is a very personal decision.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Copyright infringement situation improved in UK

News

Copyright infringement has been a serious problem.

Photographers and other artists have long seen erosion of their sales territories by image theft, ‘passing off’ and blatant non-payment of fees. Now things are set to improve with this new development.

Copyright infringement law changing in UK

Ordinary snappers to professional photographers now have a practical, effective legal solution to copyright infringement. In September 2012 the UK Government announced a simple and easy method to pursue damages for copyright infringement. For damages of up to £5000, photographers can make a ‘small claim’ in the Patents County Court  External link - opens new tab/page (PCC).

The growing Internet and the explosion of online images has created a lawlessness around image use. With billions of images being published annually there is a huge reservoir of potentially available images for copyright thieves to target. This has put pressure on image makers to lower prices and made tracking of stolen images difficult. If photographers find one of their images has been copyright infringed the legal route has been a nightmare.

To improve the plight of UK photographers and others the UK Government has taken radical action. UK copyright laws are sound, but a legal solution has proven expensive and unwieldy until now. Copyright cases take years to progress and costs far outweighs the value of the disputed image in most cases. For photographers, small business owners and amateurs, the legal route has so far been impractical. The little guy loses out. Introducing the “small claims” route makes copyright legal action easy. You don’t even need to appoint a legal representative.

Proposals also mean damages awards may rise to a £10,000 limit next year (2013). Such a limit would make it worthwhile for photographers to pursue claims. The new system means long court battles are avoided and there is no fear of huge legal fees being awarded against you if you lose a case. These changes make it increasingly likely actions will be taken against relatively minor infringements. This will put strong pressure on people not to steal or misuse images.

This move should be considered a great improvement for photographers in general. Interestingly, the new legal route is not restricted to copyright infringement. The jurisdiction of the “Patents County Court” within the “Small Claims Track” also covers:
• trade marks (UK and Community registered trade marks).
• passing off.
• unregistered design right (UK and Community unregistered design right).

To find out more about the legal process download: “Guide to the Patents County Court Small Claims Track”  External link - opens new tab/page. (PDF 0.21mb)

Readers of this blog around the world should watch the situation in the UK with interest. Many countries suffer from legal problems with copyright infringement. If the new UK legal model works, other governments worldwide would benefit from considering the same route. Image theft is a global problem. The PCC “Small Claims Track” could looks set to improve the UK situation. However, UK photographers are still going to have problems over images stolen by overseas organisations and individuals. Similar laws worldwide would make everyone’s life easier.

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses ing digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.