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.
- 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.