Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 20

Thread: Protecting Yourself From Image Theft

  1. #1

    Exclamation Protecting Yourself From Image Theft

    Protecting Yourself From Image Theft
    Written By: Christina Richards (GreekGoddess)


    Simple Techniques
    Written Warnings
    Visble Watermarks

    Intermediate Techniques
    Javascript - Right-Click Disable
    Javascript - Rollover Images
    Javascript - Image Overlays
    Image Slicing

    Advanced Techniques
    Embedding Images in Flash and Java
    Digital Watermarking

    Closing Notes


    Let's face it. The best way to protect your images is to never put them online in the first place. When it comes to web development and especially graphic design this can become a significant problem.

    There are many things you can do to deter image theft. This tutorial will go over the pros and cons of some of the popular methods of image protection on the internet.

    Simple Techniques

    Written Warnings

    Whether or not you've actually gone through the process of obtaining a copyright for your images or not,
    at least put some sort of notice next to the image that shows it's yours, whether it's a name and a date of when it was created to show ownership of the image or an actual copyright warning. Also, putting a good copyright footer and company name at the bottom of each page of your site will also help to remind the visitor that you've put a lot of work into what is displayed and wouldn't appreciate it being taken.

    Of course, this method relies on the assumption that a person would see the copyright/name of owner and immediately back off, or think twice about right-clicking and taking the image for their own use. And while it's enough for some individuals, for others it's not and that's where more evasive techniques come into play.

    (Read more below about actually copyrighting your site)

    Visible Watermarks

    Another simplistic method to deter image theft is watermarking your image visibly. Most internet sites that do this, usually put their logo or artist name and copyright in the bottom right hand corner of the image. It's very easy to do with a program such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, and can also be achieved by using a program such as Microsoft Paint by using a font color lighter than the area where it will be applied, and although it doesn't have a watermarked look to it, it will still suffice to its purpose.

    (Read more below about a more effect technique of digital watermarking)

    Intermediate Techniques

    JavaScript - Right-Click Disabling

    The first and most common form of scripting used to deter image theft is to disable the right-click of the mouse. This method of scripting works best with newbie internet users because this form of deterrent does not really protect your image. Why? Most Mac users only have one button, so the right-click disable is completely useless. Also, it's a matter of configuration for your mouse on your computer. Some left handed individuals may have the left mouse button configured to be used like the traditional right. Not to mention just going to your top menu bar in IE, shutting off annoying javascripts, or working around them by viewing the source of the document, finding the URL of the image, typing it into your browser, and then right clicking it that way without the script disabling it.

    The script below is a basic example of the right-click being disabled.

    JavaScript provided by "The JavaScript Source"


    1. Copy the coding into the HEAD of your HTML document
    2. Add the onLoad event handler into the BODY tag -->


    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript">

    <!-- Begin
    function protect(e) {
    alert("Sorry, you don't have permission to right-click.");
    return false;

    function trap() {
    document.images[i].onmousedown = protect;
    // End -->

    <font face="arial, helvetica" size="-2">Free JavaScripts provided

    by The JavaScript Source</font>

    JavaScript - Image Rollovers

    Another excellent technique that is simple to achieve is using JavaScript to produce an image rollover. When your cursor hovers over the image you want to protect, a copyright or "Don't Steal" image may be displayed. If the user attempts to right click the new image, of course, they will be trying to save the rollover instead of the actual image you're protecting.

    Once again, it's important to remember that an internet savvy individual will be able to disable a script like this, or bypass it once again by viewing the source of the page. Also, in slower browsers the image rollover may not take effect immediately, allowing time for a quick grab before the image changes.

    Image rollover example provided by HTMLCenter:

    <title>JavaScript Image Rollovers</title>
    JavaScript - Image Overlays

    Another evasive technique is to overlay your exisiting website images with transparent gifs. When a person attempts to right-click your image, they are actually saving the transparent gif to their hard drive instead of your image. Once again, definitely not foolproof, but powerful in combination with other technques.

    A good example of a working overlay can be found here:

    Image Slicing

    One technique that proves popular in web development is image slicing.
    Image slicing is mainly used in two ways:
    1. When creating layouts that are graphic intense, a designer tends to break the images up into smaller pieces to optimize the loading times.
    2. For creating graphical menus that load slightly faster than the traditional image mapping technique.

    But, it can do more. Sometimes, in layouts with very large images after it has been sliced in a program like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop/Image Ready, it could amount to several pieces of a large puzzle that fits together on your site. This also would deter an individual from taking your image because of all the pieces. And used in conjunction with other techniques proves to be a powerful tactic in avoiding theft issues.

    Image slicing in Paint Shop Pro:
    Image slicing in Photoshop:

    Advanced Techniques

    Embedding Your Images in Flash and Java

    If you're good at flash or Java, these techniques will work wonders. You can create slideshows with flash and interactive Java photoalbums for use on your site. The idea behind all of this is that with flash, your images become a part of your flash movie and are no longer vulnerable to a right-click or view source. And with Java, your images become a part of an applet. It would take someone extremely familiar with flash or Java to extract the images, and it is possible, as there are decompilers for both. The question is, why take all of that time to do that? At that point, why not just create an image yourself.

    Some cons you will also face with the use of flash and Java is different browsers handle things differently. Some users will experience extreme lag and even might find their browser or computer hanging on them while viewing a movie or applet. It varies user to user.

    Digital Watermarking

    Techniques are becoming more and more advanced as technology advances. Another popular technique, if you have the money to spare is the use of digital watermarking. A leader in the digital watermarking industry is a company called (appropriately) Digimarc. Programs such as Photoshop are already ready for watermarking/reading watermarks, and just need your account information from your paid subscription to Digimarc.

    So how does it work? When you register for Digimarc, you are given an ID number. This ID is embedded into your images along with a custom message that you can choose. Digimarc also offers services to track your images on the net.

    This technique is extremely effective, because even after extreme rendering, the watermark holds strong. You can also choose how strong to embed it into your image. Worried about bypassing with a screenshot? The watermark can even be read in the screenshot.

    Unfortunately, a digital watermarking subscription can prove costly. Although, if you look at it from an alternate perspective, is a couple of dollars worth an image to you to protect it from someone else claiming it as their own?

    Visit the Digimarc website for more info at:


    Last but definitely not least is copyrighting your graphics/digital works with the U.S. Copyright Office. (For international readers, of course, this would be different). Once again, this can prove very costly, but very effective. You will receive a certificate of copyright and ownership of the image, which proves more than the fake copyrights discussed above. The cost of one work is 30.00 USD, where you can send your entire site or just one image and receive individual copyrights. This can certainly add up and might prove more resourceful if you're to spend the money to go with a company such as Digimarc.

    Information on copyrighting your digital works can be found here:

    Closing Notes

    Obviously, I've only discussed some of the main techniques in protecting yourself from image theft. There's so much more you can do with advanced techniques such as CGI scripting to simplistic techniques such as a secure photo album and restricting your images to only trusted users. I hope that you found this tutorial helpful. I realize it has been discussed several times in the Web Development forum, and I felt that a good solid tutorial on the subject might prove helpful to a new or existing user. When used in combinations these techniques are very powerful and effective.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at or through the website.

    Please feel free to add anything you feel is necessary.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Wow, I think you have brought up something rarely ever thought about. I have only ever run across ONE sight that I know of which actually had preventative measures against copyright image theft. And, it was understandable why too, the reason I discovered the simple right-click disable script was that I tried to "Set as Wallpaper" and poof I got told off. Of course I scratched my head, turned off java and d/led it anyway..., and then deleted it and e-mailed the site owner and she told me that if I told her which photo I wanted she would e-mail me a copy.

    With digital cameras becoming more and more usable and camera-ish, and the web being a really handy way for a person to publish their art/product, this is going to a bigger and bigger problem.

    When I get my site up with my digital photos of Guadeloupe and some more artsy photos that were made possible by the physics of CCD...

    I really like the idea of the transparent gif overlay, that is annoyingly clever.

    Be of good cheer,
    The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk. -Hegel

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Thanks for the great tutorial GreekGoddess!

    Can you think of something to stop screen captures?
    That's about the only thing I can't think of stopping....

  4. #4
    AO übergeek phishphreek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Nice tutorial! Very informative!

    Can you think of something to stop screen captures?
    That's about the only thing I can't think of stopping....
    This might be stupid... but i'm thinking, if you can capture mouse clicks, why can't you capture keys pressed? I know there are multifunction keyboards that you could reassign keys too...

    then again... the image is going to be in your temp internet files folder anyway. how else could you view it otherwise?

    there is another way to get around that right click block.

    on some of my online courses, they don't give you access to the file/menu bars so you can't view source or anthing. java is required to take the tests, so disabling it isn't an option.

    when you right click, hold the mouse button. The message will pop up and tell you its disabled, yada yada yada, then while you still have the right button held, click the ok with the left moue button. the message will go away. let go of the left mouse button, and then the right. you now have the right mouse click option there.

    there is also the right menu button on the keyboard that has the same function as your right mouse click. it is next to the right Ctrl button on the KB.

    These methods will only deter the ignorent.
    But hey, that accounts for about 85% of the people online anyway! j/k
    Quitmzilla is a firefox extension that gives you stats on how long you have quit smoking, how much money you\'ve saved, how much you haven\'t smoked and recent milestones. Very helpful for people who quit smoking and used to smoke at their computers... Helps out with the urges.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Stopping Mac users from taking screen captures would be nigh impossible on Mac OS X as it is a seperate program that does it and not a function of the OS and so stopping someone from using a keyboard combo or print screen key would be utterly useless.

    Blocking certain keystrokes migh be viable against windows and classic mac users, but it wouldn't protect against people that use programs to take screen captures.

    But a watermark would show up in a screen capture.

    I know that the encryption that hides data in pictures lowers quality, but if you were really paranoid one might be able to enclude some kind of digital signature.

    Ofcourse there becomes a point where one just has to say "enough is enough," because anymore techno-wizardry would make it impossible to show what you want to show. If an image is worth that much to you lock down your webserver as tight as you can and make a ssl login page that provides access to your prized material. What better way to restrict people from stealing your stuff than controlling who can see it.

    The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk. -Hegel

  6. #6
    Old Fart
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    w00t w00t, good tut!!!
    It isn't paranoia when you KNOW they're out to get you...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    phishphreek80, images won't be in the temp directory if you disable caching of sites contents.

    Dhej, while it is true what you are thinking, (about ketstroke blocking), like phishphreek said, todays combo keyboards can change that.

    As for the watermark thingy, nothing is impossible to manipulate/alter/remove. Just takes a little time.... (but who would be determined enough?)

    And like dhej said, you gotta recognize when "enough is enough" and decide that everything is getting a little extreme. If something is that important, don't post it. (ie: upload)

    Anyways, back to the issue at had, wicked tut GG!

  8. #8
    Love the thread. Its a great article on how ignorant people are easily played on. It amazing how simply making your web site pictures annoying to take works as protection.

    Don\'t Put me on a plate!
    I might use my magnet to Escape!

  9. #9
    Antionline's Security Dude instronics's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Excellent tutorial. This tut is going into my "important tuts" folder. I agree with Dhej, this subject is rare indeed. I have been looking for this kind of information in the past and not come up with anything that really helped. Now atlast i can protect my images on I have spend alot of time taking these pictures and putting them on that site. Thanx alot GreekGoddess.
    Ubuntu-: Means in African : "Im too dumb to use Slackware"

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    To copyright stuff in most countries, there is no need to go to copyright offices. Simply take the media (in whatever form) - give it in a sealed, dated envelope to someone trustworthy (posting it to yourself also works), and that seals your copyright.

    If someone then challenges you can present the sealed envelope in court, which proves that you had the copyrighted work first.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts