While there are definite downsides to all of these solutions, here are some things you can do to help protect your work from being stolen on the internet. Keep in mind the only failsafe way is to keep your images completely offline but this doesn’t mean that your clients will.
1. Digimarc. It’s definitely NOT a cheap solution but it’s the best way to digitally watermark your images to keep track of them online. The watermark can’t be removed with editing. Check out their website for the details and pricing information.
2. Watermarking. While it’s been proven that watermarking is definitely not fool proof it is a deterrent as it is an extra step to take to make your image their own. If they are determined, they will persevere but they may move onto another image that is easier to make their own. The harder your watermark is to remove, the harder it is for them to steal the image. This also allows a potential client to easily find you if your image is found somewhere that isn’t your website (i.e. Pinterest or Facebook). Keep in mind that if the watermark is small and in the corner it may be easily cropped out. If you have a watermark on your image and it has been removed, you are entitled to more damages should you pursue legal action if an image is stolen.
3. Use Flash. Of course, there are definite downsides to this method, but it is not easy to steal images from flash websites because you cannot right click. Of course you can screen capture but again, it is a deterrent.
4. Don’t Allow Pinterest. Pinterest is second only to Google Images as a place that thieves find work. You can opt out of allowing Pinterest to source your webpage but of course, this doesn’t mean that someone won’t still pin an image there.
5. Register Your Copyright. [For US Residents only] For $35 per group (online) or $65 (paper) you can register your images with the US Government. This won’t stop people from stealing your image online but if they are stolen you are entitled to higher damages should you chose to pursue it legally. Note that you must register the images within 3 months of publication.