Protecting Photos Online
by Gordon C. Harrison
The topic of protecting photos online is an extremely hot discussion at the moment.
Subscribers to my my free monthly newsletter will know that it's a subject close to my heart.
Issue No.13 not only introduced the topic to you but also promised the first article on my site by a Guest Contributor, Gordon C. Harrison.
Gordon is a professional photographer and you can see examples of his work illustrating this article.
However, he also works tirelessly at The Artists' Bill of Rights with a team of other photographers, successfully pointing the online world in the right direction with regard to image rights.
The keen-eyed among you will have already noticed that I work closely with ABoR on the rules and guidelines for both my Free Photo Sharing and Free Photography Contest pages.
So, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Gordon to you, along with
Part One of his series, Protecting Photos Online...
Photography is undoubtedly the most accessible art form, particularly since Kodak simplified the entire process for the public way back in the 1890’s and then in 1900 with the launch of the first Brownie camera.
This accessibility has mushroomed again with the advent of digital technology and the ability to take photographs anytime anywhere and put them online.
We all like to share photographs. Even pre-digital this was something we all did via albums, slide shows, and extra prints for family and friends.
Nowadays of course we just need to put them online and the entire world — if we want – can see the results of our creativity.
Why Protect Photos Online?
The internet is, in effect, a giant copying machine. Pre-internet and in the real world you would have restricted distribution to family and friends; making copies then was more troublesome.
Once images are online they can become available to the world. However, you almost certainly would not want just anyone or any organisation taking your photos and reproducing them without your permission.
How would you feel if you discovered that a happy holiday photo you had taken of your family was exploited by some other organisation without your permission?
Unfortunately this is a common occurrence and families have been shocked to find their photographs being used, without permission or notification, to advertise products and companies.
Here are some examples:
There are countless more examples like this even including unauthorised use by a political party!
It doesn’t need to be family photos, any subject such as wildlife or landscapes could be used to promote something, and it may be something you would not approve of.
Another good reason for protecting photos online is if you are selling them, or are thinking of selling them at some point in the future.
You would certainly not want to find others had copied your photos, claimed they had created them, and were offering them for sale as postcards or e-cards for example.
The golden rule is that when photographs are found on the internet and someone would like to use them, or reproduce them on their web site, they should ask your permission.
This is not only the law, but it is a common courtesy; however, it is because this courtesy and legal requirement is often flouted that we must consider ways of protecting photos online.
Effectiveness of Protection
There are various ways to protect photographs online. Be aware though that for every method of protection there are, for those with the knowledge, ways to subvert them.
Just as sophisticated door or window locks will not defeat an experienced and knowledgeable thief, online protection will not defeat a determined and knowledgeable image thief.
However, the various protection devices that can be deployed will deter the opportunist who will look for easier pickings elsewhere. Later in this series on this topic we’ll discuss how you can easily find out which other websites have made use of your photos.
Different Types of Protection
The various ways of protecting photos online can be divided into three groups –
- Things you can do to an individual photo to protect it.
- Things you can do to a website to protect the photos on it.
- Choosing which websites you place your photos on.
With regard to item 3, where you place your images, if you put your photos on a website open to the entire world, e.g. Flickr, then clearly it is more at risk than if it is placed on a website which you’ve restricted to your family and friends, for example Facebook.
Finally, having introduced this topic about protecting your photos online I’d like to counter any negative impression I may have given of the internet.
The internet is a wonderful device, a great way of sharing photos with family and friends, and for those who wish to sell their photos, a shop window in which all the world can be your customer.
However, like all human inventions, there are pros and cons, and the purpose of this series is to help you make the most of the internet for your photos, to make you aware of the cons
and to help you minimise them.
In the next part I will discuss various ways of protecting photos online, in the meantime, keep shooting and see if you can create that winning shot for the current DigitalBasics competition!
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