Will people copy my photos, and how can I stop them?

Submitted by David on Wed, 05/13/2015 - 15:51

Q. Will people copy my photos if I upload them to Gwulo?

A. Yes, if they are interesting photos, and you upload them to Gwulo (or any other public website on the internet), there is a good chance someone will want to copy them. There are several options for what happens next:

1. The person leaves a comment or sends me an email, asking if they can use the photos.

I ask them to contact you to request permission.

2. The person copies the photo without asking. They upload it to another website or use it in a publication, together with a link to the web page where they found the photo.

Anyone who views the copy can still see the original source and you as the owner of the photograph by following the link.

3. The person copies the photo without asking. They upload it to another website or use it in a publication, but don't note the source or just say "found on the internet".

Anyone who views the copy has no idea where it came from, or who is the original owner.

Q. So how can I stop people from copying them without asking?

A. There isn't a foolproof way to stop any copying, but there are several options depending on what you want to achieve:

1. I don't mind if anyone uses my photos. I'm making them available for anyone to use.

Great, there's nothing more you need to do.

2. I'll be really upset if I upload photos to Gwulo then find they have been copied and used elsewhere without my permission.

You can see if the solution to the next point #3 would help. If not, you're probably better off keeping your photos private at this time, and not uploading them to the internet.

3, I'd rather be asked, but I accept the risk that my photos can be copied and used on another public website. Still, I don't want someone using them in a book or magazine that they're making money from without contacting me first.

One idea is to keep the photos that you post small (say maximum 640 pixels wide), which makes them less attractive for use in printed works. The downside is that we don't see as much detail in the photos.

An alternative is to add a watermark to the photo before you upload it to Gwulo. Here's a photo I want to share at relatively high resolution (it is 2,000 pixels wide), but I don't want it used in a book without my permission. Also if it does get copied to another website, I'd like viewers to realise it orginally came from Gwulo.com.

If you look carefully you can see the faint "Gwulo.com" text printed across the photo. This is known as a watermark. It makes the photo unusable for commercial use, and advertises the source if it is copied.

1930s Sheung Wan