Monday, April 5, 2010
Credit Lines, Copyrights, and Watermarks
When looking at the image shown at the top of this photo blog, what are the chances someone is going to steal it and use it on their site? I would say not likely, and certainly a lot less likely than if the photo had a less prominent credit line and copyright notice. What are the chances they will know the image is copyright protected? How about the chances of finding my site in order to license the image or see more of my work? I now believe in big watermarks!
My Name In Huge Letters
I am in the process of upgrading all my online images to have a rather prominent credit line. Originally I didn't want to clutter up my images with a watermark, you know, that photographer-ego thing, but having seen the rampant theft of my photography, I have changed my mind. Do a search for "Massage Cats" and there is my image everywhere...but almost none of them have a credit back to me (but now this one does). Besides, when I see my one of my images used somewhere on the Internet without my permission then it at least feels a little to better to have my name in huge letters across the image!
Live and Learn
This has been a gradual process for me, starting with a very tiny and unobtrusive credit line, then progressing to a larger one, and at this point really big to where it is essentially a watermark (in this case I believe bigger really is better). It is a huge task too! I have probably 3000 images left to go, and that doesn't count the over 3,000 images I have yet to migrate to my site. Too bad I didn't start off with this mentality. Oh well, live and learn.
Advertising, Promotion and Education
If someone does steal the image they will either have to put some time, effort, and skill into removing the credit line, or I will at least get some advertising and promotion out of the deal (yeah I know, on some of the images it would take two seconds to get rid of the credit line.but they still have to put it into Photoshop and at least spend some time). To me, at this point, huge watermarks and/or credit lines are a no-brainer! In a way, putting larger credit lines on your work is also an educational process. The more people see images with big copyright notices and credit lines on them the more it might sink through their skulls that images are not all free!
File Names, Alt Text and Finding Pictures
Of course, at the same time I am upgrading the file names to have more meaning for search engines, I am adding better alt text as well. Alt text is one of the key ways that search engines know what the picture is about. This is a ton of work and slow going. I sit in front of the TV at night with my laptop on my lap and watch Law and Order (or American Idol or.whatever) while I do this work. I have learned not to rush though. I believe it is better to do a good, thorough job on each image. It isn't something a "robot" can do (I know a number of photographers who are having programmers create robots to systematically "harvest" their images off of agency sites.fast, but in the long-run I don't believe it will work as well as giving more individual attention to each image).
Overnight Success and Years of Hard Work
Sometimes it seems totally hopeless to have all this work in front of me. But then I remember how difficult it was to learn and do professional quality work with Photoshop back in 1990, and how much that ended up helping my career. It is hard to get around the fact that overnight success usually requires years of hard work.