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Copy protect web pages and online images from all copy and save
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How To Copy Protect Images For The Internet

Evaluate Copysafe Web Protection Online Demonstrations Image theft is not only practiced by many people but there are also too many services that are currently advocating plagiarism and are encouraging it by providing the means to do so. Over the years, the web browser makers have made web page content more accessible and the search engines have provided services for special searches to locate and download your media. On top of this, we have hundreds of software developers that constantly create programs to seek and download your media and evade any protective measures possible. These usurpers of your intellectual property try to justify themselves with statements like "information wants to be free", when in reality, they are most protective of anything that they have themselves even if they have only “borrowed” or stolen it from someone else.

Image protection

The first effective form of image protection that was introduced for use on the Internet and that worked beyond theory was image encryption, which was developed by ArtistScope in 1998. Image encryption has many advantages but is still not a perfectly safe solution, without including some other techniques to protect the image from other methods of copying.

This article will endeavor to introduce the threats and some of the other techniques with their pros and cons:

Overlaying a clear GIF

Overlying a clear image over the main image seems like a clever idea and it is until someone realizes that there is an overlaid image. The technique employed here is to protect the image by placing a sacrificial image in a layer that is superimposed over the image. The overlaying image, being a transparent gif, is invisible on the page and the visitors who try to save the image that they see by right mouse click will only be able to steal the clear gif. That is, until they realize that the image that they want is behind a layer. To get around this copy protection technique, all they need to do is to save the whole page with images included, take a screenshot or disable JavaScript.

Believe it or not, it was ArtistScope who first developed this technique of using a transparent gif layer. In our quest for a method to protect images, it was the first technique that we developed and it was quickly passed over as a waste of time. At the time, only the latest web browsers could support layers. In all other web browsers, the effect was the same as disabling JavaScript with all the content of the intended layers displayed at the bottom of the page leaving the valued images unprotected.

Watermark images to protect originality

Watermarking can mean a couple of different techniques for protecting an image. 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 an image, when in fact, it is merely a means of attaching a business card to an image as a tag. The watermark tag is invisible to the eye and can only be seen when the image is opened in an image viewer that supports such watermarking techniques. The watermark tag is absolutely no deterrent to copying or saving from a web page and the image thief only has to open the image in any image editor and save it again to shed the watermark tag completely.

Another form of watermarking is overlaying text or another image onto the image to be protected and then merging. There are software programs that are specially-designed to do this and most image editors can also watermark your images, especially if they support layers. The technique here is to open the original image in the editor and then either type some text to overlay onto the image or create a new layer with the text or a ready-made transparent logo. When the image is saved, the layers are merged into one to provide the original image with an overlaid watermark. This type of watermarking is a deterrent for people who want to use your image because it has been marred and they cannot be used in other projects nor can they claim it as their own. If it were your logo in the middle of the image, they will definitely not want to use it.

Using degraded images ( over compressed images)

That some people recommend the use of degraded images, which is simply ridiculous! It is not protecting the originals because they are not accessible and it is certainly not going to impress your visitors nor enhance sales if the image in question is representing your product. So what is a degraded image? The degradation refers to loss of quality resulting from using compression on an image. To compress an image you simply open it in any popular image editor and nominate your desired quality setting. Compressing to 60% or less will yield a poor quality image. Most original images that are taken from scans of photos or digital cameras can easily be compressed to 80% without any noticeable loss of quality. A degraded image will be one that has been compressed to 60% or less and will obviously be pixilated so much so that it will be of no worth to anyone else's project (unless they can find something similar).

Protect images by splicing

The splicing of images can be a deterrent to copying images but is really of little consequence. While a spliced image may slow down mouse saves of an image, it does nothing to prevent anyone from taking a screen shot or saving the whole page. Here, the technique of "splicing an image" is cutting it up into segments. To display a segmented image, they need to be re-aligned in a web page, which means assembling it within a table set. This is why saving the page gets the image intact because the table set gets saved and the visitor can open it at leisure for a screen shot. Image splicing is not a form of copy protection at all because the visitor can get the original after all.

Protect images in Flash

Utilizing Flash to display images will slow down the copying because the image is no longer recognized as an image (site and image downloaders). However, it can still be copied by taking a screen shot. Also, there are many programs available today for decompiling Flash to extract their contents. This includes Flash that is used to support some functions for disabling the clipboard but those functions are no longer supported in its latest versions.

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 images. By disabling right click, you are removing the right mouse menu options, which include copy, paste, save as, etc. However, a simple page save with all content will get your web page and all of the images on it saved neatly into a folder, including your Flash movies, JavaScript, among others. Of course, disabling JavaScript in the web browser's settings will remove any interference to your right click actions.

Disabling Internet Explorer's image toolbar

When the mouse hovers over an image, IE6+’s image toolbar appears automatically with an option to save the image. 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 persistence of browser makers and other advocates of plagiarism that are proffering more and more tools for stealing our livelihood.

Preventing web browser "save whole page" copying

First, only the Internet Explorer supported saving the whole page as a method of copy. Today, however, all web browsers proffer the option of saving a web page "whole" with all images and other media neatly packed into a folder. This save action will save the entire page and collect every component that was used on that page, easily evading most copy protective measures that you may have employed. The only way to prevent this diabolical saving technique is to use encrypted images.

Protecting an image within an applet

While an image is displayed in a Java applet, it can be safe from mouse saves and site grabbers. However, the image can still be copied by taking a screen shot and the visitor can also view the source code to get the location of the image by a simple right-click of the mouse. Ordinary applets proffered as image protection followed in an attempt to  imitate ArtistScope's security applets (more information on this below).

Protect images stored in cache

Regardless of how the image is diced or spliced, it can still be located in cache. Every component of a web page is first downloaded and is saved in the temporary Internet folder known as "cache". Not so long ago, web browsers might itemize the content of their cache but accessing a file directly was almost impossible. Nowadays, 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 away from its original location.

Protect images from direct download and site grabbers

There are numerous programs today that are 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 and list the targets for download. To protect from this copy/save technique, you need to either encrypt your images or the links to them or have your pages delivered on the fly using a scripting language like ASP or PHP that set some sort of special requirements before delivering the page.

Protect images with encryption

Encrypted images cannot be displayed without first being Decrypted. Otherwise, they will not be visible at all. Image encryption is also the most secure solution for storing images on a web server because until they are decrypted, they will be of no use, even to your webmaster. First developed by ArtistScope in 1998, Secure Image is the only solution that will display encrypted images on a web page.

Encrypted images that are created by ArtistScope copy protection solutions cannot be displayed in any image viewer, except ArtistScope's security viewer and then only from the owner's website. The key code for decryption is embedded into the image and when loaded, the security applet checks the key code against the URL that is displaying the website. If the encrypted image's key code does not match the website, the image is not displayed.

Encrypted images are also safe from retrieval from browser cache (temporary internet files) because the image in cache is the encrypted version and not one that has been decrypted. Only ArtistScope's security applet can decrypt the image and it does that only if it were displayed on the owner's website.

Encrypted images can offer the following protection for images:

  • Protect images from right click menu options including save as, copy, paste, etc.
  • Protect images from browser "save whole page" with images included
  • Protect images from drag and drop save to the clipboard actions
  • Protect the link to the image from direct download
  • Protect images from image search engines
  • Protect images from site grabbers and remote downloaders
  • Protect images from web publishers
Encrypted images that are created by ArtistScope solutions using true image encryption are not to be confused with the mention of images and encryption by page encryption software that use weak JavaScript encryption for HTML. This does not encrypt the image at all. They may encrypt a link to an image but they cannot encrypt the image itself. For proper software to encrypt images, please see Secure Image and CopySafe Web.

Even with all of the above considered, the following image copy is still possible:
 

  • Taking a screenshot by using the Printscreen key
  • Taking a screenshot by using one of hundreds of different screen capture programs
  • Taking a screenshot from a remote computer

Protect images from Print Screen

Trying to protect images from Print Screen, which is using the PrtSc button to take a screenshot of the whole screen, is not easy. In fact, from a web browser it is almost impossible. It is absolutely impossible to protect from Print Screen using JavaScript or any other client-side scripting that is performed in the web browser. Anyone who tries to tell you that Print Screen can be prevented using JavaScript is either a fool or trying is simply to con you. JavaScript does not have access to your 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 are protected by the security limitations of the JavaScript itself. To properly protect from Print Screen, a plugin resource is required that has permission to function at a system level.

Protect images from screen capture

To protect images 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 insecure because they only 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 Print Screen 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 preventive 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 see and do most things just as if they were using it directly.

Protect images 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 and plagiarism that we are all trying to prevent. Here at ArtistScope, we call such creatures "monkey-brains" because that is all that they are capable of. Unfortunately, many are incapable of original thought and ideas and can only try to imitate what they see others do.


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  • Protect copyright
  • Protect documents
  • Protect HTML
  • Protect images
  • Protect links
  • Protect PDF
  • Protect web pages
  • Prevent capture
  • Prevent copying
  • Prevent drag and drop
  • Prevent forwarding
  • Prevent image theft
  • Prevent piracy
  • Prevent printing
  • Prevent Printscreen
  • Prevent redistribution
  • Prevent saving
  • Prevent screenshot

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