Hello FashionPhotographyBlog.com readers, today we have a guest article from cyber security writer and photo enthusiast Cassie. We are excited to have her with us today to discuss a topic that we’ve been asked about quite a bit, your intellectual property online and tips on how to protect your digital photos. Take it away Cassie!
The advent of the internet has provided endless opportunities for photographers; it has enabled us to promote our work online, reach a wider audience and easily share finished products with clients. However, the largely unregulated nature of the World Wide Web has brought some more negative repercussions as well.
Monitoring and ensuring the correct use of your intellectual property can be extremely difficult since there’s no way to know who’s trying to download your photos once hosted online. These five tips will help you secure your work and significantly reduce your chance of falling victim to online theft
1. Knowing the Rules
Copyrighting is one of the simplest ways to secure your images and provides a good starting point in order to establish a level of protection. However, what many photographers fail to realize is that if you fail to state copyright explicitly, then your images automatically fall into the public domain and can be used and distributed freely.
In order to copyright your image, a number of tactics can be taken. The format of your claim should go as follows: the universally recognized symbol ©, the word copyright, or at least an abbreviation, followed by your name and the date. This can be done as a text attribution or can be layered onto the picture as a watermark. The latter is more creatively destructive but means the image can’t be redistributed without credit to its original source.
In the U.S., it’s also possible to register your copyright, which is essential to pursue a lawsuit if there is an infringement. However, it doesn’t have to be registered to be recognized as a valid copyright; it just means if a breach does happen that you are only liable to the exact cost of damages, usually based on your average licensing fee.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 also established that it is the responsibly of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to take down images used under infringement of copyright.
2. Establishing Permissions
Very often photographers create work that others need to use. This could be under a private license, in a work-for-hire environment where you contractually sign away your rights to the image, or distribution under Creative Commons.
Successfully protecting your photographs means establishing the right license and its accompanying permissions for the task at hand. Here are some of the most-used options available.
– Commercial – Commercial photography is defined as any photography used for marketing or advertising purposes; this is the license to use if you sell your work to a client who will use it to promote a product or event.
– Editorial – Editorial photography refers to any work used for educational or journalistic reasons. Magazines, newspapers and websites usually require this kind of license.
– Retail – Retail photography is commission-based photography usually created for the buyer’s personal use. You’ll use this license for weddings, portraits, creative art, etc.
– Creative Commons – Creative Commons are free licenses that dictate the way an image can be used. Varying versions of this particular authorization includes stipulating it can’t be for profit, redistribution or adapted. These licenses also give you the opportunity to ensure all use comes with a properly formatted attribution.
For more information about properly defining licenses, check out this article by DIYphotography.
Luckily, most people in the world are honest, so ensuring you have the correct license when distributing photos for third-party use will often be enough to prevent any theft of your material. However, there are the minute percent that are willing to take advantage.
In this situation, there’s a step you can take that defines the work as yours if the problem is taken to court. Digital cameras use EXIF data, which is saved alongside the image. It covers basics such as camera type, settings and lens used, but there’s also an option to add copyright data. This can be done in most good editing software, such as Photoshop, and will never be separated from the photo after distribution.
3. Showcasing Your Photos Online
The greatest threat to your photos comes when showcasing them on websites or social media. It’s impossible to know when people are trying to download your images, and often watermarks are inappropriate for the allotted use or can be cropped off. This makes it hard to manage your online content.
However, there are a few simple tricks you can try in order to reduce the unwanted distribution of your work.
– Low Resolution – Particularly if you’re simply promoting your services, using low-quality images won’t affect the impact. It will, however, stop people from blowing the image up or printing it, which will reduce the incentive to steal.
– Tiling – Chopping up your photos into lots of smaller pieces and then reassembling them on a webpage may be a time-consuming task, but this means thieves are less likely to bother downloading it all again.
– Disable Right Click – If the images are appearing on your own website or blog, then it’s possible to disable the right click feature. Although this prevents thieves saving the image directly, it doesn’t prevent screenshots.
– CSS Image – It’s also possible to insert an image onto a webpage by embedding it in the CSS code. You can then place a clear image over the top, so when people try to download it, they just get a blank square.
4. Running Your Website
For professional photographers or even amateurs hoping to further their horizons in the industry, having a website is a must. However, even if you take all means necessary to ensure your photos can’t be easily saved from the domain, there are other problems you could run into on these platforms.
Hackers can gain access to your page via the admin panel and steal your work from within. Although this is unlikely unless you are a well-known artist whose work is likely to be specifically targeted, there’s another element of website security where all are vulnerable.
Malware refers to internet viruses that can be easily picked up; they have the power to corrupt, distort or destroy your pictures altogether. It’s even possible for an infected website to instigate problems on your actual computer, which puts your photos at twice as much risk.
While there’s no foolproof way to combat these malicious code injections, there are a few tactics you can employ to reduce your risk.
– Password Protect – Ensure all passwords are over eight characters with a range of symbols and are individual to each account. This reduces the chances of a successful brute force attack in which a program run by cyber-criminals tries thousands of combinations to find your log-in details and accesses your website as an admin.
– Stay Up-to-Date – This point is twofold: first, keeping all software up to date—including browser, WordPress plug-ins and even your operating systems—means there is less chance for cyber-criminals to exploit the known security holes in previous releases of the programs. However, it also refers to keeping informed with potential threats. Often a certain type of malware will find temporary prevalence online, and forums and blogs will provide internet users with tips to avoid or overcome it.
– Use Basic Security Systems – Obvious security tactics such anti-virus software and firewalls provide key protection for your photos, both online and on your hard drive. Although most home networks have a built-in firewall, for users who update on the go, it’s worth purchasing a device-specific version so you can stay protected continually. Comodo Internet Security Pro 7 has been rated one of the best of 2016.
5. Using Cloud Storage
Most of the risk to your digital photography comes from hosting them on public webpages online. However, there’s also a notable threat for those who store their work using cloud storage. While convenient, these virtual drives have a plethora of vulnerabilities of their own.
One of the easiest ways for cyber-criminals to gain access to your accounts is via public WiFi. These notoriously insecure networks leave all your data visible to others who are also connected. This means that whenever you type in the password for your cloud account when out and about, it can be intercepted, and the hacker can gain unlimited access to your pictures.
Because of this, password management is important; ensure your log-in details are unique, complex and changed regularly. A more foolproof option, however, is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), such as BufferedVPN. A VPN works by encrypting your data and allows you to connect to the network anonymously and securely.
If you have any questions or more ideas on how to protect your digital photos online, be sure to leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
About the Contributor: Cassie is an online security expert and passionate amateur photographer. She loves spending her days off taking snaps for friends and hopes her advice will help others protect themselves online.