I wrote this post to help clarify issues about internet and intellectual property rights. I am not a lawyer but in my opinion this is the reality in sharing images on the internet. also, I believe you should seek permission before using someone’s property and give the appropriate credit if requested to do so. On the net, there is the law and then there is what actually happens.
Can I protect my images from theft on line?
Reality or false expectations?
We’d all like to think that images we upload are only available for the purpose we intended. That is to share with family and friends or to use in the promotion of our business such as web sites. The reality could not be further from the expectation.
When you take a photo, the copyright is generally with you. You own the image. However, when you upload it to the internet what the law says and what people do is quite a different thing. When you upload an image, people can copy, steal or use the image without your consent. This is not legal but often the reality.
For instance, I deal with businesses who operate web sites and I am quite often asked, “how do I stop people stealing my images?”
When I answer this question it is not always what the client wants to hear. That is “YOU CAN’T”
We can do things to the site like, no right click, watermarks or use low resolution images that do not enlarge well but inevitably, I have to bring the client back to reality and say, “Why are you on line?” and they reply, “I want to sell my products and share with family and friends.”
OK, to sell your products you must have reasonable quality images on line. The client must be able to get a clear view of the product they are expected to purchase. The images should not be watermarked as this diminishes the viewer’s experience as they may not be able to see the product clearly. Plus, watermarks can be removed by special software, so the cost and effort may outweigh the benefits. Disabling right click is also useless as people bent on getting the image WILL. There are ways.
In the long run the cost of protecting the images might be more that sales are worth or stop your hobby. If you are not prepared to take the risk, don’t upload.
Again, I ask, “Why are you on line, sales, hobby?” and “Do you want to continue to do this?”
So, the answer is a simple one in the end. If you place pictures or images on line, they immediately become susceptible to theft. Is your end goal to prevent theft of your images or sell your product, have fun, share, hobby, whatever?
There is always the risk someone will steal your material if it is on line and the only way for you to enforce this is through the courts. You have to do the maths, is it worth pursuing or should you just get on with your business or hobby?
In short, if you want to keep your photos and images as solely your property, don’t upload them. If you goal is to show your images for whatever reason and you do upload them, be prepared for them to be copied. The benefit of uploading can be great personal satisfaction or benefit your business. Again, I ask, “why are you doing this?” If you like to show your photos and images or need to for business, then do so. If you don’t want people to steal them, don’t upload them.
Possibly, a better alternative to trying to prevent theft (which is totally useless anyway) is to place some text on your site/images that says something like, “If you use my images, I’d appreciate a credit.” If they are still bent on pinching the image, they might at least acknowledge the photographer and you get some credit and possible referrals.
A note on Social Media
Social Media users uploading images are especially open to intellectual property theft, as the nature of this medium is to share and everyone on SM at some time has taken an inch then a mile. Simply making your profile private or closing a group will not necessarily stop images being pilfered. Images can still be forwarded outside by friends and group members and some search engines still index closed groups.
This also may diminish the purpose of the page, group or profile. What’s the point of trying to gain public interest if they can’t see your product. Again, why are you there? If you don’t want it stolen, don’t upload it.