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It is bound to happen sooner or later.... you're surfing around the internet and WHAMO... there is one of your images on someone else's web page!!!! What can you do..... What do you do.... Below I will list the things that you SHOULD DO so that you can identify your stuff when you find it used on another web site.

Text and HTML things you can do

  • Place a META copyright tag in the HEAD of ALL web pages you write (Click view source to see this pages copyright)
  • Place a copyright notice in the bottom MasterBorder. It should read Copyright © 2001 by You, All Rights Reserved
  • Use the bottom MasterBorder to place a link to a popup Legal Notice page directly after your copyright information.
  • Replace the default status bar message with a Copyright Notice and use it as the default status bar message on all pages.
  • Use a JavaScript to disable the browser's right click feature and bring up a Copyright notice instead (tacky and disliked)
  • Register EVERYTHING you place online with the US Copyright Office in Washington DC (this is not necessary to have copyright protection but to receive punitive damages & attorneys fees you must register your stuff with Uncle Sam)
  • By turning on Maximum compression in the site options you can make it very difficult for someone to take any of your code as all line breaks will be removed from the HTML file

What you can do with Images

  • Place a visual Copyright notice on ALL of the images you use on your web site
  • You can embed your Copyright information directly within a jpg or gif by using a Digital Watermarking program
  • Disable the Internet Explorer image tool bar on all of your web pages by inserting this meta tag into your MasterBorder head <meta http-equiv="imagetoolbar" content="false">
  • Use a JavaScript to disable right click and show your Copyright instead of the shortcut menu (this is tacky and disliked)
  • Placing your image within a table as a background with a clear gif over it will make it more difficult to steal your images.
  • Simon has an example tutorial page using rollovers to hide the larger high quality images from being taken
  • Use expensive and sophisticated software that displays but stops the downloading of images to the visitors browser.
  • Many of these 3rd party image protectors require that the site visitor download and install a special viewer.
  • If you publish by asset type all of your images are stored in the /assets/ folder. You can create a robots.txt file that puts this folder off limits to all indexing spiders.
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /assets/

The down and dirty truth

None of the items listed above will stop someone from taking your stuff. The only thing you can do that is 100% fool proof to keep your text, HTML, and images safe and secure is DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET.....

Anything that you place online is subject to theft and use by anyone who wants to do it. Even the sophisticated protection available by 3rd party vendors is not 100% fool proof.  True, it takes someone with very advanced knowledge of programing/hacking to break these schemes and there are people out there who will take your attempts to protect your stuff as a personal challenge to their prowess. They may have no interest whatsoever in your content, just the challenge of defeating your protection.

All you can truly do is to mark what you have so that you can identify it if it is stolen and used without your permission. Then if you find any of your content used by someone without your permission you can contact the owner of the web site, the designer of the web site, and the web site's hosting service.  Inform them that they are in violation of US copyright laws by using your copyrighted material without your permission. You do have legal recourse and can ask for damages if you wish to file a Federal Copyright Infringement action.  Be aware that filing a Federal action is VERY costly. This can also weigh in your favor as it is just as costly to defend against one. Just the threat of legal action which would cost the person taking your stuff upwards of 5 figures to defend against is a very large deterrent. Yes, $10k-$30k or MORE is not an unreasonable amount to have to pay an attorney to defend a copyright infringement action IF IT DOES GO to trial especially if it involves travel to a distant city.

 This is usually enough to scare the pants off of:

  • The web site owner (especially if they paid the so called web designer who took your stuff)
  • The web site designer (who knows that they took your stuff)
  • The web site hosting company (who is displaying illegally obtained copyrighted material on their server)

The web site will usually be taken down by the owner, the designer, or the site host to avoid the excessive cost of litigation.  In order to recover damages and legal fees (yes you can have the thief pay your costs) there are certain requirements that you must meet. This is not a tutorial on Federal and International Law and BEFORE you do ANYTHING that can cost you great sums of money TALK TO AN ATTORNEY WHO IS VERSED IN FEDERAL AND INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT LAW AND FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE.

Do not take anything stated in this web page to mean that I encourage filing litigation or that I advise you to do anything other than breath deeply and sigh. You must decide what you want to do as you will  bear the ultimate financial responsible for your actions. I will provide links at the bottom of this page for further research.

It is always best to make your first contact with someone who is using your images or other content without your permission a pleasant but firm e-mail informing them that they are displaying images that are copyrighted and that you have not given permission for the use of them on their web site. Many times the site owner is unaware that the images provided to them by the designer were taken without permission and will be on your side when they find out.

If you are designing a web site for someone and they are insistent about not having their content taken and reused, take the time to discuss the options available, the problems associated with, and the extra costs involved in the additional programing required for the protection of text and images. There are many who feel that all information on the Internet is free for the taking. Keep this in mind when you and your clients are deciding what to place online.

You can go overboard with trying to protect the content of your web pages and scare away the very people that you are trying to attract to your web site in the first place. The objective of trying to protect your stuff needs to be counterbalanced with common sense and a firm but subtle notice that:

Hey.... This is my stuff.... Enjoy it but keep your hands off.

Additional Reference and Resources

JavaScripts to disable right mouse clicks:            Return to Top of Page

 A few of your typical no right click disable scripts

Some explanations of why no right clicks are not a good idea (like a Mac does not have a right mouse button... duh...)

Now here is one where you roll your own right click menu. Leave off what you don't what, like view source & save image

Hey.... Here is even one that re-enables the disabled right clicks that you thought you took care of...  Sounds good to me.

ALL RIGHT ALREADY THIS IS ENOUGH no right click stuff... If you need more you'll just have to go find it for yourself

Advanced Image Protection software:                  Return to Top of Page

If you wish to try to totally protect images you can use Artist scope Copysafe Image Protection software

Digital Watermarking software:

Evaluations, listings, and reviews of other digital watermarking software:

Information on Copyright law                                   Return to Top of Page

The U.S. Copyright Office has all of the information and forms you need to file your copyright:

Title 17 of the Code of the United States of America..... THE LAW concerning copyright

The Franklin Pierce Law Center information on Intellectual Property (that is what the legal eagles call your stuff)

Duke University F.A.C.E. (Friends of Active Copyright Education) web site

Cornell University Legal law Institute on copyright law

Internet Articles on Copyright                                 Return to Top of Page

Web Design and the Law

Digital Millennium Copyright act Primer

10 myths about Copyright

Web Developers information regarding Copyright

ZD-Net article on Copyright and image protection,4413,2168565,00.html's page on protecting digital images and copyright

Report of the Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (The Digital Dilemma)

                                                                                   Return to Top of Page

Most Major web sites have provisions for the removal of material that violates your copyright:

One example is eBay's VeRO Program

Many other major sites have their own legal departments and if you find your stuff placed on their site by another user they will be more than helpful to have it removed.

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