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.
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
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 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:
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
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.
- Protect images from right click menu options
including save as, copy, paste, etc.
- Protect images from browser "save whole page" with
- Protect images from drag and drop save to the
- Protect the link to the image from direct download
- Protect images from image search engines
- Protect images from site grabbers and remote
- Protect images from web publishers
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
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.
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