Protecting your images online from theft

The Perfect Watermark
Image by Jayel Aheram via Flickr

Updated: June 4, 2010 Watermarking any images you place on your blog or website is a practice used in addition to posting a copyright notice or license, and both are used to deter image theft. I have previously reviewed several free watermark generators available online that can be used to display copyright on your images either one at a time or in bulk, prior to uploading them to your blog. This article provides a link to another approach to deterring online image theft that you may wish to consider using.

… here’s a technique for you to make it just a bit harder for someone to get your images. Here, right-click on the image and click on Save Image As or Save Picture As to save it on your computer. See what you “saved”.  — Cover Your Images

Updated: June 4, 2010 Protecting your images from online theft and reblogging

If you need more help then devblog has provided it in a forum thread:

wp.com users cannot add/edit the HTML (or in this case the PHP) files. I’ll try to explain as best as I can.You know, when you add a photo to your post, you click the media button, upload the image to your blog (or link it from another URL) then you click the “insert into post”, right?

Well, after doing that, you would switch to the HTML Editor, then you will see the HTML code that’s behind your post. After switching to the HTML editor, you would need to replace the existing HTML for the image that you just added with the code I provided; of course, you would need to make the necessary changes so that your image is displayed. Basically, the only things you would need to change in the inline CSS are the values of the “background” property as well as the “width” and “height” properties. Those would be the bits in capital letters:  (minus the square brackets)

[<img style="background: transparent url(YOUR-IMG-URL) 0 0 no-repeat; border: 0; height: IMG-HEIGHT; margin: 0 auto; padding: 0; width: IMG-WIDTH;" src="http://tfockler60.files.wordpress.com/YEAR/MONTH/nothing.gif" alt="Helghan Soldier" title="Helghan Soldier" width="IMG-WIDTH" height="IMG-HEIGHT" />]

You would also have to upload the "nothing.gif" to your blog and point to it as shown in the example above (that's why I put YEAR and MONTH in caps because those will be different in your case).

You'd have to repeat this process with every image you want to post (however, you won't have to upload "nothing.gif" everytime you want to do this because you can always point to the same image).

The drawback is that it can be a laborious task if you have LOTS of images...

See also >  Google Webmaster Central > "Hiding text or links in your content can cause your site to be perceived as untrustworthy since it presents information to search engines differently than to visitors. "  Hidden text, links, images, javacript, videos

Related posts found in this blog:
Thumbs down on WordPress reblogging
How to copyright your digital work
Copyright basics for bloggers
What is copyright?

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26 thoughts on “Protecting your images online from theft

  1. BTW Ms Timethief:

    I don’t know if this is a problem with “my end” or something happening to your WP display of the “reply box”. I’m using a PC w/XP and IE 7. The condition does not happen on other sites with the same style of “Reply box” and associated “fill-in blanks”. But, as Startrek’s Worf might say “…there’s a quirk in your Reply Box!!”

    In fact TT, I tried to “reply”, filled in my text but it wouldn’t let me “post” it. Had to exit and return… where the three required fields below were filled in as expected. The email field covers up the 4 buttons. There appears to be a verticle spacing glitch between the fields and the bottom of the reply box.

    I took a screen shot of it, cropped and resized it to 350 pixels in order to show what the problem looks like. How can I send you the JPEG file?

    Bill Ford

  2. Actually, no. But that makes cents…. ah, sense. However, I am aware that my age of 74 precludes my ability to be as up-to-date in the computer world as would a 30 year old working in that field or as knowledgeable as yourself.

    I take it, from your answer, that one cannot “detect and narrow down the individual computer” and would therefore defeat the “thought” I had. Oh well… life in the slow lane.

    I’ll just post my missives and images and take my chances. I’ve only been messing with WP 3.1.3 (or any version) for a few weeks and the learning curve is likely longer than my lifespan.

    Thanks for the quick reply and hidden info.

    Bill Ford – Joshua Tree, California

  3. Now that I’ve spent the last couple hours “researching” this “theft” issue, I have concluded that “don’t upload” is the only “protection” available.

    However, I do have a thought that looks for an answer or procedure to a novel way to “track” a “thief” of one’s goodies. Of course, watermarks work to “mark” the material, it would be a very difficult task locating the stolen goods, then attempt to resolve the problem.

    My thought is, capturing the IP of the site’s visitor, and logging the visitor’s “right-clicking” activity and on which specific image or text the “right-click” was, well…, “clicked.”

    It seems this tactic would afford the website owner the magnet needed to locate the “who took it” needle in the hay stack.

  4. Hello again TT !

    Came here looking for something other than protecting images, as is the case when I visit your blog, I always find tons more of very useful posts than what I came looking for, lol.

    Just to throw my two cents in, I follow the “if you don’t want it stolen, don’t upload it” rule.

    Juan’s trick is awesome, have used it in the past and my photo gallery uses the same technique.

    The watermark practice is 100% useless if you want the viewer to be able to still see a complete picture or image. This means placing the watermark where it is visible, but not interrupting the subject of the image. When this is done, it is all too easy to snatch the image and crop off the watermark.

    The only 100% true way to maintain the artists rights to an image or picture is to embed the copyright information into the image file using a photo editing program. That information will always be attached to that file. While this does not protect the image, it does leave a very nice, and useful fingerprint as to who the owner of the image is !

    Great stuff again TT . . .now to find what I came here for, lol

  5. TT

    I don’t know if I’m guilty of stealing images or not, my practice lately is to backlink to the original image.
    If this is bad practice, are there images available in the public domain that we’re able to use. Thank you for such an insightful post. Your researching skills are impeccable!

    Continued Success And Happiness ….

  6. Hi Timethief! I started an experiment with this post. Photos on my blog belong to me. But I linked to several professional photos to present the visual side of the subject I was discussing. I would not actually put them on my blog. But there are links to them in a way I was able to figure out with my rudimentary linking skills. Here is the post. Can you tell me if this is a legitimate way to do this. I can always delete the links if it’s a problem. I have only tried it with this one post. Thanks.

    http://davidnotes.com/2010/02/22/lindsey-vonn-olympic-champion/

    I need to read more about this subject for sure but between seo, poetry and photography my 60 yr old brain is overrun at the moment.

    • It’s very important to recognize that there are those who do not respect copyright and who will help themselves to images that are not watermarked. The same situation prevails when it comes to content theft of text as well.

  7. Hope that u and your fellow friends a Happy Tuesday!
    Please accept the award, post it,
    and share with others…

    I appreciate your comment! ;)
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    U deserve the best!

  8. Don’t forget other techniques such as anti-hotlinking scripts and .htaccess manipulation. Those can be equally effective. Although the watermark would protect your image even if it was downloaded and hosted on another server.

    • Hi JP,
      It’s good to hear from you. I don’t know anything at all about the two suggestions you made so now I have some research to do. Thanks for the visit and suggestions too. :)

  9. Thanks for the tip! I’ve been wondering how to prevent someone from copying any cartoons that I post. (I haven’t posted any because I was concerned about copying.) I’ll investigate your approach a bit more and see how well it works for me.

    What do you think of using a Flash application to help prevent copying? The picture/cartoon would only come into focus when the mouse hovers over the picture. Also, right-clicks within Flash do not allow you to copy images. It’s probably a bit heavier than a simple photo, but it may be worth the peace of mind of the guy that’s posting the material.

    Dan

    • Hi Dan,
      I have no thoughts to share on Flash, as I know next to nothing about it, and I’m not about to pretend differently. Thanks for your comment. :)

  10. As I always say, if you don’t want something stolen, don’t place it on the Internet but, yes, it is a good practice to place copyright notice on all your images.

    Thanks for the relevant information.

    • @Lydia,
      I have used the same line myself many times. In fact, it took me years before I chose to display an image of me online. devblog’s approach is a good one. Watermark your image first and then use his technique.

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