I Shutter at the Thought: Stop Digital Photo Thieves in Their Tracks


Visuals speak to your customers before they even have a chance to read your marketing messages. In fact, photos on Facebook receive 53% more likes and 104% more comments than the average posts. Photos are too powerful not to take advantage of, but they leave you vulnerable to intellectual property theft. So how do you ensure that the photos you upload for your business on social media are safe?

Know the Rules

Before you upload any photos to a social network make sure that you know their policy when it comes to user and company images. Last year Instagram caused quite a commotion when they changed the language in their terms of service, suggesting that they would have the right to sell users’ photos, without their permission. Instagram quickly removed the misleading information, but it did spark a conversation amongst both companies and social media users regarding photography on these sites. Who claims ownership and how can these rights be protected?

In March of 2013, the International Press Telecommunications Counsel released a survey revealing that Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr have all been known to remove metadata on photos, including data indicating ownership. Other social sites like Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+ retained ownership and additional metadata.

Knowing which sites will protect your businesses photo ownership and which will not gives you clear expectations and lets you know when you will need to take extra precautions.

Protect Yourself

Businesses have several options when it comes to defending their online photos. See our top tips listed below.

  • Add Metadata to Your Photos:

    In some cases, photo-editing programs like Adobe Photoshop will let users add metadata to their pictures. This includes text detailing the copyright and ownership information for the photo that will travel with the file as it is downloaded and uploaded elsewhere. Note that this data can be stripped by some websites, such as the social networking sites mentioned above, so you’ll need to take extra precaution on these platforms.

  • Add a Copyright Notice on the Images:

    Using Photoshop, or any other photo editing application, add your copyright information in the lower right-hand corner of your images. If you’d like to avoid covering the details of your photos with text you may post the copyright information along with the photo, for instance in the photo description. This lowers your protection but maximizes the impact of your pictures.

  • Add a Watermark:

    If you’ve tried both of the options above and they have not offered you your preferred level of protection, consider overlaying a watermark on your pictures. Inexpensive apps such as Marksta for iOS users and Add Watermark for those who prefer Androids, allow users to quickly apply names or logos over photos. While this method does detract the most from your images, it makes them the least attractive to users or other companies looking to steal your photos for their own purposes.

Though none of these measures will prevent the most determined photo thieves from swiping your images, they will make it much easier for you to defend your ownership rights and insist on the removal of these pictures on others’ sites and social media profiles.

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