Thursday, July 18, 2013

Question on Protecting Images from Being Copied

Q: I have an assistant who does a lot of work on the computer for me. He uploaded an image for the AOM gallery and possible inclusion in an AOM issue; however my concern is that if the image is sent out full resolution that it can easily be stolen.  Can you help me with this?
A: It's not as much a problem as you might think. Of the millions of images on the Web, relatively few are ever stolen. Mostly what is stolen are already famous images or those  of popular subjects such as movie or rap stars or cartoon characters. Almost no fine art by artists who are not famous yet is. And what's stolen is normally used on the Web rather than printed out, mostly for technical reasons.

In any case, the first protection you have is that what your assistant sent will not reproduce well on paper. By saving it at 72ppi, he made sure of that. He could have saved it at even a lower ppi or dpi. Contrary to popular belief, ppi or dpi, has no effect on how the image looks on a computer screen, only on how it will look if printed. You can save the image at 7 ppi; it will look the same on the screen. The one in the issue will be small enough that it will look too fuzzy if blown up.

Secondly, you can -- and probably should -- put somewhere on your site, a statement to the effect that, "All images on this site are copyrighted by the artist. The one-time use license (fee) for reproduction of any image via electronic media is $________." Then continue, "For all other licensing please contact the artist."

I much prefer this to a statement that simply says the images are copyrighted and cannot be copied without permission. This way, if someone takes something, there is a price they have to pay. That in itself is more of a deterrent than simply "Don't." Furthermore, you'd probably want people to use your images if they pay for them. You have to catch them first, of course. But it still leaves you in better shape than had you to try to sue them for copyright infringement.

And there is a way to catch people who do take something: TinEye. It's far from perfect but it's a start. I know of at least one person who benefited from approaching things as I've outlined above, a photographer who had one of his portraits used by a news site and by a TV station. He tracked them down and after a few emails and phone calls ended up with a total of over $1200.

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