11 Methods To Protect Images On Your Site In 2021

How to protect images from online thefts is become a headache for many individuals. Especially professional photographers who earn money from clicking and selling high-quality images. Not just professionals are the victim but it is a fact that many high authoritative websites also indulge in practicing stealing images from other sources. The chances of images being stolen become more than 90% once uploaded on the internet.

However, the only measure you can do that guarantees 100% image protection is to avoid uploading them. Which does not sound good from a business perspective. However, there are some tips and tricks you can follow that help protect images to some extent and limit or make it difficult for thieves to steal them.

Hence, in this article, you will be guided through How Image theft can affect you and What measures you should take to protect images online?

Why you should concern about Image theft?

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, image theft leads to financial loss for many professional photographers or those whose source of income is only from this field. Many high authoritative websites pay for images, icons and graphics they use in their content. Hence, if they are paying for that, they have all the right to use it. But unfortunately, there are some users who like to steal your work and show them as it is their own. It is somewhat stealing your credit as well.

Since, if you are running some serious business, it highly advised to use only pictures you have paid for and do not try to copy and simply use it in your content. Which is against copyright and if a lawsuit filed against you, it will seriously harm or damage your website reputation. In worst case, your website can be banned or removed from Google search engines.

However, if you still do not want to pay for images or graphics. There are plenty of Free stock images without Copyright issues are available online you can use.

How to check if the image has been stolen?

As we have already seen, that it is a common practice to steal or use other’s images on their own website. It is an illegal act and people are doing this since the revolution of the internet.

The internet is somewhat like a large ocean in which if you drop a stone, it is very difficult to find. But, it is not impossible though. Fortunately, we will provide you with some effective techniques, by with the help of them you can easily find images that have been stolen from your website.

Look for Copyright Data

Usually, many images that have been available or shot by professionals have embedded some metadata in them to protect images online. Which consists of all the information related to the image. along with the Copyright metadata. To check if the image has been stoled and used somewhere else too. You can use an online metadata online tool Metapicz.

First of all, You need to right click on the image you want to check. And select the “Copy image address option”.

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Your browser will copy the address of the image from where it has been taken. Now open Metapicz on a new tab and paste the link in the “insert picture URL” box. After that, hit the “Go” button for results.

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Once, you hit on the Go button. All the information related to the pic will be display on the screen, such as Camera, Author and Copyright, Location, EXIF, XMP, Maker Notes and ICC profiles. As you can the details of the image for which I took as an example has no author or Copyrights. It may be due to the image has no copyrights and its available free to use for everyone.

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However, there is also the possibility that the authors have forgotten to embed copyright on their images or cleverly stripped down the metadata from the images. In this case, it will still consider as photo theft. Due to these drawbacks, it is not an efficient method to determine photo has been stolen or not.

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Use SEO backlinking tools to determine image theft

One of the most effective tools that can help you to determine whether the image has been stolen or not is backlink monitoring tools. Ahrefs is one of its kind, which is the really best SEO tool to check. It is not just limited to checking backlinks. But it has a number of functionalities such as keyword research, Competitor analysis, Website vitals and many more.

With the help of this tool, you can monitor the backlinks of your images or videos on other websites. And also determine hotlinks that might be using your server bandwidth and needed to be stopped.

Try reverse Image search

Another easy and effective method to determine a stolen image is to use the Reverse Image search tool. There are plenty of them are available online, some of the renowned and widely used options are Google images, Bing and Tineye. All these reverse image search tools work fine, but we would suggest youtry Google images.

It is because Google has a large database and its bots have crawled and indexed most of the websites present. Hence, it will easier for a user to search from it.

To begin searching, open the “Google images” web page. Bring your mouse over a little camera icon beside of search bar and click.

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You can either paste the image URL link in the search box or upload an image just by clicking on the camera icon. It is up to you.

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Once you either pasted the image link or upload an image, after hitting the “Search by image” option, results will be shown as:

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As you can see the following search result shows that the image has been used in the following websites as well.

What measures you should take to protect images?

You are done with investigating your website images being used somewhere else too. Now it is time to protect images of your website. However, this does not guarantees’ you 100% protection. But is said that there is something is better than nothing. Similarly, we cannot stop images from being stolen online completely. But two things we can do is to take illegal action against them and by taking some essential measures to make a difficult path for them. That helps to protect images to some extent.

Let us check out what you can do from your side to protect images online.

1. Always try to upload Low-Resolution Images

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One of the easiest and fast methods to protect images online is to use low-Resolution images. They have several benefits to use. Low-resolution images are low in size that does not occupy much website memory space and load quickly. Even it is highly beneficial from an SEO ranking point of view.

These low-resolution images look good on any devices such as Tables, mobile phones or PCs.

Pros

  • Fast and easy
  • Improves Ranking
  • Reduces loading time
  • Cannot be used on the large screen or print media, because they will be pixelated or look grainy.

Cons

  • Has the potential to look unprofessional content
  • Users can still download and use your images on social media and on the internet where quality is not that much an issue.

2.Put Copyright Notice

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To protect images on your website or whenever you post an image on your website, You must do not forget to put a copyright notice along with it. The user will get immediately alerted That this image is private property and they cannot download or use them without the website owner’s permission. But if they manage to download it or use it somewhere else. Strict legal action can be taken against them.

A copyright notice should include:

  • Use the copyright symbol (©) or the word “copyright”
  • Use recent year
  • Put “All Rights Reserved” statement
  • Your company or Author’s name
  • (optional) The date or date range (of creation) marking the year(s)
  • (optional) Contact information (your website address or contact us page)

That will look like this:

Pros

  • Easy to Add
  • Act as a warning sign and users will get alerted
  • Increases fear of legal actions
  • Users will not able to claim it as a mistake

Cons

  • Copyright notice although looks like a warning sign still users steal it.
  • Copyright notice is not embedded in the image, hence it will not display along with the image if used somewhere else.

3. Register your work for Copyright

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Whenever you post your original content on your own website, You will have all the rights of that particular content automatically. Whether you are a successful writer or a professional photographer, you have all the rights reserved either to distribute it or give permissions to use it.

But enhancing the level of security to protect images by registering your original work at Copyright offices is somewhat different. You will have all the rights and take illegal actions against the theft. Registering your website somewhat gives you the right to claim damage in case of any infringement. There are also high chances of getting your damage and legal expenses covered.

The whole process of Copyright registration process seems to be quite different from country to country. But they all work the same. After registering, all the legal proceedings will be fast and easy, strengthens the ownership rights and can even help to recover all the damages.

Pros

  • Can file for Covers damage recovery
  • Protects content online
  • Restrain users to copy content
  • Users will not able to claim it as a mistake

Cons

  • Copyright is not ownership
  • You have to pay for Copyright certificate and it will does not sound economically good for thousands of images.
  • It takes quite a long time
  • People can still copy your content

4.Put Watermark on your Images

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Putting Watermarks on images is the traditional way to protect images online and has been used for quite a long time. It is one of the strong methods by which you can protect images online. It also helps to identify users as the rightful author or copyright holder of that particular image. This is quite useful to protect your images on social media or if it’s Viral.

Pros

  • Restrains thieves to use your images
  • Difficult to remove the watermark and the majority of the people have not any knowledge about it.
  • Users do not like to post pictures of someone else image with watermark of other brands.

Cons

  • Watermark affects the quality of original content.
  • People can remove watermarks from various tools and software and still use them.

5.Add info in EXIF data

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EXIF or Exchangeable Image File is a data stores all the information related to images such as its, focal length, lens, type of camera, etc. All these information stored when a professional photographer clicks an image from their Digital cameras.

It can be easily accessible and edit through an Image Editor tool and with the help of this you can also add some vital information of an image such as website link, Copyright details etc. which can be helpful to protect images.

Only the professionals or the users who have photography as a hobby knows about this. Hence, it is not commonly known and practiced.

Pros

  • Fast and easy process
  • Limited number of users use this
  • One of the best methods to protect images for Professional Photographers

Cons

  • Still some users steal pictures even if you edit copyright information on EXIF file.

6. Get DMCA Protection Badge

DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act protection badge is a graphic that is used on content that needs to be protected and gets indexed in their protected website lists to warn or show users that “the content has been DMCA protected”.

It is still one of the best paid online copyright protection services widely recognized and used. They provide plenty of protection services such as deter thieves by providing protection tools that make stealing much more difficult. Protect images from online theft and illegal use by posting your brand and copyright license info automatically watermarked on your images.

Pros

  • Users who try to copy will get warning that the property is protected and has copyright license. If broken, a heavy penalty will be imposed.
  • The copied or stolen images can be removed from easily and tracked down.

Cons

  • Users still neglect DMCA badge and copy the image.
  • You have to buy their plans

7. Disable Save picture as option on right click

Protect images by disabling right click option

Saving pictures online using right click and “save picture as” option is one of the basic and easy method for users to save images online. However, it is unknown to many people that they can disable this feature on their website to protect images or content.

To disable this feature, there are various WordPress plugins are available on the directory. From where you can choose from. You need to go to your WordPress dashboard > Plugins > Add new. Search ” no right click images” in the search box and press enter. When you find the plugin click on Install Now > activate. you are done!

Pros

  • You can restrict average computer users to save images directly from the site.
  • Average users will look for more easier other sources to save pictures.

Cons

  • Users can still save image by taking screenshots
  • It can be easily disabled through turning off JavaScript

8. Turnoff/disable Hotlinking feature

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Hotlinking, one of the widely used methods for content stealing. Not just content, the online thieves steal other user’s bandwidth and resources too. They embed images or videos from other sources directly into their own content without downloading or saving them. Due to this, it is not just limited to the illegal use of images but also increases the server load and overall cost.

However, you can easily stop this to protect images, by adding some code to your .htaccess file mentioned below:

However, the images will appear ad get access to your own website, your social media accounts, and other websites which you allow them. If you do not want to mess up with . htaccess files, you can also use WordPress plugins that not just disable hotlinking but also shows Warning messages.

Pros

  • Avoid visitors who use short cut method to steal images.
  • Average users will look for alternate options.
  • Warns users with Warning message instead of image.

Cons

  • Images still can be used by taking screenshots, downloading them or direct saving them.

9. Use Digital signatures to protect images online.

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Nowadays, a modern and quite effective method is used to protect images online is Digital Signatures. It is quite similar functions of signatures or stamps which we use. But it an electronic signature that is created with mathematical algorithms used to validate the authenticity of the content. It can be created with the help of image editing tools or software. Unlike Watermarks, they do not disrupt image quality and can be used as an image attribute.

Pros

  • One of the most secured methods
  • Reduce online theft risks
  • Fast and easy
  • Easy to Track
  • Prevents Imposters

Cons

  • Have to buy digital certificates
  • Come with Expiry dates

10. Implement foreground layers

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Foreground layers are transparent layers which can be useful to protect images. These layers can be implemented on editing tools such as photoshops by adding an additional transparent layer on the image. When someone tries to download the image from the web, instead of downloading the original image, an transparent or blank image will be downloaded.

Pros

  • The best effective method for those who save images directly by right click.
  • Effective to restrict average users
  • Fast and easy

Cons

  • Increases file size
  • There are plenty of alternate options are available and still, an image can be downloaded.

11. Read and Check Terms and Conditions before posting images online

Be cautious while uploading or submitting your Images to any website without reading its terms and conditions. Always, check and read their reviews online and other various trustful sources. Figure out their policies on how they handle your content. Whether they are going to use it to their own advantage or selling to other clients.

However, terms and conditions may vary from different platforms. For example, picture gallery websites have different privacy policies to protect images than social media websites. Usually, social media platforms have no copyright policies to protect images or copying content.

Pros

  • Users will be aware of the terms and conditions before uploading images.
  • Avoid uploading images on untrustful websites

Cons

  • Once you upload an image to third-party websites, you may lose control over its copyright.
  • You cannot stop anyone to download images from their party websites.

What Actions you must do if found images stolen?

Take action against the infringer

After reading the various methods to protect images online, it will not assure complete protection. The above methods are only the measures you can take to make the whole image stealing process hard. However, there are plenty of alternate options are available that a thief can easily steal your content.

But the main question arises what if you came to know that your image has been used somewhere else? What necessary steps you can take from your side? Let us check out:

Check hotlinking

After knowing that, Some other website is using your images in their content. Before sending any notice to them. You must check whether the image is being hosted on their server or not. You can check this by simply right click on the image and select “inspect element”. You will see the hosted website highlighted in the picture shown below.

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If the image has been hosted on their server, do check if they gave you any backlink. If they have gave you all the reference, then ignore. If not do write an email and ask them to provide you Free backlink.

Write an email that sounds politely and send them

If they still do not give you a free backlink or you want them to remove your pics anyhow. It is highly recommended that you should write them an email politely. It is a professional way to deal with such scenarios initially. Wait for some days and see their actions.

Write an aggressive email if didn’t manage to responded back

After sending a polite takedown email and still did not get any replies. It is time to send them an aggressive email stating, if they will not remove the image in a given time, strict actions will be taken against them.” However, in the majority of cases, they usually respond to these emails.

File copyright complaint or DMCA Notice

If nothing works well, DMCA and Copyright license is the only option left for you to protect images and it works. You can still file DMCA take-down notice or Copyright infringement. The whole process is easy and fast and can resolve the matter in a couple of days.

Summary

As you have seen that, none of the methods to protect images guarantees you 100 percent protection. But, these methods are quite effective to restrict thieves to some extent. Because, You have put all your hard work to create original content and as the owner of it, no other third party has any rights to use it. Lets us summarize up to what extent a particular method can protect images and effectively.

  • Upload Low-resolution images – Less effective and users can still download or copy.
  • Put Copyright Notice – Restrains and warn users but still downloadable
  • Copyright registration – Effective method but you have to pay for the registration.
  • Use Watermarks – Effective but affect image quality and users can use tools to remove watermark and use it.
  • Edit EXIF data – Effective but users can still take screenshot and use.
  • DMCA protection– Very Effective method but you need to pay for that.
  • Disable Right-click – Effective for average internet users who are not tech-savvy.
  • Digital signature – Very effective but need registration charges.
  • Apply Foreground layers – Quite effective, but users can still take screenshots and use images.
  • Read Terms and Conditions – “Prevention is better than cure”. Read policies or terms and conditions of the website carefully before uploading any images.

Hopefully, the above methods can be helpful for you to protect images on your website. And if you found anything important that we have missed mentioning in the above content. Please do write your worthy suggestions in the comment section below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I protect copyrighted photos?

There are various methods by which you can easily protect images that are copyright. Just can use the following methods:
1. Use low resolution Images
2. Put Copyright notice
3. Register your image to DMCA
4. Disable Right click
5. Disable Hotlinking
6. Register for Copyright
7. Edit EXIF data
8. Put Watermark
9. Use foreground layer
10. Use digital signatures

Do watermarks protect photos?

Yes, watermarks not just protect photos but also helps in to build up brand. But it has its own disadvantages, It can ruin your picture quality. And it become un usable for someone who want to use it for personal projects.

Do professional photographers use watermarks?

Yes, most of the professional photographers use watermarks to protect images and Build their brand. And restrict users to use without their permission.

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