Photo theft and how to prevent it

Sometime in the past, I stopped reading most Indian newspapers and started skimming them.?? I was tired of reading the same headlines about politicians’ speeches, about accidents and murders, and irrelevant details about celebrities, complete with pictures of their semi-drunk state.

Where is the analysis?? Where is the investigative journalism?? Where is the substance?

It wasn’t always like this.? Newspapers in India started off fighting the British rule and stoking nationalism.? I grew up hearing about Young India, Swadesamitran , Surendra Nath Bannerjee’s The Bengali, the Anandabazar Patrika and “the Hindu”.

Though India’s free press bent over backwards through the Emergency, I always thought that was just a single epoch of shame.? After all, even a decade or two ago, weren’t Indian newspapers shining examples of investigative journalism?? Whether it was the Hindu exposing the Bofors corruption scandal, or the Indian Express/Arun Shourie going after A R Antulay, the Fourth Estate took its job as watchdog very seriously.

So it is really sad to find that the same newspapers who are such a part of Indian history,? have now sunk to the extent that they feel the need to use pictures posted by others on the Internet.? They find it necessary to download your pictures from Flickr, or your blog post, and publish them along with their articles.? They do not feel the need to contact you to take your permission or discuss compensation, or even make any pretense of attribution.

In most cases, they do not respond to your emails or phone calls, and do not seem to take the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

After all, it’s one blogger against a big corporate, right?? What’s on the internet must be free, right?? Even if there is an “All Rights Reserved” or a “Creative Commons Non-commercial” license on the page?

Here is what I hear from fellow bloggers:

The Hindustan Times apparently copied without prior permission Nita’s picture and Archana’s picture.

The Times of India apparently copied without prior permission Meeta’s, Seema’s, Twilight Fairy’s and Shrinidhi’s pictures.

This list is not exhaustive – there are other bloggers and non-bloggers who have had their pictures used by other publications without their knowledge or prior permission.? At this rate, none of us is safe – it could happen to any of us.

The press represents freedom of speech.? If the government tries to muzzle the Press, we, the public, stand up and protest.? But what happens when the Press itself tries to misuse the public’s right to free speech?

Someone needs to tell these papers – “Free speech” is not free – it does not mean anyone can copy another’s work without attribution and prior permission.

What can you, as a blogger do, to make sure someone does not copy your pictures without your knowledge?

Some suggestions:

(i) Do not upload high resolution images.

(ii) Use a watermark. Apparently, watermarks can be photoshopped out, but they are still a deterrent, because photoshopping will take time.

(iii) Trim the picture before uploading it. Perhaps it may help if the picture you posted is part of a bigger original.? That may help resolve any doubt about who really shot the picture.? This will help if/ when you are threatening legal action 🙂

(iv) Try writing some code:

– Prevent Right clicking – You can use this little code to prevent people from right clicking on an image and downloading it.? It’s an easy enough fix, especially in WordPress.

-? Prevent people from linking directly to images on your blogThis solution is only applicable to self-hosted blogs. After my initial double take, I realized it wasn’t really a difficult fix either 🙂

I am sure there are some other measures that I am unaware of.? Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions on how we can all protect our pictures!


18 thoughts on “Photo theft and how to prevent it

  1. excellent post and i read the link there which tells how to block the right click option… really helpful and very easy! 🙂 [even for a internet dumbo like me!! :)]

    Thanks for providing the link1 🙂

    Lekhni: You are welcome 🙂

  2. I had indeed considered all these methods much before my pic got stolen. They do not provide much protection because most browsers have their own mechanism of saving pics, which overrides the right click hack or any other hack. For eg. In IE, you would see a toolbar next to any picture which gives u the choice to save it, zoom it, print it etc. Hacks like these dont work on it. Moreover when some other site shows up your image in search results, (which is how TOI got to my pic they stole) it again provides the option of saving it etc since it’s being shown in a container different from the site.

    These are ways to prevent the odd exception where ppl dnload to use pics as wallpapers but not seasoned criminals (read Main stream media these days) 😐 ..

    Lekhni: I can see it’s an uphill battle 😦 Not publishing high resolution pictures then seems to be the only solution – though that’s nowhere near ideal..

  3. Water-marking it would be the best option, because as you mentioned, although it can be photoshopped, it takes a helluva time, especially when the background has a multiple color and level.

    I wouldn’t recommend on the right-click disabling though. First of all, browsers can be tweaked to ignore such scripts, and secondly, its a matter of “print screen” and simply pasting it to any photo editing software.

    Lekhni: Good point. I hadn’t thought of the “print screen” route 😦

  4. Great post Lekhni. I follow none of these tips that you said currently and I have posted full resolution images on photo related posts. I am going to try and follow your steps while posting photos. Can’t believe these guys are such a morons, I think once the internet penetrates much people will stop reading newspapers. I have stopped reading newspaper myself, I get enough info on the net, TV and on blogs.

    Lekhni: I am guilty of posting high resolution pictures too, especially in my posts about food 😦 I need to look into replacing those pictures too..
    It’s sad to see newspapers descend to such levels, and yes, the only option we have is to stop reading such you say, we get most of our news from other sources anyway.

  5. Pingback: Prevent Photo Theft « Maduraiveeran’s Blog Marks

  6. I’ve only been adding a copyright symbol to all the photos I upload, watermarking will be the next step (but that in way takes away from the beauty of the image itself:( ). In my case a low resolution pic defeats the purpose too cos I take all that pain to get a good shot and if I cannot use it in its best form, the whole effort becomes pointless, this state of affairs is really sad.

    Lekhni: I know what you mean – what is the point of going to all that trouble to take a great photo if one is forced to then deface it with copyright symbols and watermarks, and post low resolution pics 😦 I wish there was a better way.

  7. Thanks for the great post. Although watermarking is considered the best solution but it is not without loopholes. Disabling right click seems to be a better solution.

    Lekhni: I now know the disadvantages of disabling right-clicking (after reading the comments). What are the disadvantages/ loopholes in watermarking ?

  8. Thanks for the links. I have to start watermarking my photos now.

    Lekhni: GIMP allows you to even add hidden watermarks. I am also learning about all those features 🙂

  9. ok fine I am guilty as charged! I’ve used pics from image search on many flyers and posters but I guess that doesn’t cause much harm.

    Lets face it, if someone wants your pic they will get it so right clicking or disabling hot clicking only makes it a wee bit difficult.

    What i’d like to see is newspapers using more and more of blogger images but then a small line below stating the source. Come to think of it, it works both ways. The image is free(It’s ont eh internet for god’s sake!) and the blogger gets some publicity!

    gosh when will these newspaper morons learn!

    Lekhni: If you are using others pictures without attribution or permission, then you are not doing the right thing. Drop a line and tell them you liked your picture and are using it, nearly every time they will agree. Hey, you are using someone’s work for free, how much does it cost you to send in a word of appreciation?

    I agree that newspapers should have a line below the picture attributing the picture to the blogger (after all, they do include photographers’ names). BUT they should first get the permission of the blogger to use the picture in any case.

  10. Lekhni

    This was bound to happen, no? It is eminently desi behaviour. If it looks like we can have it for free, we will try and when we know it can be had for free, we will take it.

    You put things on Flickr or your blog; you are ‘asking for it’ to be stolen. Aren’t you?

    Indian friends of mine in Boston, who are doctors, have set a ‘kerbside friends and family consultation’ rate because people seem to ask them for free advice all the time. On the kerbside. The two-fer and ‘Doctor, one more thing’ are other similar manifestations.

    The funniest thing is when I tell curious people I work with investors, they ask me for stock market tips. Even without asking further what I really do for them. I am thinking I should have some fun with that esp in the current environment. 😉

    Lekhni: Well, I wouldn’t generalize all Indians, and stealing isn’t exactly a uniquely Indian behavior 🙂

    The “free medical advice” part is hilarious, but again, that’s not restricted to Indians either 🙂 The other free advice requests that I have personal experience of is stock tip requests (and no, it’s not just Indians) 😀

  11. Thanks for doing this. I know we all need to be reminded about how good the Indian Press used to be! My grandfather used to be so proud of the Indian Media! Today we forget that as the same papers are stooping to such lowly things! It would make my nana turn in his grave!
    The right click hack is no good. It messes up several things on the website/blog and screws up scripts etc. The only solution is for all of us to get together and protest publicly about such issues. Use their own weapons (media, internet etc) against them.

    @shefaly: you are naughty 😉

    Lekhni: You are right, I wish more people would protest publicly 😦

  12. that was some important lesson! i think wordpress holds copyrights for all its blogs. in case i’m right, we can fight thru WP. but if i’m wrong, i have a reason to smile(for having all my content as rightfully mine) and a reason to frown(i will have to fight alone)…

    Lekhni: Start smiling – WordPress does not hold any copyright for your content – you alone have all the rights to your content.

  13. Oh, I did not suggest this is only unique to desis but your post _is_ about plagiarism by desi newspapers who are stealing from desi bloggers (and some desi and non-desi Flickerers).

    I could add my plagiarism related experiences about other kinds too. But you see black people can call themselves the n-word but others can’t, and Jewish people can tell holocaust jokes but others can’t, so I use my privilege to flog my own fellow desis while carefully avoiding all traps that come with stereotyping about other race/ community types 😉

    At coping blatantly, the crown does not belong to India. But I better not say any more.

    Lekhni: Like Sikhs are the first to tell Sardarji jokes, or the overweight laugh at themselves.. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism – you laugh at yourself because it somehow makes you more likeable..

    I am curious – who does the crown for blatant copying belong to?

  14. One good way will be to bloggers supporting each other and giving publicity to the theft- The negative publicity should force the media to initiate damage control and do not repeat the mistake in future…

  15. When I was invited to be the photographer on the first balloon festival in Rajasthan a couple of years ago, I learned how deceptive the Indian media will be on its coverage. Every image they produced was doctored. In one image on the front page of the paper, the balloon I was in was in the image twice. The newspapers in India are obviously not credible when it comes to photography. Don’t believe anything you see.

  16. Hi, watermarking is good, but it damage the photo impression and can be photoshoped out as mentioned. I have good experiences with DigiMarc and SignMyImage (which is much cheaper), they both provide invisible watermarking and image tracing on internet.

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