Copyright Infringement

Watermark
Watermark

I was shocked to see that one of my photograph was displayed as a hoarding at the entrance of an exhibition, without my permission. As this was copyrighted image and the person(s) who were exhibiting this did not take any permission whatsoever from me and have displayed it without even informing me. The photo was obviously taken from my web page as I had not distributed the original elsewhere. They had cleverly cropped out my copyright info at the bottom left corner. Blown it up using software and then printed on a 15×20 feet sized large format print.

I was able to find out the copyright violators and asked them to comply to my term of copyright or face legal actions. They realized their mistake and readily agreed to my terms. So the whole matter was settled amicably. But the question that remains at large is that my pictures are source of attraction for others to steal. What should I do to safeguard them? I was thinking of several solutions which are possible.

Let us examine different methods to prevent such copyright infringement of photographs which are published on the website like this one.

  • Reduce size of images I can show only preview of my images which are 500 pixel in size which can be easily copied but since it is so small it will be useless for anything but a preview.
  • Reduce quality of images This will result in ugly preview of my images. Reducing quality of images is not a good idea. Why put ugly photos on photography site which will show me in a bad light.
  • Use javascript to disable right click and save Not fool proof. It will not stop web page saving and making screen shots. Does not work on the Mac OS. But it is a smart way of telling people the images are copyrighted.
  • Adding a transparent gif over the top of your image in a web page. This is what Flickr does. You can show original images. Gives the wrong image when saving by right mouse click. But does not stop screen capture programs and saving web page.
  • Adding visible watermarks to images Big non transparent watermarks do not allow restore original images. But small watermark can be easily cropped out . Transparent watermark can be repainted or cloned out (but the work is very difficult). Often people do not care who owns the image. This is the most popular way to protect images. Use several big transparent watermarks for improving protection quality. The image will look uglier than the pristine original.
  • Digital watermarking adding invisible watermarks Hidden, so thief will not know it is there. You can prove your copyright. But since it is hidden, how do people know it is copyrighted? Finding stolen pictures is dependent on the thief actually posting the image online AND getting that page indexed at the search engines. Newer services like TinEye help to find such stolen pictures without having to resort to digital watermarking
  • Making images into Flash or Shockwave objects No right click, no drag and drop, no web-page saving. But it does not protect against screen capture. Flash is not universally accepted format and is a time consuming way.
  • Making pictures Java Applets
    You can show original image or part of your image as you want. No right click, no drag and drop, no print, no web-page saving. But does not stop screen capture programs. Mobile devices may not show image. Java is not as good as it could be. It also slows the web page rendering somewhat.
  • Last but the best one is not to show your images at all 😉 Nothing lost or gained

I usually downsize my image to maximum of 1200 pixel at 100 dpi. I found that even using simple image viewing software like irfanview or FastStoneViewer this JPEG file can be blown up easily to 5 times its original size without drastic change in quality. Modern algorithms of resizing make this easy. If you use dedicated softwares which can enlarge photos like onOne Genuine fractals 6 or Alien Skin Blowup 2 you can get very large format picture with fantastic quality.

Till now I was publishing such photos without watermark. I felt that my pictures need to be enjoyed without the blemish of ugly watermark in the background. From now on I’ll be putting watermark at the center of the picture so as to prevent people from stealing my work without crediting me. I know this will look ugly, but leaves me with no choice. If you notice all my photos in the blog have gained watermark by now. I will be using watermark only in the larger version and smaller version will still be watermark free.

12 thoughts on “Copyright Infringement

  1. thank goodness you were able to locate and get the person to acknowledge. how many more of this is happening allover with out adequate resolution. there was a thread on this in photo.net some time ago. I am changing my website from mobil me hosting to a wix.com website. I am just waiting for the DNS redirection to be completed. this hosting is US based and completely flash driven.

  2. Just my opinion… I would rather go for combination of these 3 –
    * Adding visible watermarks to images
    * Digital watermarking
    * Making images into Flash or Shockwave objects

    Even though flash presentation doesn’t stop user from taking screenshots, the captured images will be very much useless. I am assuming that the pic’s resolution doesn’t go beyond 800 pixels wide.

    Normal watermarking is pretty simple, but sometimes not very visible (check “Long Horned Beetle Nymph” photo on the blog).

  3. Dear Nayan,
    You have raised a very good point. I agree with you having all 3 is fine idea. But here is my views on each of those.

    • I agree now that visible watermark is necessity but should not disturb the viewer, to minimize the impact I have fouind the best combination using a free software Image Magick and a subtle combination of disolve option there to get the present watermark. I will deal with the whole watermark issue in a subsequent blog.
    • I felt digital watermark is useless gimmick. As courts do not accept that digital watermark as proof in India or even in USA. In US you need to register your photos to get copyright. But in India if you can prove to have original raw image then you are the owner. Also it costs a lot to mark digitally using digimarc like digital watermark.
    • Frankly speaking I hate flash. The main reason being that flash is not universal like HTML, it needs a plug-in which often is buggy. many devices do not render flash properly. From user accessibility point it is not a very friendly technology.

    Thanks for raising a nice issue for discussion

  4. Since India is a member of the Universal Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. I think your photographs are protected even internationally.

    The © symbol, or any other marking, is not required. Berne Convention removed this requirement, as copyright is now automatic. However, it is still optionally used as means of identifying the copyright owner, along with the date of creation.
    Similarly the phrase “All rights reserved” is not required. It was once required to assert international rights but was made redundant by the Berne Convention.

    Putting watermark sometimes destroys the beauty of the picture, when we are planning to make money by selling our photos it may be a good idea to have proper protection.

    I think even taking the photocopy of our camera manual (partially or fully – whatever the intention), without permission is also a violation of copyright rules!

    Also we should see the possibilities of allowing some of our photographs for ‘Fare Use’ rather making copyright & complex watermarks. This may convey the message to the violators that the rest of the photos are strictly under copyright.

    Converting JPEG images to Camera RAW format is not a difficult technique today.

  5. Dear Shanavas,
    You have put the copyright issue and Berne Convention very succinctly. But how I felt when I saw my photo exhibited without my permission or credit was beyond what can be remedied by copyright laws. There is a saying in Kannada that “locks on the doors are only meant keep normal people out, a thief will break it anyway and enter to burgle the house”. I have always allowed fair use of my photos as mentioned in the website copyright notice which is there at the bottom of every web page on my site. My web content can and should be used is for personal, non-commercial reference only. But I forbid commercial use without my consent. These persons have seen my copyright and cropped it out.

    What do you think of the present watermark is it too distracting or damaging to the photo? please let me know.
    Regards
    Krishna Mohan

  6. Krishi, I agree with you on fair use for personal use or non-commercial reference is acceptable.
    Even I DONT accept some one using it for commercial purpose.

  7. Dear Krishi,
    UCC & BC are mentioned here for general alertness to the violators only, and also I was trying to express my condemnation to those who violate copyrights.

    I think, watermarks not always communicate or it detour the actual beauty and the emotions of the photographs to the viewers. Since it is the basic way of protecting our photographs from plagiarism, many of us are following the same, but majority of them are using the pirated software to put the watermark to their photos!!!

    Where there is a no room for creative discussions if there is no different outlook?

    I was just trying to re-route this issue to a different angle of ethical thoughts, that we are just the owner of a camera or few lenses with some creative thoughts & techniques, but we are not the owner of the subject/object we shoot!

    Thanks
    Shanavas

  8. Shanavas,
    Please accept my apologies if I have hurt your feelings. I did not contradict what you said. I always encourage a healthy discussion however different it is from my point of view.
    You have put the issue of using pirated software to prevent plagiarism quite nicely

    My dilemma is whether I need to put watermark like what I did now or let people take my photos and use it as they want? I know that I reacted to the issue in a hurry but I need to think what I did was right or wrong. What is your opinion on the present watermark.

    Regards
    Krishna Mohan

  9. Dear Krishi, You are always great with very impressive character.
    I flick through your photographs; the watermark you used seems to me quiet decent.
    Thanks
    Shanavas

  10. Sorry to see this happen to you. I too have been a victim and therefore very reluctantly have started to watermark my images.

    Imagine my surprise when I found one of my pictures appear in a competition! I wrote to the organizers and showed that this image was mine and they promptly removed it.

    Hate the ugly water marks but there is no real choice – that or not display at all all other methods are easily broken. The rightclick prevent is no use, screen capture not hard to do. Etc. So no easy answers.

    ~ Suchit

  11. Hi Suchit Nanda,

    Thanks for dropping by. After lot of thought I dropped the watermarking on my images. Sorry to hear that you too were victim of this injustice. Imagine somebody who has stolen your photo winning prize for your photo!!
    Keep visiting my site and leave your comments and criticism so that I can improve my work.
    Regards
    Krishna Mohan

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