FUD — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt — can often countered by self-esteem.
„How can you have any meat if you don’t eat your pudding?!“
Why are so many photographers so anxious about „theft“ of their works? Is it really that so few understand the mechanisms of the evil Internet? These days, I stumbled upon an article in The Phoblographer that made me laugh at first glance. But while reading it over and over again, it made me more and more angry. Do read it yourself while I’ll be waiting for your return:
Welcome back! Feel the same as I do? Well, then gently touch your Ctrl and W keys, quietly regretting the hit you gave to me (thanks, anyway). Nothing new for you to come.
You still don’t understand me? Even considered following the advice given there? Then, please take the time and read the following. I promise to make it a brief and compact reading. At least, I’ll try to.
So here is my advice:
Never publish anything that you cannot afford to lose.
By the way, this does not only apply to the Internet. Technology of the Internet is, that everything you make available to the public in the World Wide Web — well, is available to everyone. And not limited to any kind of software as well. In other words, I don’t even need a Web browser to access your website and its contents (images, yay!). So the advice given by The Phoblographer is useless and in no way worth the effort. Anyone willing to keep a copy of the contents of your website is able to do so. Period. By the way, do you even know how to „disable right clicking on your website“?
Attract site visitors, don’t scare them off, as they may become clients. Or followers, whatever.
Visible watermarks? Nope. Do not use them, they’re ugly and destroy your carefully crafted image. But what if I integrate my watermark into my image as Meho Jarvis sometimes does? Would you like to have beautifully watermarked images printed, framed and hung at your flats walls? Would you like to receive a print of an image with the watermark removed only to realise it being ruined without the watermark? Ask yourself.
Invisible watermarks like Digimarc® or similar? Nope. Waisted money and effort. Most, if not all of these measures are comparably easy to override or remove, just search the web.
Other means of „invisible protection“? Neither. See the linked article. Do you really want to bar a visitor from browsing your pages the way she wants? If so, it would be cheaper and easier to not set up a site at all.
I don’t want strangers to make loads of money by stealing my extraordinary images or creativity!
Instead of wasting money, time and mental pressure on trying to protect your body of work, my advice is to give what you can afford to be „stolen“ (I don’t like this term, though) while offering more than enough to attract visitors and turn them into returning visitors. Maybe even paying ones.
You see, too many photographers of the earlier Internet have tried very hard to discredit anyone trying to „protect“ its images by imposing exaggerated restrictions throughout their websites. Unfortunately, they succeeded and made „image theft“ (still, I don’t like that term) a hobby of script kiddies. In times of utter boredom, that is.
Why don’t you just treat your website and its content as part of a giant giveaway? I still assume you want to attract visitors, so what could possibly be wrong in doing so? Your statement should be „Welcome! Enjoy all my gorgeous images!“ instead of „I don’t trust you! I will deprive you of enjoying my purported gorgeous images!“
- They could print my images, depriving me of the profit!
This works only if you publish your images in sufficient quality. If this really matters to you, JPG @ 75% in 150 ppi and 1920 by 1080 px in size should do the job of providing a sufficiently good image for display while being insufficient for print.
- They will copy/counterfeit my work and sell it elsewhere for huge profit!
Relax. First of all, it is extremely unlikely that someone will be able to produce an exact copy of your work, let alone your creativity. Have a look at all those imitating works of important artists — none of them is able to create an exact copy of the original work. And having said this, where do you get your inspiration from? For sure not out of nowhere, but by enjoying the work of other artists. So if the counterfeit gains more attraction/success than your work and if this annoys you, you may want to consider doing some analysis on the counterfeit in order to understand its success. Hey, you just „stole“ someone else’s work!
- They will use my work and claim it’s theirs!
On a technical level, this can never be avoided. Except you refrain from publishing your work. But by proper licensing (usually appropriately placed license/copyright statements) you have the law on your side. I won’t cover this here, instead I recommend to browse the Creative Commons website. They have plenty of useful information available on this topic.
- Keep in mind what you want to achieve through your website.
Usually attention. Attract attention.
- Choose what you want to publish with care.
Limit your choice to work that you can deal with in case it’s being „stolen“. For example, don’t publish work you intend to sell (physically) later. Keep your choice meaningful and representative to your body of work.
- Allow your audience to enjoy your published work. Do not limit your audience’s experience.
Allow image dimensions and quality to reflect your personal standard. Cross check with your equipment (e.g. have the image displayed on your monitor; does it still look as good as the original?) However, there is no need to publish high-resolution, high quality files — your audience will be grateful for your fast loading webpages.
- Show what you allow your audience to do with your published work. Don’t leave a doubt.
Carefully choose a license. Clearly state it on your website (or directly next to the work as I did in this particular case). While this cannot prevent misuse of your work, it may at least make it easier for you to claim your rights.
- Images only (for now): Include owner and copyright information with your work.
Use the EXIF/IPTC capabilities of your camera and editing software to embed copyright, owner and contact data into your files. In doing so, you allow others to find and get in touch with you. Several search engines index image meta data already. There are some more benefits that I won’t cover here. In general, it is a good idea to embed at least your contact data into the image file. Also, tag your work appropriately.
- Allow others to profit from your creativity.
What?! Relax. Don’t forget creativity is always a matter of give and take. You grew and continue to grow by „taking“ (learning) from others, therefore allow others to grow by „taking“ from your work.
Congratulations, you made it to the end! I hope my rant can be of any help to you and appreciate the time you spent. Thank you very much!
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