When you are looking for the perfect photo or illustration for your next project, it’s all too tempting to do a quick Google search and then right click and save any images that you think fits the bill. However did you know that by doing this you are committing a legal offence called copyright infringement?

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the right of a photographer to publish and distribute his or her work. The photographer has exclusive rights and is allowed to set conditions with regards to what other people may or may not do with their image. Copyright protects the creator and prevents their work being shared without permission. Copyright protection arises automatically as soon as your work is created.

Why you can’t steal images from online

When searching on Google (or any other search engine), you should assume that all online images are protected by copyright. You will need to research the image you want to use and trace it back to its original creator. If it’s protected by copyright and there’s no license attached to it, you need to get permission before you use it. As you can imagine this is going to take a lot of time and effort and you may not get the result you were hoping for.

Another thing to think of when using Google images is that photos that are on the web are usually extremely small. If you are putting these on printed media, the quality is going to be poor and the images may be pixelated. Think about how this is going to look to potential clients – not great!

Using royalty-free images

To make sure you are using images legally you can download royalty-free images, illustrations and videos from a stock library site such as istock.com or shutterstock.com. These sites offer different payment plans and you can buy credits to get files on demand or sign up to a monthly or yearly subscription. Although stock images can come in handy at times you should really opt for original imagery as much as possible. Having original photography means you’ve created something brand new that is truly unique to your business. It gives your audience the chance to connect with you and trust you as a professional organisation.

Protecting your photographs

Once you put original images on the internet, you’re taking a risk as it is very easy for people to steal them. You can put measures in place to protect your images on your website.

1. Disable Right Click Option: You may have noticed that on our website if you try to save the images it won’t let you right click on them and instead a message will appear that says “content protected”. This is because we have disabled the right click option, therefore making it harder for the average user to save the images.

2. Add a Copyright Notice: Putting a copyright notice on your website can act as a deterrent to prevent people casually downloading your images.

3. Disable Hotlinking: Hotlinking is when a person copies the URL of an image and embeds it on their website, causing the image to display as if it was their own. When visitors browse the website, the hotlinked image will be retrieved from the source site via the copied URL. This is often done innocently enough by bloggers etc who don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong. You can add a plugin to your website that will disable hotlinking.

4. Add a Watermark: A watermark is a faint logo or word(s) superimposed over the top of your photo. You have to be careful about the placement of your watermark – if it is too small or faint, someone could easily crop or edit out the watermark. On the other hand, if it is too large or dark, it could dominate the photo and distract the viewer from the original photo

5. Add your copyright to the metadata: It’s very easy to add copyright information to the metadata in software such as Photoshop and Lightroom.

6. Compress photos you upload: We always make sure to save files at the right size for web before we put them up online. This means that people don’t have access to the high resolution files and are therefore limited to what they can do with them, as the quality won’t be good enough for print reproduction.

While there is no way of stopping people from stealing your images online, the above measures should hopefully make it more difficult for those that do. When it comes to using images that you have found online our best piece of advice is just to stay away –  it’s really not worth it! Instead, let us help you build a bank of original, enticing photography that shows your business off in its best light.