observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

Protecting Your Images Online

"books" Copyright © Diane Schuller

"books" Copyright © Diane Schuller

As many of you know, once you put your images online, you risk having them stolen by people who seem to think they are free. Some of these people help themselves to our photos for their blogs or websites and others are making money from them. We need to know how to protect our images.

Thanks to Roberta of Uncommon Depth, she has shared information for those posting at Flickr who are concerned about people who help themselves to our photos. It’s such important and helpful information, I too am passing along this helpful article on protecting your images.

That article by Greg Cope spells out specific ways to protect your images and I encourage you to read it and take steps for protecting your images from theft. You’ll notice that I have begun adding a watermark and, in some photos, I include both a watermark and a copyright notice. Sure someone can still steal the image. With the small copyright notice on the bottom corner that many people use, it’s so easy for anyone to clip that off and use the photo. The watermark is a bit more difficult to remove but people can do it — if they want the photo badly enough. My hope is that most who steal photos will be discouraged when they encounter my photos with a big watermark (or two of them) appearing on the photo.

I’ve also begun to make the photos smaller in [resolution] size but have not figured out how to add the right-click feature so it can’t be downloaded to start with.

This past week I deleted a bunch of my photos over at Flickr because they are real easy to steal plus Flickr is a hotbed for photo theft. No doubt you too have heard many stories of those who have experienced photo theft. I’ve actually had people tell me to my face that if they need a photo for their blog, website, (and a teacher who uses them for teaching tools) or other purpose the first place they go is Flickr! And you can bet your bottom dollar they don’t ask the artist for permission either. That is theft, pure and simple. So, I have decided that in the next month I will be removing a bunch more of my images from Flickr and the ones I plan to leave there will be replacing them with a duplicate that has my watermark plastered prominently in the image.

It has always astounded me that a person might see a neighbour’s tools in the backyard but they’d ask permission to borrow them yet the same person won’t think twice about helping themselves to a photographer’s photos (or a writer’s writings) and then slip away in the night.

If you’re on the other end however, as a person who is interested in using images found on the web, there IS a proper and legal way of doing so:

  • If you see an image you are interested in using for your own blog or website, check the person’s website/blog or photo sharing site (such as Flickr) for information on their copyright or copyright policy. You’ll usually find this information on a page or sidebar such as the “about”, “copyright”, “permissions”, “profile”, or similar page/area.
  • If the copyright notice indicates “All Rights Reserved” — they are definitely not yours for the taking.
  • Now you need to contact that person (and that information is usually always available as well) to request permission to use their image. Don’t be afraid to do this; some people are flattered and will grant you permission. Some will ask for compensation. Don’t take it personally if they choose not to provide permission. After all, it does belong to them.
  • If you don’t get permission and are really in need of a particular type of photo for your blog or website, use your search engine using keywords, “creative commons + [keyword for type of image you need]”. There are some people who have images available under licence as creative commons. Those are images where permissions will be granted for your use, yet you likely will be required to provide attribution (give credit to the specific owner). Flickr has a listing of their members who provide creative commons images as well as a simple explanation in the sidebar on what the particular type of creative commons entails.
  • Not so difficult, right? And this way it’s legal.

Jenn and Karina over at Tiny Choices blog are a great example of the correct way to use other’s photos and how to give proper attribution. (Note that they use photos from Flickr that fall under “creative commons” and that they correctly provide attribution & a link directly to the individual; it is not correct to give attribution to Flickr because Flickr does not own the photos.)

I hope this is helpful in providing information on how to protect your images online. On the opposite hand, if you know of someone who may benefit from learning about the legal way of using online images, please share the link to this particular post. You are also welcome to link to this post from your own blog or website to share with others.

“If we know better, we do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

PS: After receiving some comments, I want to re-emphasize reading that article noted & linked to at the beginning of this post (the one by Greg Cope). My post is an effort to begin the conversation and to offer some tips and suggestions. Mr. Cope’s article is much more indepth and provides very specific how-to information in this regard.

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