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Photo Tips > Protect Your Photographs

If you're publishing your photographs on a website, you're probably concerned that they may be stolen.

Here are some strategies for protecting your photographs.

But first, be sure to register your photographs.

Copyright

Register

When you create a photograph, you simultaneously create a copyright to that photograph.

However, if you register the photograph:

• You have proof that the photograph is yours.

• You need not wait several months to file a lawsuit.

Scroll down, or click here.

Before you can file a lawsuit, you must first register the infringed photographs, which can take several months.

• You may be awarded statutory damages and attorneys' fees.

You can register photographs, in large batches if you wish, for a low fee.

U.S. Copyright Office - Visual Art Works Registration

Go to Copyright.

Display Your Copyright Notice

Notify the visitors to your website that the photographs and other content are copyrighted.

Use the copyright symbol, although it's not required.

© 2007 Jim Beecher

You can also put a more extensive notice on your website like the one at the bottom of the homepage of the website of photojournalist David Burnett.

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You may wonder how this writer can reproduce the above screenshot from Mr. Burnett's website.

This educational usage falls under the fair-use case law.

Next, here's some bad news.

Nothing Is 100% Effective

There is no 100% effective protection for your photographs on your website.

There are three main reasons.

Reason #1

To be seen, your photographs must be downloaded onto the viewer's computer.

Because they're already on a copyright infringer's computer, your photographs are hard to protect.

Reason #2

You can block access to your photographs, but most of these protection strategies are easily circumvented.

Reason #3

Even if you're able to block access to your photographs, they can be copied by taking a screenshot.

Go to Screenshots.

So, the following solutions will dissuade ordinary copyright infringers, but won't deter the expert copyright infringers.

Solutions

Small Photographs

While you can't prevent copyright infringement, you can make your photographs less appealing to copyright infringers.

Resize your photographs to a small size.

Make both the dimensions and the file smaller.

For example, let's say you have a photograph of some rocks.

The dimensions are 3000 x 2000 pixels, and the file size is 791 KB.

Below, it was resized with Photoshop Elements to 750 x 499 pixels, with a JPEG quality level of 6, on a scale of 0 to 12.

The photograph is still presentable at a JPEG quality of 6.

And, the file size is now only 169 KB.

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Quality Good Enough for a Website

Resized from 3000 x 2000 Pixels to 750 x 499 Pixels

Resampled Using Bicubic Sharper

Saved with a JPEG Quality Level of 6

File Size Reduced from 791 KB to 169 KB

Below, the photograph was resized to 750 x 499 pixels, with a JPEG quality level of 0, the poorest quality.

While the file size is now only 80 KB, the quality of the photograph isn't sufficient for a website.

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Quality Too Poor for a Website

Resized from 3000 x 2000 Pixels to 750 x 499 Pixels

Resampled Using Bicubic Sharper

Saved with a JPEG Quality Level of 0

File Size Reduced from 791 KB to 80 KB

On a website, a photograph that's 750 x 499 pixels is large.

You could publish smaller photographs.

A copyright infringer can still use your photographs, but their small sizes make them less useful.

Go to Resampling / 3 - Subtracting Pixels.

Metadata & Watermarks

Again, you can't prevent copyright infringement.

But, you can remind copyright infringers that you own the copyright.

And, you give others a way to contact you for licensing your photographs.

Use the metadata files and watermarks.

Metadata

You can add a copyright notice, and contact information, to the metadata file that accompanies each of your photographs.

This file is also called the EXIF file or the Exchangeable Image File.

The copyright notice will not be visible on the photograph.

However, if someone checks the metadata for your photograph, they'll see the copyright notice and your contact information.

The metadata can be changed and removed from a photograph.

Go to Metadata.

You can use Photoshop Elements to label your photographs with a copyright notice and your contact information.

Go to Copyright / 1 - Metadata.

Watermark

A watermark is a translucent caption that appears on a photograph.

If someone infringes your copyright, and the photograph has a copyright notice on it, then the infringement is considered to be willful and intentional.

You have a much stronger case when negotiating a settlement or in court.

You can use Photoshop Elements to add a watermark.

Go to Copyright / 2 - Watermark and Copyright / 3 - Watermark Brush.

You can also use watermark software.

H2Omarker

Watermarker.com

Watermarks detract from your photographs.

You can add hidden watermarks,that are searchable on the Internet.

Eikonamark

MyPictureMarc DigiMarc

SureSign

Mouse Rollover

You can use a mouse rollover to notify the user of your copyright.

When the viewer's cursor is over your photograph, on the top, it changes to the photograph on the bottom.

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No Cursor Over the Photograph

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With Cursor Over the Photograph

Try it out.

Place the cursor over the photograph below.

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You could also add more text, and a link, such as, Click the Photograph for Purchase Information.

When the viewer clicks the photograph, he or she will be sent to a webpage about buying your photographs.

To create the mouse rollover effect, do the following.

1) Place the original photograph on your webpage.

If you want to add a link to the photograph, do so.

2) Use Photoshop Elements to darken the original photograph.

Here, the middle slider in the Levels adjustment layer was changed from 1.00 to .80.

3) Add text using the Type tool.

4) Place this copyright version of your photograph on your webpage.

5) Look at the code for the webpage.

Copy and paste the URL for each of the photographs into the code below.

Link to Your Website (Optional)

Enter Original Photograph URL, Size, & Title

Enter Copyright Version URL

Enter Original Photograph URL

<a href="http://www.your_website.com/buy_my_photographs_page.htm">
<src="http://www.your_website.com/original_photograph.jpg" width="0" height="0" title="XYZ"

onmouseover="this.src='http://www.your_website.com/copyright_version.jpg'"

onmouseout="this.src='http://www.your_website.com/original_photograph.jpg'"/>

6) Copy and paste the above code, with the correct URLs for your website and photographs, into your website code.

7) Delete the original photograph and copyright version photograph.

Flash & Java Applets

If your photographs are embedded in a Flash slide show or gallery, or in a Java Applet, they're unavailable to only the most expert infringers.

Flash

Adobe Flash

Anfy Flash

SWFKit

SWiSH Pix

Java Applets

Anfy Team See Book Flip & CrossFade

ImageSafe Java Applets

Block Access to Images Folder

Your photographs are probably stored together in a folder, often called images.

Place a file called index in the images folder, with your copyright notice and contact information.

Then, when the images folder is accessed by a browser, your copyright notice and contact information are displayed.

If there's no index file, a listing of all of your photographs in the images folder is displayed.

Encrypt Your Code

You can encrypt the code for your webpages.

Artist Scope: CopySafe and Secure Image Pro

HTMLEncrypt

HTML Guardian

PTCrypt PanoTools

Tongue and Groove :: Prevent copy/paste and Print Screen online Uses Flash

Cover Your Photographs

You can cover your photograph with a transparent GIF file, thereby blocking access to the photograph.

Try saving the photograph below.

You'll save only the transparent GIF that's covering the photograph.

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This prevention strategy can be evaded.

A copyright infringer can:

• Get the URL of the photograph by right clicking, and selecting View Source.

• Save the webpage by going to File > Save As.

• Get the photographs from the cache file of the browser that downloaded your webpage and it's photographs.

The Internet Explorer cache file is called Temporary Internet Files.

You can prevent browsers from caching your photographs by inserting the following between the <head> tag and </head> tag of your website page.

<META http-equiv="Pragma" content="no-cache">

To cover a photograph, do the following.

1) Create a table the same size as the photograph.

The table should have no cell padding or cell spacing.

The size of the borders should be set to 0.

2) Make the photograph the table background.

3) Create a transparent GIF the same size as the photograph.

4) Here's the code for the image border, the transparent GIF.

<img border="0" src="transparent_GIF.gif">

Place this code after the <td> tag.

Here's the code.

<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="border-collapse: collapse" width="0" height="0" background="my_photograph.jpg">
<tr>
<td><img border="0" src="transparent_GIF.gif"></td>
</tr>
</table>

Disable Right Clicking

Right clicking calls up a contextual menu with the Save Picture As command.

You can disable right clicking by inserting the code below between the <head> and </head> tags in your webpage code.

<script LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
<!--
function click() {
if (event.button==2) {
alert('Right Click Option Not Available!');
}
}
document.onmousedown=click
// -->
</script>

But, this protection is easily circumvented.

The copyright infringer can:

• Press and hold the right mouse button, press Enter (or the space bar), and release the mouse button.

The contextual menu, with the Save Picture As command, appears.

• Click on the photograph, and drag it to the desktop.

• Can create a bookmark called Enable Right Click, with the following "URL."

javascript:function kill(d){d.onmousedown=d.onmouseup=d.oncontextmenu=d.onselectstart=d.ondragstart=function(){return true;};}try{kill(document);for(var j=0;F=frames[j];++j)kill(F.document);}catch(e){}

• Disable JavaScript.

In Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Internet Options > Security.

• Get the URL of the photograph by right clicking, and selecting View Source.

• Save the webpage by going to File > Save As.

• Get the photographs from the cache file of the browser that downloaded your webpage and it's photographs.

The Internet Explorer cache file is called Temporary Internet Files.

You can prevent browsers from caching your photographs by inserting the following between the <head> tag and </head> tag of your website page.

<META http-equiv="Pragma" content="no-cache">

Take Action

If someone uses your photographs without your permission and compensation, do the following.

Fair Use

Not all usage by others is copyright infringement.

Some usage falls under fair-use case law.

Fair Use of Copyright Lee Wilson

U.S. Copyright Office - Fair Use

Wikipedia - Fair Use

Obtain the Contact Information

You can obtain the contact information of the infringer:

• From their website.

• By looking in the code of the website pages.

If you use Internet Explorer, select Page, and then click View Source.

If you use FireFox, select View, and then click Page Source.

If you use Safari, select View, and then click View Source.

A window will open with the code for the website page.

Look through the code for contact information, such as an e-mail address.

• By using Google or another search engine.

• By typing the infringer's website address into a whois lookup, such as those below.

Better Whois

DNS Stuff

Domain Tools

GoDaddy Whois Lookup

Network Solutions Whois Search

Look for the registrant of the website.

How to Find Email Addresses of People Who Plagiarize Content by Amit Agarwal

Contact the Infringer

Contact the infringer and politely explain the situation.

Many infringers lack knowledge of copyright law, or may have obtained your photographs from a third party who described the photographs as being in the public domain.

If your communication doesn't result in the removal of your photographs from the infringer's website, send a cease and desist letter.

Attorney Richard Keyt describes the composition of a  cease and desist letter under the heading, Cease & Desist Letter.

Internet Copyright Law: A Rat Pilfered My Web Site Cheese - What Do I Do?

Redistribution in Graphics Has to Stop (R.I.G.H.T.S.) has a sample cease and desist letter.

Cease & Desist Letter

Attorney Anton Hopen describes the pros and cons of three types of cease and desist letters: Furious Demand, Softball, and Intellectual.

The Mechanics of Ethical and effective Cease and Desist Letters

If the cease and desist letter doesn't result in the removal of your photographs, contact the ISP, the internet service provider, that hosts the infringer's website.

Obtain the ISP Contact Information

You can obtain the contact information of the ISP of the infringer's website:

��� From the infringer's website.

• By typing the infringer's website address into a whois lookup, such as those below.

Better Whois

DNS Stuff

Domain Tools

GoDaddy Whois Lookup

Network Solutions Whois Search

Look for the internet address of the servers of the ISP, which may be called DS servers, DNS servers, domain name servers, and the like.

For example, the server for this website is jomax.net.

When one goes to http://www.jomax.net, you're transferred to GoDaddy, the company that hosts this website.

Besides getting the contact information from the website of the ISP, the U. S. Copyright Office has a directory of ISPs, with their contact information.

Directory of Service Provider Agents for Notification of Claims of Infringement

Contact the ISP of the Infringer

Contact the ISP that hosts the infringer's website.

The ISP, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (17 U.S.C. § 512), may be liable for the copyright infringement by users of the ISP.

The ISP is therefore interested in removing your photographs from the infringer's website, or blocking access to them.

Attorney Richard Keyt describes the composition of a  letter to an ISP under the heading, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Internet Copyright Law: A Rat Pilfered My Web Site Cheese - What Do I Do?

Redistribution in Graphics Has to Stop (R.I.G.H.T.S.) has a sample letter to an ISP.

Letter to a Site Host

Removal from Search Engines

You may be able to notify search engine companies of the infringement, and they may remove search results for the infringer's website.

More Resources

Making money from your stolen images Dan Heller

What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content Lorelle VanFossen

What If You Receive a Cease & Desist Letter?

If you receive a cease and desist letter, and it has no merit, here's a sample counter-cease-and-desist letter from Dave Touretzky, a research professor in the Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University.

Do-It-Yourself Counter Notification Letter