Image theft is a real problem online.
Picture this: Your team has spent ages crafting the perfect infographic … only for you to find it being shared on lots of other websites and social media accounts (with no acknowledgment that it’s your image).
Or perhaps you’ve taken your own photos or created your own images to use on your site, and searching Google for those images reveals that they’ve now appeared on a bunch of other sites, without you getting any credit.
Image theft isn’t always malicious. Often, people may not realize that they shouldn’t share your images without crediting you. But you don’t want your hard work to go to waste.
Here are 7 different ways you can protect the images on your website.
1. Add a Copyright Notice
One of the quickest and simplest ways to protect your images is to add a brief copyright notice immediately below them, like this:
© Your Site, 2022
Simply having that copyright notice can get people to pause and realize that the image belongs to you. It may not be enough to deter all image theft, but it can help reduce the number of times your images get used on other websites without acknowledgment.
2. Brand Your Images
If you’re creating custom featured images for blog posts on your website, you can brand them with the name and/or URL of your site. This lets people instantly know that they’re your images when they’re shared on social media – even if there’s no link to your website and your social account hasn’t been tagged.
One drawback to this method is that other people could potentially crop your images to remove your branding, unless it’s so obtrusive that it potentially distracts from the image itself.
3. Watermark Your Images
Similar to branding your images, watermarking means placing a logo, symbol, or repeated mark or word in the background of your image. It’ll still be possible to see the image itself, but the watermark makes it less desirable to copy.
The key drawback here is that watermarked images can look odd in many contexts. They’re appropriate if you’re, say, a photographer or a supplier of premium stock photography. On the other hand, they’ll seem strange if they’re used in images that are part of a regular blog post or on your website’s landing pages.
4. Always Use Compressed, Low-Resolution Images
Using compressed, low-resolution images is the best practice for your SEO (search engine optimization) as it helps your webpages to load quickly. Low-resolution images are also less likely to be copied, though this won’t necessarily deter everyone.
Before uploading images to your website, resize them individually using a graphics tool. Alternatively, you can resize them as a set using an online bulk editing tool such as Bulk Resize Photos. Then, compress your resized images using tools like TinyPNG (for PNG images) or CompressJPEG (for JPEG images).
5. Disable Right-Clicking on Your Website
If you’ve ever saved an image from a website, you’ll know that the easiest way to do so is to right-click and select “Save image as…” You can prevent website visitors from doing this by disabling right-click on your website.
If you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to do this with a plugin. WP Content Copy Protection is a good free option.
Disabling right-clicking won’t completely stop people from copying your images if they’re determined (there are lots of other methods that they could use – such as taking a screenshot of the image). However, adding a little extra friction into the process will deter casual image theft.
6. Disable Hotlinking
Another good way to protect your images – and your website bandwidth – is to disable hotlinking.
Hotlinking is when someone embeds your image (or another media file) onto their website straight from your own site. They may not know that this is a bad idea, but as well as potentially involving stealing your image without any acknowledgment, it also steals your bandwidth.
This is because, when the image loads on their website, it’s being called from your website where it’s hosted.
There are quite a few different ways you can prevent hotlinking. These include:
- Using a CDN (content delivery network) that offers hotlinking protection, such as Cloudflare.
- Adding a code snippet to your .htaccess file – there are instructions on doing this here.
- Using the WordPress plugin All In One WP Security & Firewall, which has the option to prevent image hotlinking.
7. Ensure You Get the Credit
In many cases, you’ll want people to share your images; you just want to get the credit too! It’s easy to do this using the Image Share Button from ShareThis Website Tools, as this automatically creates a social media post that includes a link back to the page where the image appears.
Instead of being attached to your page as a whole, your Image Share Button is attached to the image itself, making it a really quick and easy option for people who want to share your image on social media.
Image theft isn’t going away. But it’s something you can take action against. By using one or more of the methods above, you can protect the images on your website – and make sure that, when they are shared, you get the credit you deserve.