42645696 - nature photographer tourist with camera shoots while standing on top of the mountain. beautiful nature norway preikestolen or prekestolen.

42645696 - nature photographer tourist with camera shoots while standing on top of the mountain. beautiful nature norway preikestolen or prekestolen.

Journalism / Training / Travel

Preventing Image Theft: Eight Tips for Picture Protection

Image Theft

Berlin, 29th August 2017. Whoever uploads images to the internet has to be aware not only that they might be commented on and shared, but also expect that they could be used illegally. Everyday Copytrack is confronted with the question from their users of how they can protect their images. Despite there being no one method that completely protects image online, we suggest other tools and ways that reduce the chances of image theft. Here are the simplest to the most complex methods for image protection as presented by Copytrack.

1. Avoid Uploading High-Quality Images

This is perhaps the easiest trick to hinder an experienced image thief from the action. Graphics, as well as images, should be uploaded in the lowest quality. With this method, the images are less likely to be unattractive for image thieves when they want to insert them in print products.

2. Written Warnings

One of the easiest ways to reduce the likelihood of image theft is to name the copyright owner. The attribution can be placed either on your own website or under each individual publication of your images or other visual content. Try to keep it short and to include the licensing notice. A visible warning should also accompany this information. This warning might inform or deter those users who are not aware of copyright or who are not conscious of the fact that not everything is for free on the internet.


3. Visible and Invisible Watermarks

Watermarks, such as those with the image source data, are a common hands-on tactic of protecting images, despite their complicity. It does require effort to remove a watermark. When a possible image thief spots a well-encoded watermark on an image or graphic they could be deterred from using it. Individuals keen to steal images quickly, could instead create their own image in the same time needed to remove the digital stamp from others. As for those who are lacking the know-how to create their own work, they are less likely to remove watermarks themselves. However, complete prevention of unauthorised uses is impossible. This method is mainly for those whose business it is to present images and other visual content online, such as image agencies. For everyone else, the “disfigurement” of the images caused by the watermark are disproportionate to its use.

Wedding photo session, a bridegroom with a camera in hand, photographing the bride.

4. Attribute Rightsholder and Source

An alternative to using watermarks is to add a small caption including a copyright notice with information of the rightsholder and the website. You can even attach a link to the image, and when the file is copied, your website traffic increases. Also, if you find the photo with the link missing, you can easily tell that it was copied via screenshot.

5. Create a Transparent Data File

A more time-consuming way to protect your images is to hide the image behind a second data file box. This, however, requires a person who has a good understanding of HTML. The rightsholder creates a transparent, empty box of information, overlaying it straight on to the photo. This method saves the empty data you created and helps to prevent direct downloads as well as Drag and Drop copying. This method, however, does not stop individuals from taking screenshots of the images and the path to the original image is still findable with a browser.

6. Prevent Screenshots with a Plug-in

Bad quality photos can be acceptable for some usages. Unfortunately, it is common for image thieves to screenshot images. Plug-ins can help to prevent screenshots of websites and of uploaded images and other graphics being taken.

7. Upload Images in Parts

Another way to protect yourself from image theft is to upload your photos in parts, and then to piece them back together online. With this method, only small chunks of data can be abstracted and are hard to be piece back together. This will quickly tire out anyone trying to piece the puzzle together. To disassemble the image can take a lot of time, though software is also available. With this trick, you have to be aware that the piecing of the dissembled photo back together on your website is tricky. Also note, the images will not be presented by Google, which could reduce the traffic to your site.

A sketch of a man taking pictures on the seashore.

8. Block Right Clicks

With just a few lines of JavaScript you can prevent the use of the right click of the mouse, which hinders copying and downloading of your data. This is not for everyone though. The first reason being it creates the danger that by restricting the user-friendliness of your site you tarnish the trust of honest visitors. It is also key to note that when you block the right click you disable all its functions. Another issue is the barrier can be easily deactivated and bypassed by using JavaScript. Last but not least, the Drag and Drop and screenshots of the image are still possible.


“There is no perfect method to protect images from online image theft. Each trick discussed has its own advantages and disadvantages”, states Sandro Maeder, Copytrack Global Head of Operations. He recommends using a combination of the above-mentioned preventatives. Photographers and image rightsholders need to invest a lot of time into the protection of their images. It is not by chance that the question about professional search and regulation of unauthorised image is increasing. “We’re happy to advise photographers, agencies, and other companies with our start-to-end service and help them on the path to their rights as image owners”, concludes Maeder.

© Andrea Feustel / Copytrack Head of Public Relations

Jonathan Appleby, Oranienburger Straße  4, 10178 Berlin

jonathan.appleby@copytrack.com, Tel: 00 49 30 809 332 962

About Copytrack:

Copytrack (www.copytrack.com) was founded in 2015 by Marcus Schmitt and currently employs around 25 people from legal, IT, customer service and finance. The service supports photographers, publishers, image agencies and e-commerce providers. It includes a risk-free search of the global Internet for image and graphics data uploaded by users at Copytrack are found with a hit accuracy of 98 per cent. The customers define if images are used without a license and even determine the amount of subsequent fees supported by an automatic license calculator on the portal. Copytrack is fully responsible for an out-of-court solution in over 140 countries as well as a legal solution in the areas relevant to copyright law. If the image has been successfully licensed, the rights holder receives up to 70 percent of the agreed sum. The pure search function is free of charge.

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