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by ebkw on Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:57 am
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A topic on another nature photography website brought this to my attention.  This is one of many blogs about this.

http://www.seroundtable.com/google-images-protest-16283.html


Image searches on Google and Bing now take you directly to a large size of the image on your website rather than to your website.  Anyone is then able to lift your photograph without going to you website even if the image is right click disabled. 

My website traffic has gone down by 50% since this change.

What can be done to keep Google from being able to allow others to steal our images?
Eleanor Kee Wellman, eleanorkeewellman.com, Blog at: keewellman.wordpress.com
 

by Royce Howland on Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:49 am
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It's the same answer every time this comes up -- if you post images visible to the Internet, people can take them in ways you don't want. There is no way to stop it. The entire concept of the web is built on making links to things available to other people to whom you've not given explicit authorization to view your content. It's not possible to stop unauthorized access that you don't like while allowing unauthorized access that you do want. Public access is public access, and disabling right-click is not something you can rely upon.

The ways to mitigate the negative factors remain the same:
  • Post smaller images rather than larger ones. If people can take something, it should be something that has essentially no commercial value to your business.
  • Post interesting content so that legitimate customers will have incentive to track you down and engage.
  • Watermark your images and embed metadata in them so it can be proven they're yours, and/or you can demonstrate a stronger case for infringement if this information is later removed.
  • Monitor for infringing use of your images and pursue legal remedies; 99.999% of these people are not your legitimate customers so you're not directly losing business from them, but that doesn't mean rolling over and not enforcing copyright.
  • For secondary effects like loss of traffic from Google image search that may cause a drop in site advertising fees, for example, join whatever groups you can and lobby the big players who made the changes and see if they'll change to something less detrimental.
  • Continue to find other ways to promote your images and content to reduce the otherwise great degree of reliance on something like Google image search. History shows that relying on a massive 3rd party who doesn't even know you exist is not a good or sustainable strategy. :)
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by Carolyn E. Wright on Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:17 am
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Please heed Royce's note to "Watermark your images and embed metadata in them so it can be proven they're yours, and/or you can demonstrate a stronger case for infringement if this information is later removed." Our law firm reviews too many cases where the photographer has posted photos without any copyright notice on them or in the metadata. Please do both. It helps to strengthen copyright claims dramatically.
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.
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Photo Attorney® at www.photoattorney.com
 

by Royce Howland on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:34 pm
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By the way, to directly answer Eleanor's question on whether Google image search can be blocked from allowing others to access our images, the answer is yes-sort-of, but with consequences. If you have control of your web site you can block the Google image search robots that index your images; or you can block Google search entirely. Or you can disable hot-linking. Or you can be even more severe and put your image galleries behind a password login so they're not generally accessible by any search mechanism.

Of course these methods will dramatically reduce the findability and accessibility of your work on the public Internet. That will certainly reduce traffic even more so.

If the real question is more like "can I stop Google from showing my images in ways I don't like while still having my work appear in Google search and image search results to drive traffic to my site", then the answer again is generally no.

Google usually does an okay job IMO, but like any other monster-sized for-profit organization, they're always going to be pushing to find new ways to gain more benefit for themselves from whatever resources they've got. They'll maneuver as much as they can within the limits of legislation and consumer tolerance. The fact of life is that all of our content is just so much raw material to Google or any of these other big players. We don't have to like it, and we can lobby against it, but we can't necessarily stop them from doing it, outside of influencing legislation. And that is often not a great solution either...
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by walkinman on Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:06 pm
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It's even worse if you use the Google Search app.

Save Image

Google are trying to go from providing search results to providing content - and I think it's pathetic.

Cheers

Carl
 

by Mike Veltri on Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:47 am
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Windows 7 includes the "snipping tool" in Accessories, which is a screen capture tool.
So with this tool it does not matter if you have right click disabled. Anyone can take a screen capture of any image on the net if they want to. I believe CorelDraw also has a screen capture tool as well.
 

by Carolyn E. Wright on Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:41 am
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Mike Veltri wrote:
Anyone can take a screen capture of any image on the net if they want to."
Absolutely correct.  And then they can up-rez the photo to some extent.  So the best thing you can do to protect your work is to put your copyright notice on your photo and in the metadata and register your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office!
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.
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by Greg Forcey on Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:48 pm
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For an alternative view point check out this post (and comments) from Trey Ratcliff who has spoken out against using watermarks on images.

https://plus.google.com/+TreyRatcliff/posts/UTKKo5Su6Rj
Greg Forcey
 

by walkinman on Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:40 am
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Hey Greg,

Reading the comments there is worse than the comments on 90% of YouTube videos.

Trey makes the lamest arguments I've seen for not using watermarks.

I think my favorite, though, was Lotus' comment: "I ran a test and used one [watermark], just my name, for a short time on a handful of images and it made me vomit to see that on my own work".

I'm not a doctor, but if this EVER happens to you, or someone you know, remove the watermark ASAP. That's some serious stuff, right there.

Cheers

Carl
 

by Carolyn E. Wright on Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:00 pm
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Trey asserts that "Legitimate companies do not steal images to use commercially." Wow, is he wrong. My firm has successfully asserted claims against Fortune 500 companies for years. We have filed formal lawsuits against AOL, the United States Racquetball Association, Belo Corp. (a Dallas-based company that owns 20 commercial broadcasting television stations), several law firms, Source Interlink Magazines (Motor Trend Magazine and many others), the Professional Basketball Club (the Thunder), etc.

If you don't want to put your name in the lower right hand corner (as painters have done for years) that's your choice. You also may choose to allow anyone to use your photos under a Creative Commons license. But if you don't want others to make money from your photos without paying you, my firm is much more likely to be able to help you with a copyright infringement matter on a contingency basis if you put a watermark on your photo. At least put your copyright notice in the metadata in the image and adjacent to your image on your website. Since most photographers don't register their images, it gives you the opportunity for statutory damages for a DMCA claim if the infringer removes your copyright management information (your name or copyright notice), which often is done by infringers.

Carolyn
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by sdaconsulting on Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:09 pm
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I'd much rather have attractive images without "tattoos" and have them occasionally used illegally than have ugly marks all over my images. I would also prefer to display high resolution images so that people who view my work on a high resolution device can fully appreciate them. These are my own positions, yours may be very different.

I think each person needs to figure out why he or she is posting images to the internet. Is it part of a commercial enterprise to make the maximum profit? Is it to share one's personal artistic vision through photography? Figure out your priorities, your level of tolerance for ten year old girls using your images for wallpaper on their desktop and your aesthetic reaction to watermarking, and then go forward with the right decision for you.
Matthew Cromer
 

by Royce Howland on Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:49 pm
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I agree that it's a personal choice. I personally encode metadata in every image I post, but I don't visibly watermark every image I post. It depends on the image, where I'm posting it, what I'm using the gallery for, my assessment of unauthorized use risks, etc.

However when people go beyond personal choice by saying things like "legitimate companies do not steal images" they're simply wrong. If the people saying this are phenomenally popular personalities, then they're probably influencing at least some people to make unwise decisions based on bad info.

People and companies, legitimate or not, steal countless images every day. Occasionally they work for it, and sometimes a company like Google comes along and facilitates it through some new technology. If a person cares about unauthorized image use, well... on the Internet, it can't really be stopped. But risks can be mitigated using the approaches I mentioned.
Royce Howland
 

by Carolyn E. Wright on Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:54 am
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sdaconsulting wrote:
I'd much rather have attractive images without "tattoos" and . . . ugly marks all over my images."
What do you consider a tattoo or ugly marks?  Does your name in the bottom right hand corner comply?
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.
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Photo Attorney® at www.photoattorney.com
 

by sdaconsulting on Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:48 am
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Carolyn,

I consider almost any watermarking I have seen in the middle of the image to be unsightly, and I would never do that to my own images.

A small signature in the bottom right isn't as bad. Indeed, I initial my fine art prints in the image area that way, in the bottom right in an area of the picture without important image detail. My full signature goes on the back, along with the date.

For images delivered electronically I prefer the original image with no marks on it.

I can understand why those seeking to generate income from their photography might choose differently.
Matthew Cromer
 

by Carolyn E. Wright on Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:58 pm
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Thanks, Matthew, for the clarification! To recover for DMCA damages when an infringer removes your watermark, you need only to have put your name, other identifying, or the copyright notice somewhere on the photo. It doesn't need to be in the middle of the photo or to other mar your image. Instead, you can put it in the corner as I did here: http://www.photoattorney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Elephant-in-Field.jpg.

Because most photographers don't register the copyrights to their photos, we're often able to help clients with infringement claims on a contingency basis when they also have a DMCA claim. Because if you don't register the copyrights to your photos, then all that you can recover from an infringement without a DMCA claim is an ordinary license fee. That's all. Photographers usually are shocked that someone can steal an image and then have to pay only $25 or so (depending on the use). But if the photographer's copyright management information is removed, the law also allows for DMCA statutory damages, starting at $2,500!

Most of our firm's clients are hobbyist photographers (not trying to make money with their photos). But they feel violated and want to recover for infringement claims when others try to make money from their images. And most of the infringements claims originate from posting images the Internet.

Best,
Carolyn
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.
Retired Lawyer for Photographers and NSN Moderator
Photo Attorney® at www.photoattorney.com
 

by sdaconsulting on Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:34 pm
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Interesting information, Carolyn. And that kind of signature is certainly worlds away from a big fat watermark in the middle of the picture.

Thanks for sharing that with us.
Matthew Cromer
 

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