Preventing Website Image Theft – The Ongoing Battle
85% of the images shared on the internet are being used without permission or license from their original creators…
With the introduction of the internet, it has never been easier and faster to download and copy images for one’s own use and possibly even redistribution.
As a matter of fact, it often doesn’t even occur to people that they’re actually stealing someone’s work which is why the issue has become so apparent. And that’s also why, in this post, we’re going to take a look at ways you can protect, prevent and fight your image theft.
Taking Preventative Measures
Before you can look into how to deal with the apparent use of your image on someone else’s website or by someone else, it’s important to take a look at preventative measures.
Preventative measures will enable you to reduce, limit and in some cases even completely eliminate the possibility of image theft occurring on your website. We will specifically be taking a look at disabling the your website visitors’ ability to right-click to save images, watermarking and hotlink protection…
1. Disabling ‘Right Click’ on Images
One common method to prevent image theft is simply to disable your website visitors’ ability to right-click on images to prevent them from directly saving your images.
You might think that this is not particularly effective because people could easily take screenshots of your images. However, it is worth noting that screenshots aren’t full-resolution, and would, therefore, in some cases render the image unusable for the person trying to steal your image.
This is extremely easy to implement if you’re using WordPress as your content management system of choice (which we highly recommend). All you need to do is install the following plugin:
WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click
This wp plugin protect the posts content from being copied by any other web site…
Problem: This really only deters beginners because anyone who knows how can still either screenshot your image or view the source code of the webpage to find the location of the image.
Once installed, hover over the Settings WordPress Admin Menu navigation item and click WP Content Copy Protection.
Image Watermark allows you to automatically watermark images uploaded to the WordPress Media Library and bulk watermark previously uploaded images.
Watermarking your images or graphic design work is another great way to prevent image theft from taking place. You might be surprised to hear that a large number of photographers avoid this as they aren’t really as effective as a lot of people would hope.
Photographers who want to use a watermark often don’t want it to be obvious or distracting from the image but this defeats the entire purpose of the watermark as it can often easily be cropped or edited out by someone who really loves your work.
So when it comes to watermarking, you can either put a huge, annoying watermark over the whole image to prevent image theft or not put one at all. In the end, you’ll likely lose more by putting a watermark because nobody will be able to actually appreciate the time and effort that you’ve put into creating your photographic or graphic design work.
Once installed, head to Settings > Watermark in the WordPress admin area.
Here you’ll be able to configure the plugin’s settings such as the type of images for which you wish to enable watermarks.
You’ll also be able to set your watermark position, and customize it using the Watermark offset option…
And perhaps the most interesting part of the entire process is actually selecting the image you wish to use to watermark your images.
I would personally recommend using a logo to watermark your images, but you may opt to use a plain and simple ‘Protected‘ banner to deter people from downloading your work even further.
And last, but certainly not least the Watermark plugin itself also offers built-in right-click protection and the ability to prevent people from dragging and dropping your images onto their desktop.
There’s also a nice additional setting that lets you disable the image protection settings for logged-in users which is really helpful.
3. Hotlink Protection
Another way to prevent people from directly reusing images that you’ve used on your website is to prevent them from embedding them in their content.
This is known as hotlink protection.
It’s extremely important to enable hotlink protection as it will actually end up saving your hosting plan’s bandwidth (and possibly even saving you money)…
Hotlink protection basically refers to restricting HTTP referrers and others from embedding your website’s assets (such as images) on other websites.
The good thing is that if you’re using a content delivery network, just like Cloudflare – which we highly recommend as it will help you speed up your website and ensure that it loads as fast as possible.
Enabling hotlink protection once your website is already connected to Cloudflare is extremely easy.
Head to the settings area for your website of choice and head to the Scrape Shield tab – where you’ll see the following options:
And, as you might’ve already guessed – you’re going to need to activate the hotlink protection setting that’s right there!
Monitor, Resolve, Takedown
The Monitor, Resolve, Takedown strategy is extremely effective because in the end, regardless of all the preventative measures you take, your images or visual designs can still end up in the hands of the others.
If you’re a professional photographer, it is absolutely vital that you have a system in place that will help you deal with the theft of your images when it eventually does arise.
You might remember the photographer (Sean Heavey) who had one of his images stolen and used in hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” as well as the original film “How It Ends”. But he already knew that he had to do something about it – and sought out the help of legal-tech service Pixsy which helped him file a lawsuit to protect his copyright.
You might not think that something like this would ever happen to you, but might be surprised and more importantly have nothing to lose by keeping track of the usage of your images online.
Who is stealing my photos?
To actually do anything about image theft, you need to find out where and how your images are being used on the internet.
The good news is that the same service we mentioned earlier – Pixsy – also offers 24/7 monitoring that never stops searching for your images online and will notify you as soon as it finds a match.
Pixsy then, more importantly, also allows you to actually take action.
Fortunately, they have an extremely generous free plan that allows you to monitor over 500 images but if you’d like to let them submit takedown notices for you then you’ll have to take a look at their paid plans which start at as little as $19 per month…
How can you monitor image theft with Pixsy?
1. Create an account
The first and one of the most important steps is to create an account with Pixsy.
2. Choose your account type
3. Import your images
To let Pixsy start scanning the web for matches, you’ll need to upload your photos. Luckily, they have brilliant integrations with websites like Flickr, Google Drive (and many other services) that make it extremely easy to upload images and let Pixsy automatically pull them from there so that you don’t have to manually add images.
4. Let Pixsy to the magic
Once you’ve connected a source of images, for example, Instagram – you’ll see all of your images appear in Pixsy’s intuitive dashboard and can easily view how many times they’ve found it reused on other websites.
If there are matches, which there aren’t in this case, you will be able to take specific action for each of the images you have and, in turn, view their outcomes in the area shown below:
Check out @PixsyHQ! They make it extremely easy to both monitor and fight the growing issue of image theft online #ProtectedByPixsyTweet
The best part of Pixsy in my opinion is how fast the entire process is – it really took me no more than five minutes to get up and running and connect my Instagram account.
Find, fight and prevent image theft
Thanks for reading – we really hope you found this post helpful and proceed to use it to prepare an action plan so you’re ready for the next time someone steals one of your images, that is if they still can after you’ve implemented the preventative measures that we looked at first.
Did you end up signing up for Pixsy to help you monitor and take action to against image theft? Why not Tweet @WPModula?