How to copy protect pictures
Picture theft is not only practiced by many people but there are also plenty of services that advocate plagiarism and encourage it by providing the means to do so. Over the years, web page content has become more accessible and the search engines have provided services for special searches to locate and download your media. On top of this, there are hundreds of software developers that create programs to download your
pictures and evade any protective measures possible. These unauthorized users of your intellectual property try to justify themselves with rights to free information statements but in reality, they are most protective of anything that they have themselves even if they just stole or “borrowed” it
The first effective form of picture protection that was introduced for use on the
Internet that actually worked beyond theory was picture encryption.
It was developed by ArtistScope in 1998.
Picture encryption has many advantages but is none the less is not a
perfectly safe solution since it needs to include some other
techniques to protect the picture from other methods of copying.
Here are some of the techniques that cunning people may use to copy your pictures as well as their pros and cons:
Overlaying a clear GIF
Overlying a clear picture over the main picture seems like a
clever idea and this can actually work unless someone realizes that there is an overlaid
picture. The technique that is employed here is to place a sacrificial picture in a layer that is superimposed
over the picture that you are trying to protect. The overlaid picture, being a transparent gif, is
invisible on the page and the visitor who tries to save the
picture by right mouse-click will only be able to steal the clear
gif. This seems effective but only until the person realizes that the picture that he wants is
behind a layer. To get around this copy protection technique,
one only has to save the whole page with the pictures included, take
Believe it or not, ArtistScope first developed this
Watermark pictures to protect originality
Some photographers use watermarking to
label photographs that they distribute to agencies. Some naive
photographers actually believe that this form of watermarking
provides copy protection for a picture when in fact, it is merely
a means of attaching a business card to a picture as a tag. The
watermark tag is invisible to the eye and can only be seen when the
file is opened in a picture viewer that supports such
watermarking techniques. The watermark is ineffective in the
prevention of copying or saving from a web page and the picture
thief only has to open the file in any picture editor and save
it again to shed the watermark tag completely.
Another form of watermarking is by overlaying text or another
picture onto the picture that is to be protected and then merging
are software programs that are specially designed to do this and most
picture editors can also watermark your pictures, especially if they support layers. The technique here is to have the original
picture open in the editor and then either type in some text
over the picture or to create a new layer for the text or
maybe even use a
ready-made transparent logo. When the picture is saved, the layers
are then merged into one to furnish the original picture with
an overlaid watermark. This type of watermarking is a
deterrent for people wanting to use your picture because it
has been marred and cannot
be used in other projects. If it is your logo in the middle of
the picture, they will definitely not want to use it.
Using degraded pictures ( over compressed pictures)
It is funny how some people recommend the use of degraded pictures. It
is not effectively protecting the originals and it is certainly not going to impress your
visitors or enhance sales if you are using the picture to
represent your product. So what is a degraded picture?
degradation results in a loss of quality resulting from file compression. To compress a picture,
you simply open it in any popular picture editor and select
quality setting. Compressing to 60% or less will yield a poor
quality picture. On the other hand, original pictures (taken from scans of
photos or digital cameras) can easily be compressed to 80 %
without any noticeable loss of quality. A degraded picture will
be one that has been compressed to less than 60% and will obviously
Protect pictures by splicing
The splicing of pictures can limit picture grabbers to an
extent bit is really of little importance. While a spliced
picture may slow down mouse saves of a picture, it does nothing to
prevent anyone from taking a screenshot or saving the whole
page. Here, the technique of "splicing an picture" is cutting it
up into segments. To display a segmented picture, they need to be
re-aligned in a a web page and arranged in a form of a table that one can actually take a screenshot of, since saving the table keeps the picture intact. Picture splicing is not an effective copy protection measure at all because the visitor can get the original in any case.
Protect pictures in Flash
Utilizing Flash to display pictures will slow down the
copying because the picture will longer be recognized as a picture
(site and picture downloaders) but it can still be copied by
taking a screen shot. Also, there are many programs available
today that are used to decompile Flash and extract their
contents. Flash used to support some functions for disabling
the clipboard but those functions are no longer supported in
the latest versions since it was discovered that it only
worked in one web browser (IE).
Disabling right click mouse actions
Disabling right mouse click can slow down copying but it offers
nothing more than a mild inconvenience to the person who wants
to steal your pictures. By disabling the right-click capability
of your mouse, you are removing
the menu options which include copy, paste, save
as, etc. However, a simple page save will allow you to save all
pictures and your web page into a
remove any interference posed by such a script and enable all
options available from the right-click mouse menu.
Disabling Internet Explorer's image toolbar
When the mouse hovers over a picture, IE6+’s image toolbar
appears automatically with an option to save the picture. Of
course, this can be disabled but it is just one of the many
threats that we are faced with as a result of the browser
makers and other advocates of plagiarism offering more and
more tools for stealing our livelihood.
Preventing web browser "save whole page" copying
First, it was only Internet Explorer that offered the option of
wholly saving a web page with
all pictures and other media neatly packed into a folder.
Nowadays however, all web browsers allow this kind of action
to be performed. This will save the page and collect every component
that is used
on that page, easily evading most copy protective measures that
you may have installed. The only way to prevent this diabolical
saving technique is to use encrypted pictures.
Protecting a picture within an applet
While a picture is displayed in a Java applet and may be safe
from mouse saves and site grabbers, the picture can still
be copied by taking a screenshot and the visitor can also view
source to get the location of the picture. There are also many
proffered as picture protection in an attempt to
imitate ArtistScope's security applets (more info below).
Protect pictures stored in cache
Regardless of how the picture is diced or spliced, it can still
be located in cache. Every component of a web page is first
downloaded and saved in the temporary Internet folder known as
"cache". Not so long ago, web browsers might have itemized the content
of their cache but accessing a file directly was almost
impossible. But today, that has all changed and the browser
makers have yet again made our livelihood more accessible to
everyone by enabling direct access with a simple double-click.
To protect content stored in trash, that is, to prevent it from
being directly accessible, it needs to be encrypted or domain
locked so that it is inaccessible and its original
location will not be compromised.
Protect pictures from direct download and site grabbers
There are numerous programs available for searching websites
and downloading media. Some specialize in particular file types
and others can be set to look for a desired file type. These
programs, often known as site grabbers, will spider your web
pages like a search engine does and list the targets for download.
To protect from this copy/save technique, you need to either
encrypt your pictures or the links to them, or have your pages
delivered on the fly using a scripting language like ASP or PHP
that set some special requirements before delivering the
Protect pictures with encryption
Encrypted pictures cannot be displayed without
first being decrypted, otherwise they won't be visible.
Picture encryption is also the most secure solution for storing
pictures on a web server because until they are decrypted, they
are of no use even to your webmaster. First developed by ArtistScope in 1998, Secure Image is the
only solution that will display encrypted pictures on a web page.
Encrypted pictures created by ArtistScope copy protection
solutions cannot be displayed in any picture viewer except
ArtistScope's security viewer as well as only from the owner's
website. The key code for decryption is embedded into the picture
and when loaded, the security applet checks the key code against
the url displaying the website. If the encrypted picture's key code does not match the website,
the picture will not
Encrypted pictures are also safe from retrieval from
browser cache (temporary internet files) because the picture in
cache is the encrypted version and not one that has been
decrypted. Only ArtistScope's security applet can decrypt the
picture and it does that only if it is displayed on the owner's website.
Encrypted pictures can
offer the following protection for pictures:
Encrypted pictures created by ArtistScope solutions
(true picture encryption) are not to be confused with pictures
that were encrypted by page encryption software because
the picture itself. They may encrypt a link to a picture but
they cannot encrypt the picture itself. For software to
encrypt pictures properly, please see Secure
Image and CopySafe Web.
- Protect pictures from right click menu options
including save as, copy, paste, etc.
- Protect pictures from browser "save whole page" with
- Protect pictures from drag-and-drop save to the
- Protect the link to the picture from direct download
- Protect pictures from picture search engines
- Protect pictures from site grabbers and remote
- Protect pictures from web publishers like
Even with all of the above considered, the following picture
copy is still possible:
- Taking a screenshot by using the Print Screen key
- Taking a screenshot by using one of hundreds of
different screen capture programs
- Taking a screenshot from a remote computer
Protect pictures from Printscreen
Trying to protect pictures from Print Screen, using the
button to take a screenshot of the whole screen, from a web browser,
is not easy and is almost impossible. It
is absolutely impossible to protect from Printscreen using
in the web browser. Anyone who tries to tell you that
clipboard and cannot prevent screenshots without express
permission of the owner. In Internet Explorer, permission is
required and in Mozilla browsers, such methods are illegal and
properly protect from Print Screen a plugin resource is required
that has permission to function at system level.
Protect pictures from screen capture
To protect pictures from screenshots and screen capture you need
a plugin with permission to operate at system level. There are
many plugins proffered as screen capture protection but they
are mostly not secure because they rely on detecting a screen
capture program by name and preventing it from functioning or
causing it to crash. The only solution that properly prevents
Printscreen is the CopySafe
solution by ArtistScope, which runs as a Windows service to
manage the clipboard when necessary.
Protect from screenshots while viewing remotely
After every precaution has been taken and every preventative
technique employed, there is still the possibility that someone
can take a screenshot while viewing your web page using a
remote connection. "Remote viewing" is the process of logging
into another computer from your computer and being able to view
and run programs on the desktop. In effect, the person is
operating the other computer remotely and sees and does most
things just as if they were using it directly.
Protect pictures with CopySafe
CopySafe Web is the only
solution that provides protection from all of the copying
threats that we have discussed here.
The CopySafe Runtime is not to be confused with any of the hack
imitations that you may find offered elsewhere. CopySafe was
designed as a universal solution for use on Windows to secure
the livelihood of artists, a cause that ArtistScope has
maintained by overcoming ever emerging obstacles since 1998.
The fact that others may try to imitate CopySafe is just
another example of the piracy, plagiarism and theft of
intellectual property that we are all trying to prevent.
Return to top