The Turbulent Waters of Online Photo Theft

Amy Cobb feels most at home behind a keyboard or a snapping shutter. She’s a Jill-of-All-Trades media refugee turned blogger who, since jumping ship from the Fourth Estate, blogs on all things media and media-education-related. Most recently she’s worked on pinning down the best photography career options. When not writing, Amy is doing her best not kill everything in her square foot garden plots, while always at the bidding of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Snarls Barkley.
When I was younger the issue of illegal music downloads was coming to a head. Musical acts and music industry officials were lining up on one side to condemn song and album downloads while a great number of fans and a few other musical acts dug in on the opposing side to defend the practice. My friends were virtually all supporters of unpaid downloads, citing the wealth of many of the musicians, that those same musicians made a great deal of their money touring anyway, the exorbitant price of albums, their annoyance with having to buy an entire album for one song, etc.
I was conflicted. On one hand I didn’t like paying so much for music (if I’m completely up front, it might be more honest to say that I liked not paying anything for music) and sympathized with the art-sharing philosophy. On the other, I knew then that I wanted to be involved in artistic endeavors, like writing and photography, at least to a modest degree. I empathized, if not always sympathized, with the artists like Metallica that were losing money for art they created. And now that I’m… still not really making all that much money from writing and photography but definitely have stuff on the web, I’ve become more familiar with the unauthorized reproduction intellectual property, images in particular.
It can definitely be frustrating. However, unlike illegal music downloads, I’ve also found that as often as not the people making unauthorized use of an image don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong. There’s a pervasive assumption that anything on the internet is up for grabs: If you see an image and you like it, use it. Of course, on the other side of that ‘as often as not’ are the ‘as not’s- those who are perfectly aware that they’re stealing an image without permission and do it anyway.
There are a separate set of steps that should be undertaken based on the image-filcher’s intent. In some circumstances, particularly if the offending party is unaware that their use of your image is unauthorized and illegal, it can prove to be an unexpected source of promotion. If someone’s basically decent (or concerned about you contacting their hosting service and/or filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] infringement complaint), they’ll generally be amenable to either removing the image.
To avoid having to deal with any of that, adhere to the ‘prevention is better than a cure’ model of image protection. While there’s not enough room to cover them in detail, the following can be undertaken to avoid image theft: the use of watermarks; coding an image as background to avoid ‘Right Click’ copying or disabling the Right Click option in Java; working with your host server to prevent and/or track “hotlinking” and content hijacking; get official copyrighting on all your images; coding the images in plaintext, using a meta tag or robot.txt file cover for your image to dissuade its being found in searches, etc. Good luck!

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Sachin Verma is a 19 year old student from India. He fancies himself a photographer, freelance graphics designer, blogger, web designer and loves to play computer games and to blog. He is into multiple internet businesses including CPA, marketing and designing. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

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  1. Nice article , is a great one for the newbies to Photography

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