Image tracking and Protection Strategy - Options available to protect copyright

Protecting your images online is an ongoing challenge for photographers and creatives. Whilst we believe that monitoring your content online is the key part of your photo protection process we would like to outline a comprehensive range of options available in order to enable the creation of a complete image protection strategy.

The options below fall into two broad categories that will protect your content. Proactive Steps (such as image search) and then Management steps (such as sending DCMA notices).

Proactive Steps

  • Track your images online: We think this is the single most important think you can do to protect your content online. Unless you know you have a problem you cannot do anything about it.
  • Watermarking: Whilst not the be all and end all for the protection of image content, watermarking is a common strategy used to deter infringement online. Watermarking can be effective for large images but there is a fine line between how much you degrade your image to protect it and whether the impact and quality of the image is lost.
  • Secure: Putting images into sections of your website that require signup is an effective way to protect content. Even if signup is free and available there is still a psychological advantage that comes into play around what people will do with your content. The other major factor that a free signup section provides is that it prevents search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc) from crawling and indexing all of your content. You choose what you want in search engines and what is behind the signup "wall" (Another option on search engines is provided below).

    Disabling right click on your website is another strategy to help minimise the easy copying of your work (Its easy to work around if you are determined but its another layer of protection).

  • Search Engine Protection: Use a robots.txt file on your website to direct search engines to which pages should be crawled and indexed and which shouldnt. This provides you with the ability to control what content will show up in search engine results.

Management Options

  • Documentation: The first thing that is recommended when there is a potential case where your content has been used without your permission is to document what has been found. Some items to cover off here can be: website page URL, Image URL, A screenshot of the webpage, WHOIS information from the host and any other information you can gather.
  • Conversations: When you find instances of your photos being used that you have not have authorised, A simple but effective step can be to make contact with the person/company in question. This could be something that you do yourself or you can use an infringement partner to manage this on your behalf. Gathering an understanding of the particular situation will often help in resolving the issue.
  • DCMA Takedown: DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is a U.S. copyright law. It covers the rights and obligations of the owners of copyrighted material. Even though DCMA is a US law most countries worldwide have a takedown process that is similar in structure. The takedown process involves contacting the hosting company that is serving the website that has infringing content. All major hosting companies have processes in place to manage this. This is something that you can do yourself or have an infringement partner take action on your behalf.
  • Legal Actions: Engaging legal representation is an option available when your content has been infringed upon. There are a number of steps involved in the end to end workflow (and it can be quite a lenghty process). It is recommended to find a legal representative in the country that the infringement has taken place. Each country has specific laws of varying effectiveness pertaining to copyright. A major factor in the US (Canada, Germany, UK etc) regarding infringements is whether your images have been registered with the USCO (US Copyright Office). Without this cases are still worth pursuing however the potential recovery amount will be reduced.

If you have additional options that can help in the protection and management of your images please contact us. and we will update this guide. It goes without saying that none of the information above should be considered legal advice.