5 Ways to Protect Photos on Your Blog

One morning you boot up the computer, ready to browse your favorite blogs when you notice an email in your inbox. One of your readers found one or more of your photos being used on another site! There is no credit to you or worse, the site owner is trying to pass off your photo as their own. How do you feel about this? What if it’s a picture of your kids or loved ones?

This scenario terrifies a lot of bloggers and scares them out of sharing their photos. That’s why we’re turning our attention to how safe your photos actually are online and what you can do to protect your photos.

protect photos

How to Protect Images on the Internet

Get the Facts About U.S. Copyright Protection

I am not a lawyer, nor am I familiar with copyright law outside of the United States. If you don’t live in the U.S., you’ll want to research your own country’s copyright laws.

Here is a quote from the U.S. Copyright Office FAQs webpage:

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

For digital photographs, this means the instant you click the shutter button your photo is protected under U.S. copyright. Being saved to a memory card or hard disc is fixing it in a tangible form. The datestamp used for the file makes its creation perceptible with the aid of a machine or device.

Mostly, you are on your own when it comes to enforcing your copyright. So what can you do to protect your photos?

Credit Yourself

Reminding people that you own and control the rights to the image is the best way to insure your photos are not taken. Under each photo you share, include:

© Your Name 2011. All Rights Reserved. Do not use without permission.

If you use imaging software that supports it, you can also add your copyright information to the photo’s metadata. Here are a few popular methods:

You can also insert a visual watermark into your photos with your copyright information or logo.

Consider Licensing Your Image

Offering a license for purchase or through Creative Commons can be a great way to get more attention to your photography and blog. If you want to be credited in a specific way (your name, link to website, etc) make sure you specify the requirements of use under each photo. Paypal makes sales easy enough that you could include a link to purchase the license under each photo.

As with the copyright notice, setting licensing expectations upfront will make people aware that there are conditions to using the photograph and possibly deter them from improper use.

Monitor the Web for Your Images

I have Google Alerts set up to monitor my Flickr URL so I know if someone is linking to my Flickr image on their site. Flickr Pro also has a stats feature with referral information to help me monitor external use. (I have a few other alerts set up too, to monitor my name, blog title and blog URL to make sure I catch any other mentions.)

TinEye is a reverse image search engine where you can upload your image and it will search the web for that image and similar ones in use across the web. {The SITS Girls included a TinEye video tutorial during their Pinterest series.}

React Calmly to Violators

If you find someone using your image, don’t freak out. If possible, take the time to write to them and explain they’ve used your copyright photo without permission. At that point, ask them to either credit your photo, purchase a license for its use or remove the image entirely.

For an in-depth discussion, check out What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content.

Be Realistic

No matter what you do, there is a chance someone is going to steal the photos you share. Every photo you place online should be one you’re comfortable sharing with a stranger.

Once you put information online publicly, you can no longer control who looks at it, shares it, downloads it or copies it. Nothing can stop that: not watermarks nor disabling right-clicks nor U.S. copyright laws themselves.

Suing for copyright infringement isn’t realistic considering that most bloggers are not professional photographers and cannot claim damages or loss of income due to stolen photos.

The most you can do is make sure the image is clearly marked as yours wherever you publish it and address violations when they are found.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this!! What to do about my photos is one of the biggest things that has slowed down my blog creation process. I’m definately looking into the Google alerts. Thanks!

  2. Great advice! Thanks so much!

  3. This is an excellent article! Thank you for sharing your this important information.
    Donna recently posted..L’Bel USA Proves that Beauty Really Does Come Before Comfort!- A Survey Says Women Sacrifice for Beauty

  4. I think it’s also worth noting that you can file a claim with Google when copyright theft occurs because the offenders are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As such, you have recourse that *can* help you in many ways to get the offender to right his/her wrongs and learn from their mistakes.
    Here are 3 helpful links:
    http://www.dmca.com/
    http://www.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=ts.cs&ts=1114905
    http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/
    Tina recently posted..Meat Department Madness at Wal Mart

  5. Fantastic tips! I’ve always wondered about the ins and outs of protecting photos – this pretty much answers every question or wondering thought I’ve ever had :)
    Stephanie Snyder recently posted..I ain’t makin’ no biscuits from scratch anytime soon! kitchen confessions

  6. I do have Google Alerts; great suggestion about the Flickr URL – that one I didn’t think of and plan to set up now!
    Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog recently posted..My Kelly Moore Camera Bag Arrived

  7. This is great! Not sure why I never bothered to do this before. I am a librarian, I should know better LOL
    Heather recently posted..Bare Escentuals Preview Sale

  8. This is great information. I usually post a watermark on all my photos manually in Photoshop so it’s part of the picture. If I knew a better way to do it I would.
    le chef recently posted..Not the Usual Fare- but Fair None the Less

  9. Great post. I probably should do something about all my pictures but have only just thought about it or recently. Thanks for sharing.
    Jill Williams recently posted..My Day in a Nutshell

  10. Mary @ Redo 101 says:

    Lynda, will each of your classes remain available on the SITS site? Because when this is over, I really want to go back through each class, slowly, and try to really take my time learning more about each subject. I’m still not having any luck with HTML, will probably have my husband help me. Just checking to see if the classes will remain on the site or if I should go back now and print them. Thanks, Mary @ Redo101.blogspot.com

  11. Wow. Never knew about the Google alerts for photos. I’ll be sure to check that out as well as PicMarkr. Thanks!!

  12. Never really thought about it til now!THANKS for all the great tips and will work on the watermark one for sure!!
    MONICA recently posted..Peter and the Wolf

  13. This post was by far the most helpful post I have EVER read. I always wondered about copy righting my photo’s because when I was a beginner blogger, I did not water mark my pictures. I would get upset when I would see my pictures on other web-sites. I would also get upset because when I would look for information to Google to request my photo’s to be taken down, this is almost impossible. Thank you so much for sharing this. Can I add your post to my inspiration section on my blog? This is so worth sharing. Thanks a gain…Oh, I water mark my pictures to protect them.
    KeeKee recently posted..Sisterlocks- Words of Wisdom by Ms Marci Walker

  14. I need to brush up on these ideas. Thanks.
    Jamie recently posted..Knock Your Socks Off Cookies

  15. Thank you! At the very least I will credit each of my photos, but I will also see if I can do the watermark without too much trouble.

  16. I do think that simply having a copyright statement or do not copy somewhere visible on your page, is a deterrent for the vast majority of the population who might otherwise “borrow” your photos. And for the really bad guys I don’t think anything is going to stop them. I do watermark my photos, but I am aware that my watermark could pretty easily by photoshopped out. I use it more for getting my blog name out there. Great post, Lynda! also, my daughter wrote a tutorial a while back on how to watermark your photos in photoshop elements http://gracelydesigns.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-watermark-your-photos.html
    rachel recently posted..before and after boys room

    • Thank you for adding the link!

      Do you license your photos? I’ve found that Creative Commons is a great way to get my photography used by others. I don’t watermark (it is a deterrent in consideration of stock images) BUT, if you could establish a network of contacts and agree to use each others’ photos for blog posts, it would be a pretty nifty method of marketing your brand!

  17. I am so sad school is taking up so much time right now and I haven’t had all that much time to complete all these tasks, but I will get them done at some point. Thanks for all the great links!
    Tara recently posted..Science and Safety

  18. Great advice as always… :-)
    Kelly recently posted..Weekend Rewind

  19. Excellent tips! I’m definitely reading the links above. As for protecting my photos I add a photo license with my blog and year to any photo I post to my blog or anywhere else online.

    Peace. ;)
    Michelle recently posted..Peaceful Wednesday – Do Unto Others…

  20. I have the ability to metadata but I always forget. However this post reminded me again, hopefully I will remember this time!.

    I really appreciate the copyright info. I’ve wondered how to go above and beyond a simple “Don’t copy y’all” statement. Thanks!!
    Stephanie @ Our Marriage Adventure recently posted..He’s My Soulmate

  21. Thanks for these great tips.
    Very helpful!

    Have a great Thursday!
    Betty Manousos recently posted..Good Little Bits

  22. Thanks for all of these wonderful tips! I often worry about this sort of thing (and often leave off my best/favorite photos because of it) and wonder how to prevent it. These are all completely helpful. Thank you!

    • I take a different “viewpoint” to image theft. Since it’s usually done by fairly innocent and honest people who just don’t know any better, I use it as an opportunity to build a relationship with the blogger, instruct them on how to find images for their blog and make sure they know to give the proper credit, ask before taking (or read the license), etc.

      I don’t worry at all about others using my photos, which is why I don’t watermark and license most through creative commons. I’ve found it’s given me pretty good exposure and is getting my name out there as a photographer!

  23. This post is so helpful. I love taking pictures and use photography on my blog all the time. I’ve often wondered the best way to protect my photos. I really appreciate all the tips.

  24. I have been wanting to watermark my photos for a long time. I just haven’t sat down to figure out how, without using Photoshop. Thanks for the information.
    Heather Johnson recently posted..The 12 Days of Easter-Teaching the Easter Story

  25. Thanks for the great information!! I’m pretty new to blogging so haven’t gotten everything down. (I’m learning as I go).
    Lala recently posted..Wayback Wednesday

  26. Thanks for sharing this – it was just what I was thinking about. Now, I’ve gotta go watermark my pix!
    Alison recently posted..Rain or shine

  27. I need to check out how to put a watermark on photos! Thanks for sharing this information!
    Astrid recently posted..Skewered Peeps! fruit kebabs

  28. I have seen some bloggers use a watermark on their photos. Thanks for sharing how they do that.
    Angie – The Work at Home Wife recently posted..Easy Affiliate Marketing on WordPress

  29. I have always worried about people stealing my photos so I put my name right smack dab in the middle of them :P Hehehe!
    Jenny recently posted..It’s Haunted!

  30. Sometimes, I don’t know who to give credit to, so I credit where I found the photo.
    Miel Abeille recently posted..What I lack

    • I’m a big fan of the watermark. It scares me to think my kids’ photos would be exploited on another’s page (or worse in advertisements), and as a wanna-be professional photographer, my style is what clients book for. If someone else passes off my work as his own, this certainly injures my ability to attract attention for myself.

      For folk who “borrow” photos: there’s nothing wrong with asking before you use. If the image isn’t set for the public domain, it’s not free for the taking just because you saw it online. I know I’d be flattered if someone asked to use an image I created for a project.

      Thank you for this article!
      (Mommy) Rachelle recently posted..Finding the Moment

      • I think watermarks are pretty critical for professional photographers. It is extremely common for a client to take proofs and copy or print them on their own which results in a sucky product (muddying your name!) and loss of income for you.

    • Hi Miel, if you don’t know the photo’s license, you shouldn’t use it for your blog. Just crediting the source alone is not okay if the photo isn’t licensed or public domain.

      Check out this SITS article on copyright laws and your blog. There are lots of free resources for finding photos out there.

      I have an article on Finding Photos for Your Blog on Flickr. You can also do an advanced Google image search and select “labeled for reuse” under the Usage Rights section.

      There are lots of public domain photos on Wikipedia too. Just click through to the photo and read the licensing information to see if you can download it and use it.

      • Wow! Thanks for the education! I’ve seen photos credited as “courtesy of Google Images” so I’ve taken a few sunsets & gave them the same credit. I’ll stop that asap!
        Miel Abeille recently posted..What I lack

  31. This is interesting, you are so organised with all your alerts etc. I could do with being more clued in to this. I think having a Flickr Pro account seems to be the way forward.

    I suppose most of the time I don’t think my photos are worth copying so I’ve never been entirely worried. But I’ve read in the forum about some personal photos being used without permission and I think it’s important to have an awareness of this.

    I think the point you’ve made about reacting calmly is really important, often people don’t realise what they are doing and an email explaining your position is a very ‘grown up’ way to handle the situation.

    Honestly, I need to go back to my earlier days of blogging and check that I haven’t broken any rules myself.
    Jade @ No Longer 25 recently posted..You’ve Got Mail Niceties Challenge 2

Trackbacks

  1. […] Day 9: How to Protect Your Photos Online […]

  2. [...] Or maybe you want to run and hide when trying to understand the in’s and out’s out creative commons licensing? [...]

  3. [...] 5 Sure-Fire Ways To Protect Your Blog Photos [...]

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