How to protect your images online

It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or amateur photographer. Your photos are your own and you should be the one who decides where and if they can be used. But sometimes you’re not the one who decides. Some people simply take your online photo and use it, without asking for permission or paying the fee. And, if you’re selling photos online, you sure know that fee is small. So, how to fight photo stealing and report copyright infringement? Not an easy question.

protect images

How to protect your images online

How to protect your images

  1. Use watermarks
  2. Use content protection plugins on your blog
  3. Report stolen images

1. Watermark them

The easiest and faster way of protecting your images is to watermark them before posting them online. So, whenever you’re planning to post your photos on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social platforms), on your blog or website, forums or photo-sharing sites, take a few seconds to apply a small, non-intrusive watermark on them. This will let people know that it’s your photo and not an orphan work. Make sure you keep it small and discrete, so your viewers could enjoy the photos. If someone really wants it removed, it could remove an intrusive watermark as well, no need to fight that. However, hard or easy to remove, if the only version of your photo displayed online has a watermark and you find a version without one, it would be so much easier for you to prove the stealing intent in a court, if you want to get there.

2. Use content protection plugins

I don’t always watermark my photos. I wouldn’t watermark them and I wouldn’t take any precautions, to be honest. But the problem is, some pictures get indexed in search engines, and you never know who is looking for them and what will they do when they’ll find them.

So, especially for those users who are coming from image searches, since all my blogs and websites are made in WordPress, I use a nice WP plugin for image and text protection, called Smart Content Protector. I’m using it only for images, but you can also protect your texts with it.

I prefer using a paid plugin, although there are plenty of free alternatives, because a premium plugin is much more taken care of by its developer than a free one. So, you will have frequent updates and support, because it’s a business for its creator, and owners usually are taking care of their businesses. If you just want to test a free version for a while, to see how it works, there is a free version out there, but it has far less features than the premium one, and at the time of writing, it hasn’t been updated in the last 2 years.

3. Report stolen photos

If you find your images misused on social media or free blogging platforms, you can report them.

Before reporting, make sure that you are really facing a copyright infringement case. Make sure the photo is not rightfully used and the person using it is not actually one of your stock buyers. They really don’t like to be wrongfully accused and they may not buy from you again if they encounter such problems. If the image is watermarked, then chances are the image was not licensed correctly so you can use the reporting tools for such cases.

So here’s a list of links to main social media and blogging platforms that are fast and efficient when you report copyright infringement (bookmark this page so you’ll have the links handy):

1. Facebook DMCA report

2. Twitter DMCA

3. Google (Google Images, Youtube, Google+, Blogger etc.) DMCA

4. WordPress DMCA

5. Pinterest DMCA

6. Instagram DMCA

7. We heart it DMCA

These are common web platforms used by photo stealers. If you fill in the informations correctly, all of them will promptly remove the copyright infringing content.

If you happen to have a stock portfolio on Dreamstime, they also have a very effective DMCA report tool. Why is it effective? They are trying to convert potential copyright infringers into actual buyers. While it’s not always successful, it does have a positive trend. Most of the people who are using incorrectly your photos don’t really know anything about copyright, so Dreamstime’s approach seems fair.

None of these methods are 100% sure. If someone really wants to steal your photos, they will find a way to do so. But these above methods will eliminate about 99% of chances to have your images stolen, and that’s because most cases of misusage or copyright infringement happen due to lack of education. And you can’t expect everybody to be educated in terms of copyright or intelectual property, just like you can’t expect a photographer to be educated in geology. So, I think it’s only our duty to continuously try to educate people in our field of work.

What methods are you using and to what success?

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