Image thiefI was posed this question at yesterday’s Coventry Business Network, it’s a question without an easy answer. Especially if you are a photographer or illustrator, when images are your business, displaying your wares immediately lays you open to image theft.

The reality? Stopping a determined image thief is impossible, to display an image in your visitor’s browser means putting a copy on their computer and using screen grabbing or hunting their browser cache provides them with a permanent copy.

So what can you do?

Make it difficult

A non-technical user can be put off by just making it more difficult:

Make it less usable

Watermarking of your images can make them less usable and more obviously stolen by your site’s visitors. This is the technique most often employed by image libraries. If you need to display a high quality zoomed version, then tools can be used to allow this without ever downloading the image in a usable form to the end user.

Make the legals clear

Within the UK, you automatically own the copyright on anything you produce, but the implications of this are often not understood by your visitors. So make sure you have a clear copyright statement and a summary of what copyright means and what actions you will take should you discover any abuse of your copyright. Make sure this also clarifies the psotion about editing and copying versus inspiration and where the line is crossed.

Keep an eye out

Now you know it’s impossible to prevent, you need to keep an eye out for abuse. TinEye provide a reverse image search tool that allows you to find the same/similar images to yours online.

Don’t be gamekeeper turned poacher

Final piece of advice? Make sure you’re not guilty of abuse yourself. Always ensure that you have the right to use any images. Image libraries have very powerful tools backed up by a keen legal team to ensure that will find and prosecute those who don’t.

Does anyone have any further suggestions or tips on preventing image theft. We’d love to hear them.