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When you’ve worked hard to create unique photography, whether you are a professional or a keen hobbyist, then it’s only natural that you will want to protect the rights of and the use of your work without your specific permission.
Everyday, images are copied and pasted from one site to another, downloaded and saved onto hard disks and reused on social media. Many of the people who do this are not even aware that an image may be copyrighted however a persistent minority is fully aware of what they are doing and simply flout the rules for their own gain.
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Copying other people’s work is Unethical.
Reusing other people’s photography without their permission is not only unethical but it’s also illegal. Photographers, just like musicians and other artists, have the exclusive rights to their work and you need to seek their consent to use any of their work for any purpose. A photographer’s income often relies on their work remaining visible online while being their own exclusive content. I have an Instagram account and I for the most part post photos of Philadelphia. On multiple occasions, my photos have been stolen and reused on other accounts. This is a real problem online.
Despite the risks of sharing photography online the benefits still outweigh them. It’s vital to get your work seen to grow your audience, post portfolios and build a website. So how can you take steps to protect your photos online?
6 Ways to Protect Your Photography and Other Images on the Internet.
The following are the 6 important ways you can protect your images online.
Copyrighting your images.
When you put your work online you can include a copyright notice beneath the photo. This will indicate that it is the exclusive intellectual property of the photographer and warn anyone who sees it that they cannot reuse it for their own purposes without consent.
The easiest way to do this is to put a notice beneath the photo in the following format: ‘Copyright (2020) Your Name or Business Name.’
This is a good method to use because honest people will not take your work and anyone who does will not be able to say that they didn’t know the image was copyrighted. However, if someone is determined to take the image and doesn’t care about the copyright laws they can still download the photo and reuse it. Also, if the image is used elsewhere then the copyright notice will not be displayed with the image.
If you want to take an extra step to copyright your work you can apply through the government for a copyright certificate. You will need to fill in an application and pay a fee however once you have done this you will be able to file a claim for financial compensation against anyone who does use your work without your consent.
This is a very strong measure to protect your work however if you are taking hundreds of pictures it can cost a lot to obtain a copyright certificate for each one which is why it is usually only corporations and larger businesses that follow this route. Obtaining the certificate will also take some time to be processed which will slow down your workflow. Nonetheless, it is still something you should keep in mind and may be a good solution for particular photos that you feel are especially valuable.
Watermarking your images.
Another good method of protecting your photography online is to make use of watermarks. You can easily do this by adding a text banner or a semi-transparent logo onto the actual image file itself in any image editing software program. The process is extremely easy, takes a few moments and will mean that you can safely upload your images to the net.
Although it is possible, with the right knowledge, for somebody to remove the watermark very few people have the skills to do this. On the downside it is undeniable that the watermark takes away from the overall image quality and may not be a good solution for online portfolios when you want to show your work at its very best.
Make copying the image more difficult.
There are a few very cunning ways that you can use to deter people from copying your work that involve some fairly simple tweaks to your image.
In the first method you can create a hidden foreground layer that you would place over the top of the photo file in your photo editing program. Simply place an invisible, fully transparent foreground over your photo leaving the image in the background. When someone clicks on the image on your website and downloads a copy they will only be able to download the blank foreground!
The second way that you can easily make copying more difficult is to ‘tile’ the image. To tile the image you need to break it down into smaller sections that will show up on your site as a full and continuous image but anyone trying to download it would only end up with a part of the image. This is quite a slow method, and although it does work to deter people it’s not the most efficient approach.
Disable ‘right click’ on the image.
The most common way that people copy the photography of other people when they are online is by ‘right clicking’ on the image and selecting ‘save image as’ – and as quick as that they have stolen it! There is, however, a way to avoid this by disabling the right clicking option on your images.
There are various ways to do this but the easiest is by using a plugin on your website. If you are working with WordPress then you can install the ‘no right click images’ plugin which you can download for free.
This will stop people being able to download your work and prevent your photos being used without your permission. No method is perfect though and computer savvy coders will still be able to bypass this security feature but for most people who will be trying to take your work this should work just fine!
Use flash to protect your work.
If you use Flash to put your photos on your website you can create a slideshow for your audience to see your images. This method makes it impossible for people to download the photos from your site. However, there are some systems, including iPhones and iPads, that are not able to support the Flash programs meaning that those users won’t be able to view your work.
Take Action When Someone Copies or Steals Your Work.
When you’ve taken all reasonable steps to protect your photography and someone has still stolen or copied your work then you may be forced to take direct action. This is the last thing that any working photographer wants to be spending their time doing but it’s essential for your career and the integrity of your exclusive content and so it may be the only choice you are left with.
How Can You Take Action When Someone Steals or Copies Your Work?
Once you have decided to take action against someone who has used your photography without your consent then you should try to give them the benefit of the doubt in the first instance because they may not have been aware that your work was copyrighted but if this fails you will need to take more extreme steps.
- Try to contact the person who has copied your work directly. Be polite and let them know that your work is copyrighted and that they don’t have permission to use it. Inform them in a non confrontational manner and possibly say something like ‘I’m not sure if you were aware but…’. This will give them the chance to resolve the situation in a friendly way and if you succeed it will save you further hassle down the line.
- If your polite request fails to get the results you want then you can contact the web host of the person’s website. Tell the web host that there has been a copyright violation on one of the sites they host and that despite contacting the person directly they have refused to comply.
To find out who is hosting a website you can search ‘whois IP lookup’ and you’ll find a variety of tools in which you simply put in the website address and it will tell you who is hosting it. The hosting company should remove the copyrighted work or else they may possibly take down the website.
- You can also contact any advertisers that the website is using. This includes affiliate programs and Google AdSense. Simply let them know that their products are gaining traffic with the use of a copyrighted material that is in violation of your copyright and you should get a quick response. No advertiser wants to be associated with copyright violations and the person who has taken your work will find their advertisers and affiliates dropping their site.
- As a last resort, if nothing else has worked, you may need to take official legal action. This should be your last step because it will be time consuming and potentially costly. You also need to be sure that it is really worth doing this.
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Protecting Online Images.
Every photographer deserves the full protection of their copyrighted work and as a general rule web hosting companies, advertisers and affiliate programs are all very responsive to any requests related to copyright violations.
It’s always worth taking some steps to protect your work when you publish it online and in most cases, if you are sensible, your photography should be safe from being copied or stolen. It’s important to make it clear that the work is copyrighted to avoid people accidentally using it without knowing as well as putting some kind of security measures in place to stop people from being able to easily download it.
Has your image ever been stolen online?
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