Copying Images and Copyright on the Web
All artists and organizations put images of artwork on their personal or business websites; that’s the nature of the web as a medium of modern communication.
But we all need to realize that putting images of any kind on the web – images, photographs or reproductions of artwork of any kind – makes all those images susceptible to copying by people who view the website.
The problem is not copyright law; any original work is copyrighted as soon as it is made. According to the U.S. Copyright Office of The Library of Congress: “A work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created, that is, ‘fixed’ in a copy or phono-record for the first time.” http://www.copyright.gov
The issue is how easy it is to copy images from a website. The ease of use of the web in general is both a blessing and a curse.
The problem is the nature of how the web works: the same Internet technologies that makes it easy for us to surf the web and view websites all over the world also makes it easy for anyone to copy photos and images from a website.
Images on a website must be accessed by the web browser used to display the website, and by doing that, a version of the image is downloaded to the users’ PC. From there, it’s easy to copy images to the desktop or another folder and save them for use after the web browser is closed.
Even with protections in place in terms of anti-copying programming code, most of the time they can download it and save it. To discover the techniques that downloaders use, just Google “image protection” and you will find ways to somewhat protect your images along with all of the tricks on how to defeat the protections.
What can you do? The only way to absolutely protect your images and artwork from being copied is to not put them online at all. But that’s not really an option in this Internet-centric world.
There are ways to minimize the potential damage. If you administer your own website, use only low-resolution images. They won’t be printable in any quality to the downloaders and can’t be enlarged without a loss of quality. Sometimes that will defeat the purpose of your work, but you should weigh the value of marketing with the theft of your high-quality images.
You can watermark your images, i.e. use an image editor to print your name and a copyright symbol across the image. It doesn’t look that great, but it can help prevent unauthorized use.
Use the copyright symbol on your work, even though it’s not legally required to state your copyright. And post a notice that “All website material is Copyright (your name).” That will give pause to some users.
The best thing to remember that anything you put out there on the web can be copied by someone else.