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10/3/06 Protecting your digital images from theft


I love taking pictures, but I want to sign my work before putting it out into the public. As painters of old signed their names to their work, is there a way of digitally signing digital photographs so as to embed your name in the piece prior to putting it up on the Web? Is there a program that does this? Should I put something in the picture that only I will know that's there so that the image can't be stolen by someone else? Could a copyright sign also be digitally embedded within a work? Thanks for all your help!

Submitted by: Rita K.



Dear Rita, it is a very good idea to sign your work when publishing anything online, unless you want to distribute it as copyleft (opposite of copyright) or have it ripped off.

There are a number of ways to digitally sign the artwork you produce and numerous software apps that will allow you to do this.

First, you could watermark your image, this is where you put a mark somewhere on the image (usually in the background), so that if anyone tries to pinch it from your site, you'll be able to prove that it did originate from you. To watermark something, you could do anything that will make your work obviously yours, and you can have it either obvious or hidden.

To hide a watermark you could go to a white place on your picture and paint a pattern a slightly different white (like maybe RGB - 254,254,254 instead of 255,255,255). To the naked eye this would look as if the whole area is white; however, when you load the picture up into a paint package like Paintshop Pro, Photoshop or GIMP and hover the mouse over where you know the pattern is with the colour selector tool, you would be able to see the colour change from 255,255,255 to 254,254,254. That way you'd know if it has been stolen.
Alternatively, if you?re not bothered about hiding it you could just add something unique to the picture.

If you want to see an example of invisible watermarking go to the following site:

On this site is a picture which looks just like a castle. However if you click the picture and wait a few seconds, the picture changes so that the background is now purple, and it reveals the hidden message. The message is there on both pictures, it just can't be seen on the first one as it's done in colour 254,254,254, whereas the background is in colour 255,255,255.

In addition to watermarking your pictures in this manner you can also add comments to GIF files. This can be done with most packages like Paintshop Pro, Photoshop or GIMP. I use GIMP (GIMP is a free art package originally developed for Linux but is now available for most operating systems including Windows). When saving a GIF in GIMP, it gives you options for the GIF when saving. One of the options is to include a comment (which by default reads "Created with The GIMP" but could be changed to whatever you want like (c) 2006 <Your Name Here> ). The only problem with the comments scheme is that it is very easy for someone to just load the GIF up into another program and remove or edit the comment to their own.

If you were to use both forms to copyright the images, it would be quite hard to for people to remove the notices you have included on your website.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Darren F.
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Honorable mentions

In reply to: 10/3/06 Protecting your digital images from theft


There are plenty of programs that will allow you to "sign" your name to the picture. I'm sure the fancier paid programs allow this, though if that's all you want to do, I suggest not dropping big bucks on photoshop just for this application. Many free programs, like (I would avoid this program simply because it is difficult to uninstall), fastzone image viewer, or the photo editing software that came with your digital camera, give you the ability to insert text into the picture. If you already have photo editing software, see if it has the ability to drop text into the picture and resave it. You should also be able to set the location of the text, font size, color, opacity, and so on to your liking. Or you could sign your name, save it as another image, and just insert it into the corner of the picture. As tempting as it might be to put a copyright logo on the shot, I wouldn't do that unless you actually do have the image copyrighted.

You have two basic options for placing the text. One would be to put it in the corner of the picture in an unobtrusive manner. This has the advantage of leaving most of your picture unaffected by your "signature" but other viewers who want to use your pictures for their purposes can simply crop your signature out of the frame (something I'm guilty of doing). Of course the larger your signature, the more cropping you'll have to do to eliminate the signage. The other option is to sign your name or insert your text signature in the center of the screen in large font in some sort of opaque manner. This has the advantage of distinctly protecting your photos, but leaves unknowing friends and family members wondering why you ruined a perfectly good picture by scrawling your signature across it.

I would use the first method if all you want to do is let web viewers know that the picture is legally your property and you are posting it on a personal website that mostly friends and family would view. I would go the second route if you are planning on selling the picture either as art or as a backdrop for ads, or power point slides and you want to avoid someone obtaining a free version of the picture you worked to create. Lots of artists and power point graphics websites protect their pictures this way.

I know these answers of the week submissions can get rather lengthy, but I think this is one that only requires a modest response. Hope it helps!

Submitted by: Jeremy S.



There are a number of tools that are available just to do what you want.
One such tool is Watermark Factory 2.1. It can be found on the website at:

The program allows you to process multiple files to be watermarked, resized, cropped, etc. Because there are a number of tools out there, you will want to search around and find something that fits your budget (there are some free ones) and your level of experience. You can even ask around and see what your friends, family or others in your community are using. This way, if you choose something they use, you will have someone to get tips and tricks from.

Being that I am an avid digital photographer myself and I sign my work using a watermark function, here's my input for you. I use Adobe Photoshop / Photoshop Elements to edit my files and it has a watermark function built in. I place a watermark on the photograph so that anyone viewing the photo plainly sees it, but it is opaque (see through) enough to not detract from the photo itself. I also keep it small enough to be unobtrusive, but large enough to be readable without zooming in. I place it in the lower left corner of the photo and all it shows is the copyright symbol, the year and my first initial followed by my last name. The exact date is not necessary because it is already stored in the meta information of the photograph.

When you place a watermark on a photo, be sure that you keep it small in size and don't place it across the subject of the photo, unless you are afraid that someone will try to pass it off as their own. In cases like this, many professionals will place a large watermark across the photo from one corner to the other diagonally to deter such theft. If you are using the diagonal watermark, use a simple word like "COPY" across it and place a copyright watermark in one of the corners as I described above. If you keep the watermark information simple as I described above, you will have a clean and professional look while protecting your work.

I hope this helps you out and you have many years of enjoyment snapping photos.

Submitted by: Chris S. of Tucker, Georgia



If you search the web, you will find free programs that do exactly what you ask, but usually for a different reason.

The alternative reason is transferring hidden information right under peoples' noses, usually by manipulating the least significant bit of any pixel, and it is possible to reverse this process (with appropriate passwords), and suddenly you have a huge text file, a different photo altogether or any other data that the conspirators wish to share.

There is no reason why you can't use this same sort of software for implanting a message to yourself. Unfortunately, this message to yourself can be damaged by someone else using the same principle to implant another message, or even by simply having scaled the image up or down in size, conversion of format from GIF to JPG for example.

RECOMMENDATION: Appropriately "watermark" your photos with whatever software you choose, then keep the digital files well catalogued. Any that you do put up on the net, copy to a "proof" folder, and every time you get 12/24/36 or whatever, you take them to the camera shop and get them printed on a "proof sheet" just like a one-to-one negative transfer. This you then send to yourself through Registered Post. When it arrives, attach a second copy of the proof sheet to the outside (you NEVER open the envelope).

If you know that a photograph is definitely yours and someone is using it without your permission, when you take action, the Judge is the one who opens your Registered Post envelope as TANGIBLE EVIDENCE that you were the FIRST to possess that image.

I have come to terms with the fact that the internet is eroding copyright controls (MP3s being the obvious example), and I realize that any text or image I post can be used by anyone else without my consent or knowledge.

Submitted by: Mike




Image theft is a common (and growing) problem on the internet. A digital asset is harder to control than a physical print. However, there are solutions.

The low-tech, and less desirable, solution is to put a visible watermark on the image itself. I've seen this done at many sites, where the thumbnail and preview images have the photographers name watermarked across the image, while any purchased images are watermark free. This is a poor solution for two reasons: 1) it degrades the appearance of the image itself, even if it is only a preview; and 2) it's impossible to track if your images are being used elsewhere on the web.

A much better approach is to use an invisible watermark, or digital signature. The photograph itself appears untouched, and there's no easy way to tell if the image has been marked. However, the invisible digital signature allows that image to be tracked, and will stay with the image even if it's copied, cropped, resized, or otherwise edited.

The most popular service for digital watermarking, used by many professionals, is Digimarc. Of the services offered by Digimarc, the one tailored towards digital photographers, digital artists, and other creative professionals is called MyPictureMarc. This service provides invisible watermarking of your embedded copyright information, the ability to track your images to see where and how they're being used on the web, and more. I believe this is exactly the type of service you're looking for.

For more information about MyPictureMarc, visit:

Submitted by: Tony C. of Sacramento, California



There are a number of ways you can 'sign' an image. Simple methods include creating a watermark of some sort, then using photoshop, or the Gimp to overlay that watermark onto the image, and using the tag extensions for the image format in question to identify yourself as the copyright holder. Your watermark could be your own signature, or a logo, or even a copyright date with sufficient information to uniquely identify the product as yours.

For more elaborate solutions you could use the concept of steganography to embed multiple copies of your public key in ASCII format in the low order bits of the image.

The biggest problem with either solution is that neither insure that no one else can use the image for their own purposes. Cropping the image to eliminate a visible element, or compressing a jpeg at a different level will effectively strip the image of your identifying information. Likewise editing the tags of an image will do the same.

Using a digital signature of the image is also somewhat problematic as simply eliminating a pixel width from the image, or adding a pixel width of grey or some color that will be otherwise innocuous will change the digital signature. As will re-compressing the image.

You may decide that you should digitally sign and archive your images so that you have them available later on if it is ever necessary to show that someone has effectively pirated your images. Similarly keeping a physical record, (paper print of the image on stable paper) with information regarding the capture of that image (date, time, f-stop, focus length, shutter speed, configured film speed equivalence, camera information, etc, which may already be in the tags of the image if your camera records them) may be useful.

Unfortunately there is pretty much as little preventing someone from collecting your images and attempting to claim that they are there own, as there is preventing people from 'pirating' music, books, or video. You, or someone who represents your interests, are really the only way to keep track of what is happening and stopping misuse of your material.

As part of that last statement you can register your images with an agent or agency who will represent you if necessary. They range from various professional photographer?s agencies, through the EFF depending upon what type of restrictions you plan on maintaining regarding your images. Some may also charge a fee, and such fees will vary by agency.

I wish you well in your photography.

Submitted by: Rusty



Rita, the problem you have if you embed an invisible copyright symbol or your name to a photo, is that the law may not protect you at all, in the case of your picture(s) being stolen. Copyright symbols can be used before actually obtaining a formal copyright, with only the intention of someday getting the formal official seal. I think the intentions can be even more vague, in these days of posting to the world wide web in a day, and updating it the next. I'm betting the legal judgments will reflect that, should the need arise, if they haven't already. I'm fairly sure the symbol needs to be visible though.

That leaves you with two options. One is to watermark your photos, and the other is to use software to write on the photos. I've never watermarked a picture, but I did find programs, many free in a search at

As far as printing your name and/or a symbol, you can do that with a very simple program, such as my favorite, Copyrightleft, at , which allows you to do so with the option of a transparent background, font size and color, and shadow behind the letters. They haven't put out an improved version in over two years, and they may never have to, even though they call the latest a Beta.
There are others, if you search, or you can accomplish the same thing with the large common photo editors. Gimp is excellent, and I've used Photoshop.

Even though the unspoiled quality of a photo is often compromised by your protective actions, if you're really concerned about theft, you have no real choice.

Finally, I'd suggest you visit the Library of Congress web page ( to get a better picture of the laws and suggestions they have at the Copyright Office link. My few interpretations aren't enough to cover what you should really know about the process and usage.

I hope I've been helpful, and best of luck.

Submitted by: Michael A. of Boston, Massachusetts



DigiMarc's ImageBridge is available as a plugin for several photo editing packages such as Photoshop, Adobe Elements, Paintshop and PhotoImpact among others. While the software is free, you have to purchase a digital 'mark' from them. They also monitor websites as a part of the pro service, and commercial image houses will use their reader to detect ownership. It's a expensive solution requiring that you register your mark and the number of times that you are going to use it.

This is one of the most accessible programs in use in a large scale, though I believe that I read somewhere that it has been hacked. There are also very commercial solutions available from others such as IBM who offers a digital imaging library software that does embedded marks. This link also lists many related packages:

A controversy surrounds the issue of picture degradation when embedding is used.

Any number of photo editing programs could help you place a visible copyright mark on your photos in a batch mode. Many people who post on the web place a LARGE watermark on the images they post in a faint color in the background, the idea being that its too much work to correct but I doubt that it works in the long term if the photo is really desired.

Submitted by: Stanley S.




There are numerous ways to "sign" or "mark" digital images, but very few ways to "protect" them if you place them online.

Programs such as Photoshop--and the much less expensive but equally capable Paint Shop Pro--offer a "digital watermark" feature that embeds an extra few bytes of data containing your name or copyright info into the actual image file, without interrupting or corrupting the actual image's appearance. It's very easy--as simple as clicking a button and typing your name. Read the software manual or help file and search for "digital watermark".

The second option is just to overlay small text or print overtop the image with your name in the corner, but this is easy to remove.

However, keep in mind that if you place your images online, nothing prevents anyone else from simply taking them and using them. Policing every possible copyright infringement on a global network of millions is impossible. And depending on the various local laws on such things, placing an image freely online without the proper disclaimers may very well be constituted as public domain.

That said, I don't know what your subject matter is, or what your intent behind taking pictures is (eg. fun or profit), but consider that unless you're doing this as a profession and assembling a portfolio or gallery, have you thought about perhaps being less protective of your "ownership" of these images? The culture on the internet is one of freely exchanging information and data, and unless your end-goal is to profit from your work (in which case your entire strategy and model for distribution should be well-planned in advance), I'd not worry so much about copyrights and be more concerned with just enjoying the experience of taking pictures and sharing them with the world.

Submitted by: Martin K. of Nashville, Tennessee



Lots of luck, Rita. Copyright is a very delicate thing. As a working artist, a screenprinter, a print seller who shows art for purchase on the web, I know we would all like to feel that our creations are protected...but there is no guarantee. On an original piece of art, a signature, the date and the circled letter "c" informs the viewer that, indeed, this work belongs to the creator and cannot be copied. Unfortunately, if the viewer has no scruples, thinks your work is exploitable, all it takes is some minor alteration of the design to no longer be claimed under your copyright protection. If you can prove this has been done, there are huge fines imposed on the perpetrators under international copyright law ---but first you have to take them to court! I live in Bermuda, and virtually, we have no copyright laws to protect artists. I have had shop owners remove my signature, replace it with their own, and then re-print my design on t-shirts in a third world country as I stood helplessly by!

If you think your work is that good, and the public will want to exploit you, unfortunately, that is the chance you take unless you can dis-figure it in some way. If you intend to publish on the web, you can print right across the bottom of the image that the work is "copyrighted" etc, or cannot be reproduced without permission of the photographer. You can sign your name on each photo, making it obvious that the viewer would not want the image with a name scrawled on it. If you want an original signature, use the stylus on a Wacam board, or with practice, this can be achieved with your mouse. These additions will make you feel more secure, but again, there is 'no guarantee'.

If I am sending out images, another method is to put a faint line from corner to corner, across the image. You may think this ruins your 'grand work', but no one would ever think of downloading it. I have seen artists insert the word "copyright" in faint shadow-box letters across the middle of the image similar to a watermark. If you wish to embed secret symbols, initials, etc. this can be done directly on the image by implanting it, say, under a leaf, a rock, etc. and by rotating the image so that it is at a varying angles when you hide your secret codes. This, of course, is no protection if someone wants to copy your work in Australia---who?s to know?

One of the biggest discouragements for printing hardcopy of an image is low resolution. In low resolution the image will not print in a manner that will make it desirable to hang on a wall. I participate in art fairs and I do not even allow viewers to take photos of the hanging work because they can always download and print for themselves, thus depriving an artist of sales in the print business.

Whoever can come up with a fool-proof method to protect artists, will surely be the inventor of a better mousetrap. Good luck!

Submitted by: Joan A. of Bermuda



This is a good question.

Each digital image has EXIF data associated with it, that records the specifics of the shot, for example, the date it was taken, shutter speed, aperture, etc. There is also a field for author which can be filled in by the photographer - this is done after the photos are uploaded to the PC. The easiest way is to use the PROPERTIES of the image, but there are other software packages that are specifically used to edit the EXIF data. Unfortunately, anyone can change this as easy as you did creating it.

Some higher end cameras have the ability for you to add copyright information directly into each photo (again, in the EXIF data). Check your camera handbook to see if it supports this option. My Nikon D100 has this function.

Finally, you can add your name and copyright information directly to the photo itself. Many stock photo houses do this with their work that they showcase on the net. Usually, it is in the form of a logo or name embossed across the photo. In some cases, it is done really subtly and is hardly noticeable. In other cases, it is painfully obvious. But in both cases, it ruins the photos (in my opinion). Also, if you enter any photo contests, most will not allow you to modify the appearance with logo, names, or other copyright information because it may influence the judging.

There are some digitally signing program offerings out there, but it will cost you.

Submitted by: Paul L.



To digitally "embed" your signature into a photograph is VERY easy. All you need is a simple photo editing program that will open the file type ( JPEG, BITMAP, TIFF etc....). The most common is Windows' Paint. Its included for free with every version of Windows. More elaborate programs exist such as Adobe Photoshop and its lesser cousin Photodeluxe, Corel Draw, and Paintshop.

Any of these programs have a text icon which you will click on to start writing text. Next you choose a font style, size and color, and start typing your name. When done, you can use the mouse pointer to click on the edge of the text and a box appears. This box selects the entire text and now assumes it is now another image or picture and NOT alphabetic letters anymore. You simple click and hold the mouse button down and drag the entire name or sentence etc. to wherever you want it on the picture. Once satisfied with the results, release the mouse button and your name or text is going to be in that position.

This step is PERMANENT when using Windows Paint. That is to say you cant go back and re-edit the text if you noticed a spelling error or didn't like the position. This is where programs like Adobe Photoshop or other more professional editing programs have an advantage. You CAN go back and edit text after a mistake and drag it to another location and even change the color and font and size again. You can even make multiple pasting of your name at the top and bottom of the photo and have the ability to move BOTH texts freely. Once you are satisfied, you MUST go to the menu selection tab and look for a command to "flatten" the image or "merge all layers". When you use this command, your text (and graphic) is now permanent and unmovable. Of course you can use the "UNDO" command and change things again, but Windows paint only allows ONE undo per function.

The more professional programs have a finite number of undo's or steps backward up to 30
previous commands or changes. So lets say you typed the name in 29 different fonts; you could undo every text and font typing all the way back to the first or second or even 9th... a feature you cant do with Windows paint.

I hope this helps.

Submitted by: Gerald V. of Utica, New York



Your Friday 22 Sept "broadcast" included "next week's question"
about how to digitally sign one's digital photograph(s).

I occasionally use a steganographic tool (google "" and/or
"The Third Eye" -- more info available upon request, although not sure
if I can backtrack to the original source).

The user documentation file describes it well:

"The Third Eye is a data security software. Data is secured by simply
hiding it from others. The Third Eye brings you the capability to conceal
Secret/sensitive data inside pictures without changing either the appearance
or size of the image used. Data can be shared securely in this way between
two people using a shared session key (a password). Alternatively, The Third
Eye can also be used to embed copyrights into images. This process is called
?Water Marking?. In case of a dispute, only the owner of the copyright knows the
key to extract it from the image."

The downside of this whole class of technology, which would address elements
of Rita K's problem (by enabling the insertion of signatures and copyrights into her
images) is that ANY type of data can be encrypted and hidden within a graphic
"envelope" -- so the decision to publicize this software as a "solution" warrants an
informed evaluation of societal risks and potential security issues...

That said, this tool is quite functional. And it would seem that a graphic "stamp" icon
with multiple layers of embedded authorization, copyright, and document "checksums"
would open up quite a few possibilities for secured ownership in a world of digital transport
of intellectual properties.

(your policy on attribution? Would DPH be sufficient for a public signature?)

Submitted by: Dan H.
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Copyright is automatic; Also: Creative Commons Licenses

In reply to: Honorable mentions

Jeremy S. and several other posters seem to imply that one needs to register a creative work for it to be copyrighted. This is not the case in the U.S. and many other countries, where the creator automatically has copyright protection immediately on creation. There are some advantages to registeration with the copyright office, but it has no impact on whether you hold the copyright. See

Many readers concerned with image theft might do well to consider Creative Commons licensing of their images. These make it easy for people to make non-commercial use of your work, giving the possibility of wider exposure---free advertising in effect. Most image theft is probably by people who are not realistic revenue sources anyway, and most commercial users who are usually mean to respect copyrights. If they can find your picture will pay for it. See

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copyright is automatic

In reply to: Copyright is automatic; Also: Creative Commons Licenses

This is true, but it can be a problem to prove that something is your original work.

If the work is important to you, artistically as well as financially, then protection is important. How to you prove e.g. that the photograph of Brooklyn bridge is yours?

Sensible protection avoids expensive litigation.

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copyright automatic but precautions necessary

In reply to: copyright is automatic

Hi thanks to all those that have given suggestions on protecting pics on ones website... all useful.
the copyright for Australia may be automatic but it is a good idea to burn them to disc or print them out and post a copy to yourself as a registered parcel or letter...then leave the letter sealed when you sign for it this is proof positive and will stand up in court I believe... but unless you are a programmer of some talent making it impossible to down load pics is impossible i too had trouble on my site with bandwidth and it now costs me an extra $50.00 a year for those pilchers... I have a programming genius working on the problem so hope to have a sure fire answer when he gets finished.

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Why Bother for Inet use?

In reply to: Copyright is automatic; Also: Creative Commons Licenses

I am guessing that if photography is a main source of income, the answer could be yes. But unless you are really making big bucks off of your photos then how far are you willing to go to protect them.

I follow the rules that any work of any type is automatically copyright protected upon creation. and don't feel a need to blatantly post copyright by xxxx on every pic i have.

When it comes to websites and posting your digital photos Im sure most people if not all will only post either cropped or scaled down sizes of the original.

if this is the case, then proof of ownership shouldn't be hard (if and when needed).

If someone is using your photo that they snagged off of your site all you would have to do is provide the preferable unedited full size pic, which the perp could never reproduce.

A scaled or cropped version of most pics on the net could rarely be used for any type of real print purposes, and at best it could only be re-posted on another site. (in this case I usually ask for them to pull the pic, or add credit, maybe pay for use depending on how they are using it)but usually credits are nice because it puts your name out there, and for the measly money you would be able to generate off of the pic I have found that most people would rather just pull the picture off of their sites.

My photos have been used in print before. Even then, most mags will rarely accept my 8 megapixel .tif set at 300dpi for a full size page. These pics are full size and can range anywhere from 8-12meg file size.

If you are loading that size files into your website.. you really need to rethink some things.

at a standard, the typical picture size I will load to a site is either within 400x400 or if I really like the site it will be within 600x600

Ive been doing my amature photography for about 5 or 6 years now, I have to admit, I don't like visible watermarks, and the only real reason I can see a purpose for adding one is simply advertisement for yourself.. but as far as actually protecting the picture, that can edited out.

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I agree

In reply to: Why Bother for Inet use?

Only upload the low res version of the picture. If it's blown up, it'll look horrible (though many people think that's fine).

Adding your name or such, over the picture can be erased w/nearly any picture program. Which is a pain, but if someone wnats to use that shot badly enough. If not just cropped out.

Any of the digital marc programs, have an annual fee per thousand pictures.

I wouldn't keep the originals on a drive (especially one connected to the internet). Save to disc. I use DVD's for my pictures, because of size.

Hope there are better answers.

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Why not bother?

In reply to: Why Bother for Inet use?

I do a web page for a 50s icon who sells copies of her 50s pictures. I, of course, do not take the photos but before I put her scanned "samples" on her website, I watermark them with a transparent diagonal grey stripe. This is difficult for the "common thief" to edit out. This is in addition to using optimized jpegs, done small, html'd bigger (they get very blocky when enlarged). The people she deals with normally want her autograph so they will pay for the 8x10 to acquire that. The protection methods I use tend to thwart the person who wants a pic to blow up and show off.

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In reply to: Why not bother?

Most pictures posted on the internet look great on websites but when it comes to blowing those pictures up for any printable use.. most become useless..

The smaller the samples used on a site, the more useless the picture becomes to a thief.

a smart webmaster will modify pictures to the smallest "file size" that will still allow a nice viewable picture...mainly because it will add page loading speed for the visitors.

another thing that seems to work is embedded picture in a flash site. I see this on a lot of Photographer "portfolio" type sites..

the picture is not downloadable via right click.. although there will always be screen captures.. but once again.. they will just get a very low res picture that is pretty unusable.

people will always download pictures from the internet, some may even re-post them on thier own sites, but in the end, if you are cropping or scaling your online photos down... the proof of ownership will be the actuall full size unedited pictures.

im not sure if this is proper forum practice.. but I would be interested in checking out your site.. do you have a link??

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In reply to: Copyright is automatic; Also: Creative Commons Licenses

No it is NOT automatic. What has changed in US copyright law over the past twenty or so years is this: They Copyright office will no longer attest that you are the originator of an piece of work, they will only verify the date you submitted the copyright paperwork.

Copyright is a method of verification, using a government agency as your backup. Sending your piece of work to yourself via registered mail is another method. Just "claiming" to be the originator of something you post online is next to impossible to prove. You walk into court with only that as your proof, and you will lose 100% of the time.

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Yes, read the referenced link please

In reply to: What???

A link to the U.S. Copyright Office was provided. That has the detail. The key advantages of registration are at Extracts:

''However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection.''

The copyright exists; however, you have to register before bringing a lawsuit.

''Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.''

Let's face facts. An image has to have considerable commercial value to go to the expense of a suit! As for mailing a copy to yourself? The original reference answers that with: ''The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a ?poor man?s copyright.? There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.''

The old standard for proof of ownership usually involved posession of photographic negatives. Digital has something of an equivalent as described in another post. Posession of the full size, uncropped image that was not posted to the public. With digital photos, that would include full EXIF data. Keep that private and you have at least a negative's equivalent in proof.

If you are really concerned about intellectual property issues, get specialized legal advice.

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You are both right

In reply to: What???

When the copyright stamp is added to the photo or even if it is not it is a notice of "intent" to copyright. It is not necessary for the work to be have already been copyrighted.

If someone does copy an original photo without consent the creator can then file the copyright after the fact and pursue the matter legally.

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yes it is

In reply to: What???

Copyright is automatic. The fact that the way the law is administered is a mess does not retract from the fact that my work belongs to me. If you steal it you comit larceny, and that is illegal.

This law appertains in both America and Europe.

I will not deny, however, that getting involved in copyright issues is inadvisable. Unless there are very serious reasons the only people that are going to make money from such a situation is the attorneys.

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And your point is?

In reply to: yes it is

The point here is not whether a copyright is automatic or not, it's how you go about protecting your work under the copyright laws of the United States (or elsewhere for that matter).

The point being made here (if you go back and read the question), to paraphrase is "how do I PROTECT my work?". The same as I might ask "how do I protect my car from being stolen". I don't think I'd recommend that stealing cars is illegal so you really don't need any sort of anti-theft device, so to say "copyright is automatic" doesn't address the question.

I personally use two methods - watermarks, which when placed across the image cannot be easily edited out, and by posting images of such resolution that someone that wants to enlarge or publish the pictures would certainly be unable (although I would add that with new interpolation techology, this is becoming

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clear background

In reply to: Honorable mentions

does anyone know how to put the image you are trying to protect from theft as a background and then put a clear image over it to make it theft proof?

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To make a picture unpinchable

In reply to: clear background

To make a picture unpinchable just cover it with a clear graphic.
[1] Make a clear graphic a little bigger than the picture that you wish to cover.
[2] Place this code somewhere in your page code,
<div style="position: absolute; left: 5; top: 5">
<img border="0" src="image/clear.gif" width="100" height="100">
[3] You will have to play around with the left and top settings till you move the clear graphic over the one you wish to cover [NOTE. I use a red coloured graphic first till I get it covered, then change it for the clear one].
[4] When someone tries to take your graphic all they will get is a copy of the clear one.

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unpinchable picture

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

Again, if someone understands how this is done they can disable it. In truth it is frequently said that the only way to prevent the theft if web images is not to put them there in the first place.

What man can do - man can undo!

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In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

This is from someone who assumes everyone knows and understands code. I may be the only one, but I do knot know how to enter code in/on any type of document.

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How to Prevent Downloading

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

On one website I saw once, it was somehow set up so that you couldn't even save the image at all. The "save as" function was entirely greyed out, just not even available to start with.

How is this sort of thing accomplished?

Will using a clear graphic over the actual image prevent it from being copied even if someone does a print screen? Will the above-mentioned process?


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Copy from cache

In reply to: How to Prevent Downloading

No matter how clever you are on the rendering, the fact is that the image is *also* stored in your browser cache on disk. I leave it to your imagination how to extract it.

Some methods that are pretty good encrypt the image and what you get on the client is a Java decryptor. If you disable Java, you also disable the decryption and you get nothing. Ergo, you must run Java to see the photos. This is pretty good protection and the browser cache has only the encrypted photos. You can still do screen grabs although some of these programs attempt to disable the clipboard to prevent it. In the end you might just point your digital camera at the screen and take a photo. What about them apples, eh? No way to stop that Happy

But I cannot think of a photo that I have *ever* wanted so much that I'd go to any of these lengths to grab. After all, the ones I make are already better than most of the ones on the internet Wink

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In the end you might just point your digital camera ...

In reply to: Copy from cache

Digital camera?

Just load in Snagit and the whole InterNet can be yours sans password, etc.

Whatever man can design, man can defeat or the difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer ... (anon)

As another poster said - keep it off the net if you don't want it copied.

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What About Flickr, etc.?

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

How do you make a picture unpinchable when you upload it to a site such as Flickr or Tribe or any of thousands of others where it isn't your own personal website?


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don't want it stolen.....

In reply to: What About Flickr, etc.?

then why would you upload to one of those sites?

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In reply to: don't want it stolen.....

>> then why would you upload to one of those sites? <<

To be able to share it more widely with family and friends. And eventually, to advertise some of it for sale.


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wow - great idea!!

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

Thank you, I had never thought of that. I will start doing that for my images!

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thank you Jeff

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

Thanks Jeff
That was exactly what I was after.

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To make a picture unpinchable

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

In the past, my website was closed down due to excessive bandwidth use caused by MySpace users hotlinking to my images, so I've used a variation on Jeff's technique.

I create a transparent gif the same size as the image I wish to protect (usually I name it something like NO_COPYING.gif). I then create a table with the main image as the background, and then insert the transparent gif over the top. The result is that the image is viewable on the webpage, but right clicking on it will prompt the saving of the transparent gif only.

As mentioned, this may not stop theft by people who are familiar with code, but apparently the average MySpace user isn't (or can't be bothered) because I've had no more problems with hotlinking.

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Google Images

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

2 words that will strike fear into your code. Eventually Google Images will pick up your site, then all it takes is someone to find your picture on Google Images and your clear code doesn't work anymore (neither does any type of right click/save as disable javascript you could write as Google gives a direct link to the image file as well as the HTML page with the javascript, just click on the direct link instead of the HTML link and hey presto! free picture!). There is one solution to this, create a seperate directory for your images and set permissions on the server end to say that only allow people to access this directory only if they are coming from your website, otherwise show a 403 error message.

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Not much use against a savvy enough Firefox user, etc.

In reply to: To make a picture unpinchable

All someone needs to do is look under Tools>Page Info>Media (tab) and scroll down the list to find the image that's supposedly so cleverly hidden. If it's displayed, it's there. Yoink!

So then there's inline frames, but if anyone bothers looking through the source to find the html displaying the image in the frame using the same kind of trick - they'll just go to that and to the page info thing again. Again - yoink! (Oh noes!)

Other measures that use secondary protocols such as some Flash based slideshow are only good as they are at preventing screen grabbers from working...

If you really don't want an image copied online, there's only three things to do: you can put a visible watermark on it that more or less ruins the image for anything other than sample work, significantly resize your image smaller (Before uploading, not via HTML!), or you can opt to not put your image on the internet at all.

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It's a little button called Print Screen

In reply to: clear background

I think it's true that the only way to really protect your image is to now put it on the internet. If someone wants to they can easily edit out a watermark (however visible) with photoshop. Even with the 'clear cover' method (which is a great idea), all you gotta do is hit the Print Screen button, paste into Photoshop, then crop out everything but the pic you want. The upside to this is that the violator might not get the full resolution image.

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Opacity clarification

In reply to: Honorable mentions

I just wanted to mention to -Chris S. of Tucker, Georgia- that OPAQUE means NO light goes through. Transparent is clear, and TransLUCENT is semi-clear, while allowing light to pass through.

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