How To Protect Your Images From Being Stolen

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.

  • CrackerJacker

    Hey — actually, it’s $35 to e-register and $65 to use the “alternate registration” method. Both are for any amount of images per “batch”.

    • Photo Stealers

      Ahhh it’s been changed I think since I wrote this article for the tumblr. I will update it, thanks!

  • Pete

    What did you mean by “Register Your Copyright. [For US Residents only]” I’m an Australian and I still register via the US Copyright office. I assumed if the infringement happened by a US entity I’d still be able to pursue damages via the US legal system. The law has still been broken in your country. Shouldn’t the US legal system still respect my copyright?

    • Joseph Philbert

      Registering with the copyright office in the US grants you even more damages in court.
      You don’t have to do it…but in court you will get less if you decide to sue.

      • Pete

        Yes, but is it “[For US Residents only]”? I’m living in Australia, and the copyright office allows me to use my Australian address to register copyrights. They even mail me the registration certificates to make things even more official. My only qualm is that the “[For US Residents only]” addition may be misleading.

        • Pete

          *the US Copyright office allows me to use my Australian address

    • Justin Case

      from: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-who.html

      Can foreigners register their works in the United States?

      Any work that is protected by U.S. copyright law can
      be registered. This includes many works of foreign origin. All
      works that are unpublished, regardless of the nationality of the
      author, are protected in the United States.

      • Pete

        Thank you Justin! Now it’d be nice if the article was updated to avoid confusion.

  • You could use Mass Watermark to bulk watermark and resize pics before you post them Online.Resizing is also recommended along with watermarking

  • Rock in Spain

    The best way is using Prot-On that allows to control the access and use of your photos no
    matter where they are. You can send your works to the mass media, contests, clients or
    agencies and block their contents once the work or negotiations
    have come to an end.

    http://www.prot-on.com