How can I copyright or otherwise protect my images online?

There are different methods users can use to help protect and prevent other users copying, hotlinking, or otherwise using your image without your consent. Keep in mind that none of the methods available will protect your images 100% from all users. However, can help protect you from the majority of users online.

URL, copyright, or watermark on images

Adding your company name, photographer name, website URL, or copyright is one of the easiest and quickest methods of helping to protect and identify images you post online.

Below is a visible Computer Hope URL that is below the image. If a user were to copy this image or hotlink the image the URL would be copied with the image. Of course adamant users who wished to use this image as their own could crop the image and claim it as their own. However, could discourage users who want to copy multiple images from your site and if hotlinked is a form of advertising.

Copyright example image

Next, is an example of a visible watermark of Computer Hope URL. Watermarks are often more intrusive to the image; however, can be very time consuming to eliminate from an image if placed in a critical portion of the image. For example across the middle of the image. Keep in mind that a watermark can still be cropped out of an image, especially if placed in a corner like the example below. In addition as can be seen in the example below if the watermark is too light or the viewer is not familiar with your trademark or company name they may not be able to read it.

Watermark image

HTML, JavaScript, plug-ins, and other programming solutions

HTML Table solution

Below are some additional simple solution in helping to protect your images online by using traditional HTML tables. In the first example below the image is protected by a small 5x6 pixel image that is transparent and stretched over the top of the image we want to protect, which is being used as the table background image. If a user was to right-click the image and save the image it would save the small dot.gif image and not the image you want to protect. Below is a working example of this technique.

Table image example

Below is the source code used to create the above example.

<table>
<tr><td background="http://www.computerhope.com/issues/pictures/cexample.gif" width="100"><img src="http://www.computerhope.com/dot.gif" width="231" height="58"></td></tr>
</table>

Next, is another example using the same code as before, except this example is using the copyright.gif image, which is a transparent image with the text "(c) Computer Hope - 2007." This technique could be used to not only help protect the image but also display a copyright watermark on the image. Keep in mind though that users who know to view the source code and locate the image URL in the code would be able to copy the image without the copyright or watermark.

Copyright image

Disable right-click with JavaScript

Although not a recommended solution users can also use JavaScript code to disable the users ability to press their right mouse button.

Prevent indexing with robots.txt

Keep search engines and other bots from creating copies of your images or storing those images on another server or local computer by creating a robots.txt file. One method of doing this is storing all your images in one directory such as "images" and then restricting all bots and other crawlers from that directory by creating a robots.txt file and adding the below two lines into it.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /images/

Users who have their images scattered throughout their website or have their images in the same directory as their HTML files that they want search engines to find may want to explicitly deny image searches by adding the below lines into their robots.txt file, which denies these four bots.

User-agent: DittoSpyder
User-Agent: Googlebot-Image
User-Agent: psbot
User-agent: vscooter
Disallow: /

Additional information about this file can also be found on our robots.txt dictionary definition.

Third-party companies software products

In addition to all the above recommendations we suggested you can also utilize several third-party companies products to help protect images. Below is a listing of some of these companies in alphabetic order and the services they offer. All of the below services and products are not free and many of them offer no more protection then the solutions mentioned above. However, many of them can help provide easier installation and setup, additional services such as backing up, tracking, and automatic watermarking.

Artist Scope - Offers software and solutions to help protect images by preventing right-clicking and utilizes techniques such as DHTML and no caching.

CopySafe - One of the most effective products we've seen that helps protect images. The product requires visitors download a small plug-in that is used to display and help protect the image. This plug-in also prohibits users from using the print screen key on their keyboard, a method of copying images that defeats almost every other protection. Unfortunately, this product can also cause frustration by the viewer as it also disables other features on the computer while pictures are being viewed. For example, while testing this on a Windows XP computer this product disables the Windows Start and Taskbar until the page utilizing this plug-in was closed.

DigiMarc MyPictureMarc - Provides a solution for digital watermarking and tracking for locating misuse and to see where your images are being shown.

Third-party company web services

Finally, in addition to all the above suggestions there are different online services that help you protect your images, allow you to print them, and many also allow you to sell images to other users.

Additional information

  • See the watermark definition for further information and related links.