Monday, May 2, 2011

Part 2: Photo Copyright Protection Tips - Photography with Imre - Episode 35

Perhaps the episode on copyright protection tips isn't the most visual, but for those not familiar with the various ways to protect the copyright on your images displayed online, this show was a good primer. In this post I'll just be adding new material not in the video.

Before moving on and just like I pointed out in the show, I am not a lawyer or legal expert, so to be properly informed you should consult with a qualified intellectual property lawyer or legal expert in your area. Copyright laws usually differ depending on where you live, so keep that in mind as well.

Additional Thoughts about Digital Watermarking
In the video I simply stated that using a digital watermark on your photographs is basically your choice; indeed it is. But many of you still might not be sure which type of watermarking, if any, you should utilize or would be best for you. So here are some additional considerations you could take into account:

No watermark: If you are purest and like to show off your photos without any potentially distracting markings, then this is the choice for you. Obviously, the copyright of the image is still yours whether you have the notice there or not, and usually most people have text under the photo or on a legal page explicitly declaring the material is copyright and may not be reproduced without written permission. Those who might take your material without consent won't have much difficultly as there are no markings to remove, so I would recommend keeping the images at a fairly small size; this makes them more or less unsuitable for print reproduction at the least.

Visible watermarks: If you've seen any of my photos, you'll see this is the variety of watermark I use. Specifically, I keep the copyright symbol, my name and address of my YouTube channel in one of the corners of the image at a readable but not very intrusive size. Although I don't want my material used without my permission, I take the approach that I'd rather not hide my shots behind what could be a very distracting message. In addition, my name and web address does promote me and my work, so you could consider putting your own web addy or company name on the photo. The only thing to keep in mind about this is that if you are sharing your pictures on various websites, some guidelines may prohibit you from using them, but I've personally found this to be fairly rare.

And as seen in the video, if you're more concerned about your work being stolen, you could use a larger water that is faded across the image. This certainly hides more of your work, but it's also considerable more difficult to remove without damaging the photo.

Hidden watermarks: These sneaky methods of incorporating your mark could be used if you feel such a measure is necessary to protect your work, and allows you to use methods to prove the images are indeed yours. There are a few software companies that create such software and there are a couple of DIY methods too. I personally have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I can't find anything "wrong" with doing this and it could be advantageous in various cases to prove the image(s) is/are yours. On the other hand, if someone in some far off country steals your photos then you're more or less out of luck unless you have lots of cash to burn just to take down a pic or two (even other methods can't really help in those cases). But I have a feeling that larger stock photo companies might employ this method; these organizations generally not only have the money, but several offices in various countries making it easier to handle such problems.

A Little More on Photo Sharing Websites
There's not a lot more I want to add in this section, but it's worth mentioning that not all of us want to be so strict with our photos. If you're open to sharing under some circumstances, some sites like Flickr allow you to change the copyright status on your photos. Notably, you can select a Creative Commons license, and you can read more about it by clicking that link (or in the Web Resources section below).

For some photographers, a major benefit to allowing others to reproduce and use their work is to gain exposure (no pun intended). Keep in mind, there are literally hundreds of millions of photos on the World Wide Web and many of those pictures are can be quite alike. So imagine this. A major advertising firm comes along and sees your photo, but notices the strict copyright. They see another photographer's image that basically looks the same but there is a less restrictive license on it; one that would allow them legal and easy use of the picture. The firm selects the other photographer's shot, gives him/her credit and that photographer just might see a little increase in business. It's something I'm personally considering because it's not like my shots are making much money unfortunately and more exposure (no pun intended again) would be nice. Hmm...

Copyright Protection Methods if Building Your Own Website
If you've decided to take the approach of displaying and even selling your photos on your own website, here are a few of my thoughts on that matter:

  • As mentioned in the video, you can still employ the tactics of adding watermarks if you wish and even embed your copyright info into the files. Also consider keeping the original image files off of the website unless there's a good reason to have them online and keep the previews around 1MP in size (about 1,000 pixels wide or high, whichever is greater).
  • Often times a copyright note, separate from the one on the image, is displayed under or somewhere near the photo. I also recommend adding a copyright notice on a legal page for example.
  • Although not foolproof, you could disable right-clicking via JavaScript, or there are some clever ways of using CSS and placing images on the background. But always keep in mind that if you can see an image, graphic, photo, or almost anything else on a website, there are ways of saving/copying that material.
  • Again, not foolproof, but the gallery could be created in Flash. This does bring up some issues though such as the potential difficultly/cost involved in creating one and compatibility with some mobile phones.

And that more or less sums it up. In the next few days I'll be working hard on the time-lapse post. L8r!

Web Resources

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