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Return to How To Copy Protect Images - The Best Methods Of Copy Protection For Images
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The Top Methods For Copy Protecting Images On Web Pages

The following image protection techniques are sorted in order of their effectiveness:

1. Secure Web Browser 5 star copy protection
While it is possible to copy protect web content while viewed in popular web browsers (see below), the situation is not ideal due to the nature of those browsers as they have been designed to be popular rather than to preserve web content. So the better alternative is to have your site visitors use a secure web browser, one specially designed to protect content that it displays, and the only secure web browser that provides protection from all copy and save including screen capture is the Artisbrowser. The ArtistScope Site Protection System (ASPS) provides an encrypted stream of content from the web site to the ASPS Web Reader which is the only tool that can decipher and display the content. ASPS can copy protect all web pages and and all embedded media such as images, Flash, PDF, videos providing an unexploitable viewing environment that is also safe from data leakage and cache retrieval.
2. Web Browser Plugin 5 star copy protection
Screen capture can be prevented by ensuring that site visitors install a web browser plugin specially designed to manipulate the clipboard while the copy protected page is on display. Plugins registered with the user's operating system have the elevated permissions required to perform the task whereas Flash and JavaScript are powerless. The only plugin that prevents all screen capture and at the same time can be used in all Windows web browsers is the CopySafe Web plugin. Sites can be licensed by domain and operators get to use image encryption software for preparing their images and creating the code to use on protected web pages. The image encryption provided by CopySafe Web provides the most secure method of copy protecting images on the Internet because images are domain locked and safe even from your webmaster. CopySafe Web can copy protect all web page content from all copy and screen capture.
3. Watermark Branding 4 star copy protection
Watermarking, which is the burning of another image or text into the image permanently is the most effective deterrent against image theft, but it can also be a deterrent to sales because it can destroy the atmosphere being presented. Whether it's an artist's drawing or a photograph of a product being advertised, having a text message in the middle is not only a deterrent to image theft, but it's also a deterrent to pleasant viewing. Watermarking can be performed by most image editors and there are many programs available for applying watermarks. Or you can simply use the free watermarking tool provided at the top of this web page.
4. Encrypted Images 3 star image protection technique
Image encryption has some hidden benefits because while it may offer no protection on its own from Printscreen or screen capture, but yet still prevent copy by page saves and mouse saves, and be safe from search and site grabbers, the images that are stored on the web site are safe from anyone who can get to them directly. Because the images stored on the server are encrypted they cannot be used anywhere else, especially if domain lock has been used in the encryption process.
5. Image Splicing 3 star image protection technique
Image splicing is the cutting of an image into segments that are then held in place with table cells, each part of the image in a separate cell of the table set. This process has been used for a very long time and a real killer for mouse saves and page saves because all the visitor can get is a series of smaller images which they then have to re-arrange and join before it can be used. It doesn't prevent anyone from copying but it sure makes them work for it, that is until they realize that by pressing the Printscreen button they can get a screen shot to use.
6. Transparent Overlay 3 star image protection technique
The process of using a transparent overlay is good protection from mouse saves, which is the most commonly used copy method. When a user right clicks to save the image all they can save is the transparent image which is uppermost in the image location. The original image is seen because it has been added to the page as a background tile in a table cell. A lot of image stock libraries use this method because they want all browsers on all platforms to to view their catalogues. Unfortunately such a trade-off means that they cannot effectively copy protect anything, and all it takes to circumvent this technique is to save the page and all of its contents... or take a screen shot.
7. Image Viewers 2 star image protection
Image viewers that can used on web pages will be either Java, Flash or ActiveX based. ActiveX is only supported in the Internet Explorer web browser for Windows, so that leaves Java and Flash. Both Java and Flash can run in most web browsers but their support is not standard and their plugins have to be downloaded and installed. If the images are encrypted and/or embedded into the viewer there will be some protection from copy using mouse saves, page saves and direct downloads, but there will be no protection for images from Printscreen and screen capture. If the images are not encrypted and the image viewer is simply loading the image using a raw link then those images will not be protected from pages saves or site grabbers either.
8. Search & Spider Prevention 2 star image protection
Most people find your images before even visiting your web site, because for anyone looking for images all they have to do is perform an image search using any one of the popular search engines. To keep search engines from your images you can add a robots.txt file to your site but you still need to ensure that they do not have unbroken access. See Link Protection and HTML Encryption below for some ideas. Some web designers have gone to the trouble of detecting search engines and site grabbers by checking for stringent requirements and redirecting when deficiencies are found.
9. Link Protection 2 star image protection
Link protection that uses referrer checking and session checking to prevent direct links from outside of a web site can be useful for preventing site grabbers and spiders from locating media on your web pages. However it cannot prevent or even slow down the copying of images from web pages that are already on display a web browser.
10. HTML Encryption 2 star image protection
The process of encrypting HTML (the web page code) is very over-rated as a copy protection technique but it is popular amongst amateur web designers. While it can sound secure in theory, in practice it offers no copy protection whatsoever because by the time the visitor sees the page, the web browser has decrypted it for display. Most web page encryption solutions use JavaScript which needs a decryption key found on the same page and therefore is most insecure. HTML encryption can be useful by keeping content unreadable to non-JavaScript site spidering tools like some search engines.
11. Disable Right Mouse Click 1 star copy protection for images
Disabling the right mouse click is possible by using JavaScript on the web page. While it can confound most amateur web surfers and slow down other visitors who want to copy your images, it will not stop them from simply saving the whole page and collecting everything from buttons to backgrounds. The simplest exploit for getting around no-right-click scripts is to disable JavaScript, however by using normal html you can redirect them using a NoScript option when their web browsers is found to be deficient.
12. Digital Tagging - Digimarc  
The process of adding a digital tag to an image using the Digimarc process is very much over-rated because it does not offer any protection for an image at all, nor is it a deterrent from copying an image. The only value gained from this process is as a means of identifying the owner of an image as the Digimarc tag can serve as a business card for professional photographers. Editing the image will immediately remove the tag.
13. Register Digital Signature  
The process of tracking images on the Internet has been around for more than a decade. Although novel when it was first introduced it hasn't been popular mainly because it is not a deterrent to pirating images in any way, and most images borrowed from the web are usually edited which immediately removes any digital semblance to the original. Some sites have recently started promoting the service again to create sites for advertising revenue. The only value to the owners of images is as amusement and to see where they go..

The above mentioned methods for copy protecting images deal with images that are displayed online, from a web page. These methods are not suitable for images that you may want to send by email or provide as a download. For example, if sending an image to a client for their approval of your design, then the options for protecting the image are reduced to:

  1. Using the watermarking tool above to copy protect the image..
  2. Sending the image encapsulated in a secure document format like CopySafe PDF.
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If this is your image then you can deliver the full sized version with watermark to an email address of your choice.