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Advice for image copyright freaks

"frame busting script"


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2:53 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I just noticed a few hits in a row from images.google.com in my logs.

What I found is that Google has indexed some of my copyright images (the ones with 'alt' tags) and they are easily found in an image search. (I'm not sure how I feel about this yet)

When you click on the images it takes you to a page with the thumb at the top and the full page loading in a frame below. Because my site busts frames, the person barely has time to see the the thumb and they are sent directly to my site.

If you want to see what images.google.com has from your site do a search for your domain, you might be suprised.

I just checked picsearch.com and they display images the same way, so the frame busting script would work there as well.


4:03 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We don't feel too comfortable with images.google like services archiving
our pictures.

But, we have seen several sales comming through from customers who found
our site by simply doing am image search. So there are Pros and Cons.

These steps made us feel better.

1. All our high resolution images has file names look like

2. We make sure there are clear watermarks on all high
resolution images of our products.

Has anybody come accross a good program that could water mark
large sets of pictures? We use a manual method now. :(


8:17 pm on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The issues here are:

(a) if you do not want your content to be indexed, use robots.txt - this is the convention whether images or pages, as you know, the convention in the WWW is that unless you use robots.txt (or meta tags), you are allowing reasonable degree of indexing to be performed;

(b) a court case in the UK (antiquesportfolio.com) ruled that thumbnails were okay when used for referential purposes and not a number of other considerations - in google's case, it easily falls into fair dealing/use;

Shannon Moore

7:26 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Your mileage may vary, depending on if you want to block image searches and off-site use of your images, but here's what I do:

1) blocked Google and other known image searches via robots.txt. All the major image search sites I've found thus far (a handful) provide info on what user agent(s) to block. I usually send a friendly email to their contact address letting them know once I've put the robots.txt in place.

2) implemented a simple set of mod_rewrite rules to prevent off-site, unauthorized linking of our images. See related threads on WW... [google.com] You can permit authorized domains to link to the images without issue, if you like. This lets affiliates, partners, etc. do so without letting everyone in the world hotlink your images.

3) on some pages, I have a frame-busting JS file...but that's due to a few competitiors who've been framing my content in lieu of writing their own, rather than to block the image search tools.

I've got nothing against the image search tools, but have enough trouble with people not knowing or bothering to check for copyright/terms of use.


12:44 am on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Can't all the methods mentioned here other than watermarks be easily overcome with a screenshot and a decent image editor?


2:20 am on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

As with most content protection, these methods tend to discourage rather than prevent. :(

Shannon Moore

5:50 pm on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Sort of like passwords (which a determined hacker with the right publicly available tools can undermine, given time).... or, offline, those cheap metal "Club" locks some people still use on their car steering wheel (I admit, I have one under my back seat somewhere...)

They're measures that stop the casual abuses that occur. And it beats simplistic means that hurt the usability of one's site by annoying (at the very least) users, such as Javascript right-click blocking.

The only sure-fire way to avoid copyright infringement remains NOT to publish it -- anywhere. Hmm, wait, someone could still break into your home/place of business and steal it.

So, the ONLY sure-fire way to avoid copyright infringement is... to not create the work in the first place! ;)

tongue-in-cheek, but true


12:54 pm on Feb 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

discourage rather than prevent ... stop the casual abuses ... Sort of like passwords
Not to belabor the point, but I just think casual coders should bear in mind these qualifications (discourage, casual, etc). I'm basically a complete idiot when it comes to computers (at least ;) ) and I wouldn't have any trouble grabbing and using an image with a screenshot and image editor. Watermarks seem to be the only real answer protection-wise. If you make the image's URL available in the code, it's quick and easy t' steal. With text, what's so difficult about using a pen and paper (or just reading and typing into a word processor)? If that's too much work, a prospective thief must not be very interested.

On the other hand, I assume obtaining passwords must be well beyond the abilities and patience of just about everyone.

Shannon Moore

5:24 pm on Feb 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

None of what I mentioned disables the ability to right click and save, so I'm not sure why you think you'd have to do a screen capture.

And, more power to those who actually get out a pen and paper and long-hand copy something on the web. I'm not sure I even did that as a frustrated college student.

Printers... amazing inventions.

My earlier comment remains. There are no true ways to avoid infringement, there are only measures to take to help minimize it and mitigate the potential damages.

Watermarks don't stop theft... they just may help in tracking down the thieves (for instance, Digimarc has a bot that surfs the web looking for marked images. I'm not sure if they report when a protected image is found in an unauthorized location or how their service works exactly, but it most certainly doesn't STOP people from being able to save, print, etc. an image... it may make it more difficult in some editors but there are always ways around it.)

Online life isn't so much different from offline life. Does anyone here really believe that a home alarm system STOPS a most determined thief? It's a deterrent. Different systems provide different levels of deterrent, but none completely eliminate the risk of theft. That's why the White House has more than an alarm system, it's got guards and who knows what else. It's those warm bodies that are the "stopping power", and a webmaster is the warm body that has to proactively protect and monitor the use of his/her work online.

End of rant. As a writer and photographer, it's a hot button issue for me. And I love the Net and the concept of sharing information (why else would I be here, in fact, answering questions if not to share AND learn), so the last thing I'd do is NOT share my works online.

PS: Passwords don't necessarily have to be hacked by some tech savvy hacker... how many of you have a photo, collection of items or similiar near your workstation that would give a savvy PERSON enough cues to figure out your password? Favorite car, pet's name, child's name, name of a favorite vacation destination or football team... you get the idea. That takes no special hacking or technological skill, it's just "social engineering" -- being a keen observer of the world around you, which is providing cues and clues to you every moment, whether you're aware of them or not.


2:23 am on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sorry. As I read over this thread, I see it relates more to the indexing of images on search engines than copyright violations. I think I confused this discussion with the one in "Decreasing the odds of content thieves."
And, more power to those who actually get out a pen and paper and long-hand copy something on the web.
I figure someone wanting to steal copy would be willing to type it up.
Printers... amazing inventions.
As are scripts to disable the Print option (themselves easily overcome).
Watermarks don't stop theft... they just may help in tracking down the thieves
Now that I think about it, I guess I don't know what a watermark is. It may be that they're not visible. I was thinking of something that identifies an image as aomeone else's property--something like this:


too much information

3:24 am on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Your typical watermark is the semi-transparent logo or text across an image.

My problem with them is that it takes away from the image, and when you are trying to sell the images, well it just doesn't have the same effect.

What I was trying to pass on was that I found my frame busting script to be a handy tool to kick people from those image searches to my site.

The nice thing about it is that I know where my images are being displayed other than on my own site.


2:07 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

(b) a court case in the UK (antiquesportfolio.com)
ruled that thumbnails were okay when used for referential purposes and not a number of other considerations - in google's case, it easily falls into fair dealing/use;

could you please elaborate more about this point? For example, if I want to write article whose sole purpose is to feature some photography or art website, can I use thumbnailed image from their site? I'm a nice guy so I always ask beforehand, but the question is: could I legaly do it without asking?

Regarding the pictures protection: My advice from the user point of view would be: Publish the images only in so high resolution, that it will not hurt your bussiness when some people will "reuse them". Regarding the protections like big watermark through the middle of the photos, or disabling mouse right-click, I am quite "annoyed" by all of them. If I see something like that, I will just say to myself that this website "sucks" and never return there. Really. It is against the spirit of the web to publish something, and then trying to block people from saving it locally on their computer. It hurts relationship with your visitors very badly. At least visitors like me.



3:12 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Soso, it sounds like what you describe might be "fair use", but fair use is in the eye of the beholder (and the beholder's IP attorneys!). Whether your site is commercial or not may make a difference, as can how you use the thumbnail.

I'm not offended when sites like image galleries watermark their images. These images are their "inventory" of product for sale, and I can see their need to protect it. I've encountered a few sites that aren't selling images but still deface their pictures in some way; that's a bit more annoying.


11:04 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


What I say is not advice and should not be used in specific circumstances, but remember that fair use is a statutory right that is given to society as part of the copyright bargain that gives near monopoly rights to the copyright owner. Just like the bargain in patents is that in return for getting 20 years of protection, you need to reveal your invention to the public.

The benefit of fair use is that you do not need permission. The danger is that fair use can be a difficult minefield to navigate. You need to err towards taking it safe, rather than being risky. Asking for permission is always the best route, but in some circumstances it's not easy, nor feasible and in some cases the copyright owner may want to prevent you from exercising your right to fair use.

The case to refer to (now that I have looked at my notes properly :-) is Kelly v Arriba Soft where the federal court found thumbnails fair use - you can find plenty of hits for commentary about it. Here is a random note from a law firm (http://www.aar.com.au/pubs/pdf/ip/foipaug03.pdf) - they often provide notes like this after a major case. If you read the case or commentary closely, it doesn't give carte' blanche' allowance to using thumbnails: there are a number of issues you have to take into account. This is actually pretty much the case with any form of fair use: it's not just about content quality and quantity, it's also about intended use and other factors.


12:26 am on Feb 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


A free watermark program that's I use and like is Picture Shark (URL that name and .com)


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