How to Protect Images on Your Website From Theft in 2022

85% of the images shared on the internet are being used without permission or license from their original creators… So, if you are a photographer, you’d better find ways to protect images on your website from theft.

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. This is why the issue has become so apparent. That’s also we’re going to take a look at ways you can protect images on your website from being stolen.

In this article, we’ll show you:

  • how to protect images on your website from theft;
  • preventative measures to protect your images;
  • some image protection techniques;
  • and much more.

Taking Preventative Measures to Protect Images on Your Website

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 do many things. 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 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/alt-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. Therefore, in some cases render the image unusable for the person trying to steal your image.

Luckily, disabling right-click on images is very easy to do with WordPress and Modula plugin. 

Modula has a dedicated right-click protection extension that does just as the name implies: it protects images on your website by disabling right-clicking and alt/option click on images which prevent people from downloading them and copying them.

Here’s how to enable this feature with Modula. 

  • First, you’ll need to make sure that the Protection extension is enabled and active on your site. Once you’ve enabled it, go to Modula > Galleries. Click on the Edit link under the gallery you want to protect. 
Protect images on your website from theft
Enabling right-click protection with Modula
  • Once the gallery loads, scroll down until you see the Miscellaneous tab in the Settings section. Toggle the switch next to Protection to on and click Save changes. 
  • You’ll then need to update the gallery and if you visit the page and try to right-click on an image, you’ll see that nothing happens.

The best part about this Modula extension is the fact that it won’t deter only beginners, it will also prevent more advanced users from simply right-clicking the web page to locate your image in the source code instead.

However, simply disabling right-click leaves us with another problem: visitors simply taking a screenshot of your images. This brings us to the second method to protect images from being copied from your website, which we will discuss next.

2. Should I add a copyright notice?

You can add a copyright notice to protect your images because it is considered one of the most straightforward ways to prevent online image theft. You can simply register your copyright with the U.S Copyright Office if you’re worried about someone using your work without your permission. Copyright infringement is illegal!

Protect images on your website from theft
Copyright protection

Most WordPress themes provide an easy way to change the copyright information, so check the documentation before adding a copyright notice.

However, if you choose this path, you can add a copyright notice to your images using a plugin that allows you to watermark your images – you can even change the opacity and create a semi-transparent watermark. This will clearly identify you as the copyright holder.

3. Watermarking

Watermarking your images or graphic design work is another great way to protect images on your website from being stolen. 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.

On top of watermarking, you could also look into the easiest way to copyright your images.

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.

As such, pairing the watermarking method with disabling right-click and hotlink protection is more effective than using just one of these methods. With that said, let’s take a look at how to use the Watermark extension in Modula to protect your images on your website from image theft. 

First, make sure that the Watermark extension is enabled and active. Then, go to Modula > Settings > Watermark. Here, you’ll need to upload an image that you’d like to use as your watermark. This can be your logo or your submark or simply a copyright symbol followed by your business name. 

Protect images on your website from theft
Adding a watermark with Modula

Once you’ve uploaded an image, you can set where you want the watermark to appear on your photos and add a margin around it. When you’re done, click Save changes. 

Next, you’ll need to edit the galleries on your site to apply the watermark to them. Thankfully, this is easy to do. 

Protect images on your website from theft
Watermarking images in a gallery created with Modula

Go to Modula > Galleries and then click the Edit link under the gallery you want to work with. 

Once the gallery loads, scroll down in the Settings section and click on the Watermark tab. Here, toggle the switch to on, then press the button that says Watermark images. The plugin will then apply the watermark to existing images after which you can click Update gallery. 

Remember to go through this process for each gallery on your website as well as each time you add new photos to existing galleries. The nice thing about the Watermark extension is that it won’t reapply the watermark to photos that already have it.

Keep in mind that you can also apply a unique watermark for each gallery if you toggle the Use custom settings switch to ON. 

4. Hotlink Protection

Protect images on your website from theft
Cloudflare homepage screenshot

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:

Protect images on your website from theft
Scrape Shield

And, as you might have already guessed – you’re going to need to activate the hotlink protection setting that’s right there!

Monitor, Resolve, Takedown

Protect images on your website from theft
Pixsy Monitor

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 the 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. He 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 you might be surprised. And, more importantly, you have nothing to lose by keeping track of the usage of your social media images.

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. It 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. It 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. Those start at as little as $19 per month.

Using Pixsy to protect images on your website from theft

1. Create an account

Protect images on your website from theft
Create an account with Pixsy

The first and one of the most important steps is to create an account with Pixsy. Pixsy’s reverse image search technology uncovers all uses of your images.

2. Choose your account type

Protect images on your website from theft
Choosing your preferred 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 and Google Drive (and many other services). That makes it extremely easy to upload images and let Pixsy automatically pull them from there so that you don’t have to manually add images.

Protect images on your website from theft
Import your 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 social media 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. In turn, view their outcomes in the area shown below:

Protect images on your website from theft
Let Pixsy monitor the web for copies of your images

The best part of Pixsy 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.

How to protect images on your website from theft

Thanks for reading. We really hope you found this post helpful and proceed to use it to prepare an action plan. Be 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 protect images on your website from image theft? 

If you’re a professional photographer, take a look at the best ways to create an online photography portfolio. More so, most photographers have started turning an eye to drone photography. Check out our guide and get a head start in a fast-growing market.

Frequently asked questions

🎯 How do I protect my designs from being stolen?

If you want to protect your designs from being stolen, we advise you to install Modula. In addition to creating the most stunning image and video galleries, you can also apply a watermark to your pictures, and disable right-click protection.

© How can you protect a picture from unauthorized copying?

There are several ways to protect your pictures: disable right-click protection, apply a watermark to your pictures, register your copyright, add a copyright notice, or enable hotlink protection.

🔍 Can someone steal your picture from Instagram?

Yes. Even if you have an Instagram account, people can steal your pictures and use them. This is why we advise you to create a watermark and apply it to your images.

Andreea Popa
Andreea Popa

Andreea is a blog manager at WPChill who spends most of her days writing and "polishing" WordPress-related articles - entirely dedicated to Download Monitor, Strong Testimonials, and Modula. She also likes to create visual art and social media content.

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