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Protect your Online Photos

Claudia from Iowa asks:

I am a professional photographer. Is there any way to stop a site (foreign or otherwise) from posting your images and advertising them illegally as free wallpapers, screen savers, etc?

First things first. If it’s your photograph and you have the original copy with you, you automatically have the copyright for it. You don’t need a document to prove it. Just the original photograph will do you justice, because every photograph has embedded data like the camera used, the time, date and place, the settings on the camera, when the picture was taken and so on. However, if you were to post your original photography online and somewhere were to use it illegally or without your permission, you have room for caution. Here are the rules when you go about posting anything online…

1.Post low-res images: This not only gives you complete control over how your photograph should be used but also give your site’s visitor a very small photo that he can’t do anything about. And this means, posting images that are 72DPI and NOT 300DPI.


2.Guard your prized photos: With some software able to enlarge your low-res images for illegal use, it’s best if you avoid posting your best images online. And even if you do, they should be made ‘private’. So why are you doing it in the first place? To have a backup online.

3.Copyright it: If you do want to showcase your best work online and realize that some of your images are stolen, make sure you copyright them before they are gone. Make sure these pictures are your best images, because registering for a copyright does involve time and money. In the US, you can register with the Copyright Office in Washington D.C. If you want to know the rules and regulating governing the subject, visit www.copyright.gov [1].


4.Cost it correctly: For $45, you can copyright a whole slew of pictures that you can cram in one CD along with your application form. If you want to pre-register before your photograph is in the public domain, it costs $145. For more information on the subject, you could visit www.copyright.gov/prereg [2].

5.Watermark it: One sure-fire way to ensure that your images aren’t stolen is to watermark your images in such a way that it goes across your picture, making it invalid.


6.Advertise it: It’s important that you put a line at the bottom of every image that says in small ‘c’ with a circle and the words: ‘All Rights Reserved’. This acts as a deterrent for professional agencies from stealing your pictures.

7.Attribution-Share Alike: If you want to share your pictures for greater visibility and publicity but don’t want to sell away your copyright, you can apply the Creative Commons licence on your photographs. This way, every time a person looks at your photograph, the CC symbol underneath your photograph will inform him if he can use your photograph and attribute the picture to you and your Flickr ID or manipulate it to better effect and credit the source image to you and so on. For more details on this, visit creativecommons.org [3].


~Zahid Javali