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Prevent Image Download
Securing images to prevent download

 5:48 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wasn't sure where to post this and I have a feeling I know the answer. I'm working on a site for a photographer. He would like to prevent people from taking/using his images, which will be in a shopping cart. Since screen captures are possible regardless of other measures one might take, I'm guessing there's really no way to protect them? Interested to hear thoughts on the subject.



 6:22 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Like you say, nothing can prevent a determined person from swiping an image from a website. However, there are techniques that make it more difficult which should deter most casual "thieves." :)

One method would be to set the image as a background image for a normal HTML element. Another is to use absolute positioning to put a transparent gif over the protected image. You could use both methods together if you want to get around Firefox's "View background image" feature. And of course, there's always the ever-popular "disable right-click" scripts.

None of these are anywhere near bulletproof if someone really wants the image, but like I said, they'll prevent most casual visitors from taking the images.

A watermark can be helpful, and in case of people flagrantly stealing your images and using them as their own,posting a slightly cropped version of the photos online can be an effective method at proving ownership since you will be the only one who can produce the full, uncropped image.

[edited by: MatthewHSE at 6:23 pm (utc) on Aug. 4, 2008]


 6:33 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks. Much as I suspected.


 7:08 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

To further propound on MatthewHSE's recommendation for a watermark, I would suggest a highly visible watermark containing copyright and contact information of the photographer. That way, if someone uses the thumbnail image in a blogpost or forum comment, all of the viewers of the image will be exposed to the work of the artist and actually know who the artist is. In a sense, it could be cheap marketing.


 11:19 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

On my own sites, I'm 'willing' to take more risk in the thumbs getting ripped, even though we are pretty generous in our thumb versions, especially on products - 150px or 175px square. Just don't like detracting from the presentation with watermarks.

However, we link to quite large images for almost everything and 'brand' them heavily across the top or bottom. That doesn't mean that they can't still be ripped and cropped, but if it is an image that we care about, and a wannabe competitor or 'fan' takes it - we will find it. I stay to pretty small niches, and there are only so many players. It still amazes me how stupid they are - stealing when getting caught is nearly inevitable, but it happens all the time; images, text, whatever they think is useful.

C&Ds are nearly 100% effective for us. Proving the theft is usually pretty easy, even for simple color swatches. When every shade of light, shadow, and swirl is the same you've got a fingerprint; plus the original RAW files:)) Our choice is always simple. Be disgraced privately and quietly and remove the content immediately, or..... Kills me every time that I have to let them get away with it - but I don't have time for anything else. Crime pays on the internet.

However, in the case of a photographer, where the stolen content could be very difficult to ever find, I would stay to fairly small thumbs with no watermark, and only modest sized 'large' views. I would watermark them corner to corner and across the center. Knock the opacity down enough so that image is still worth displaying. After a sale people can have the full versions, or have the their prints sent, whatever. Photography is a niche where the ripped image is going to be very hard to ever find. Go very low res; take the quality down to the point that even though it may look great on the website, it is worthless for print.


 11:51 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

you do have the option of using flash, it prevents right click and source path and PrtScr


 12:38 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Flash can be cracked.


 12:40 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

yes flash can be cracked but you need to dl a crack program and still find the source in that to the instance etc .. by far the most faff ..

That in conjunction with your low res approach I would say is a strong option..

[edited by: Lobo at 12:47 am (utc) on Aug. 5, 2008]


 2:53 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

A good watermark is what you need...the Print Screen button is going to solve any problems people have with right-clicking. The watermark will allow you to view the full picture yet make it almost worthless for stealing.

If it is stolen, they would have to crop the watermark out which usually ruins the picture or promote your site/artist since the watermark will be there.


 6:20 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't put anything on my own photos. This means people can grab stuff straight off my website and use them for things like CD covers or posters. Not many people actually need 300dpi these days (when they do the image ends up postage stamp sized any way!)

95% of my photos end up on Myspace in galleries as it is.


 10:19 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yep, as said Blackwell, go for small and medium sizes only with low resolution so that at least pictures can not be used for publications...

I am just thinking that you could also consider to have a gallery with 5 or 6 pictures that can be downloaded freely... Very useful if another person from a blog/website/forum want to promote the photographer. And I am sure that 10% of people who wil come to steal your pictures will end up in this section if pictures are protected against "casual" thieves (like right-click >> alert message "Hey ! We have free download section").

Oh, not mentionned above, do not forget to prevent hotlinking in your .htaccess


 8:35 am on Aug 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

When watermarking use a gradient fill or texture fill, simple single color transparent ones are not that hard to remove.

you do have the option of using flash, it prevents right click and source path and PrtScr

Is that flag you have to set when compiling? I just went to youtube and prtscrn worked fine. Having said that there is plenty of programs for circumventing any protection flash provides other than ones that give you acess to the source files.

As already mentioned you can slow them down but if it can be seen it can be copied.

Fortune Hunter

 4:16 am on Aug 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

When watermarking use a gradient fill or texture fill, simple single color transparent ones are not that hard to remove.

Why is this harder to remove? If it is a small mark can't just crop it out as you would a single color one or cover it up some other way just as easily as a single color mark?

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