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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 10/3/06 Protecting your digital images from theft

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) October 5, 2006 1:58 PM PDT

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10/3/06 Protecting your digital images from theft

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 10/5/06 1:58 PM


I love taking pictures, but I want to sign my work before putting it out into the public. As painters of old signed their names to their work, is there a way of digitally signing digital photographs so as to embed your name in the piece prior to putting it up on the Web? Is there a program that does this? Should I put something in the picture that only I will know that's there so that the image can't be stolen by someone else? Could a copyright sign also be digitally embedded within a work? Thanks for all your help!

Submitted by: Rita K.



Dear Rita, it is a very good idea to sign your work when publishing anything online, unless you want to distribute it as copyleft (opposite of copyright) or have it ripped off.

There are a number of ways to digitally sign the artwork you produce and numerous software apps that will allow you to do this.

First, you could watermark your image, this is where you put a mark somewhere on the image (usually in the background), so that if anyone tries to pinch it from your site, you'll be able to prove that it did originate from you. To watermark something, you could do anything that will make your work obviously yours, and you can have it either obvious or hidden.

To hide a watermark you could go to a white place on your picture and paint a pattern a slightly different white (like maybe RGB - 254,254,254 instead of 255,255,255). To the naked eye this would look as if the whole area is white; however, when you load the picture up into a paint package like Paintshop Pro, Photoshop or GIMP and hover the mouse over where you know the pattern is with the colour selector tool, you would be able to see the colour change from 255,255,255 to 254,254,254. That way you'd know if it has been stolen.
Alternatively, if youre not bothered about hiding it you could just add something unique to the picture.

If you want to see an example of invisible watermarking go to the following site:

On this site is a picture which looks just like a castle. However if you click the picture and wait a few seconds, the picture changes so that the background is now purple, and it reveals the hidden message. The message is there on both pictures, it just can't be seen on the first one as it's done in colour 254,254,254, whereas the background is in colour 255,255,255.

In addition to watermarking your pictures in this manner you can also add comments to GIF files. This can be done with most packages like Paintshop Pro, Photoshop or GIMP. I use GIMP (GIMP is a free art package originally developed for Linux but is now available for most operating systems including Windows). When saving a GIF in GIMP, it gives you options for the GIF when saving. One of the options is to include a comment (which by default reads "Created with The GIMP" but could be changed to whatever you want like (c) 2006 <Your Name Here> ). The only problem with the comments scheme is that it is very easy for someone to just load the GIF up into another program and remove or edit the comment to their own.

If you were to use both forms to copyright the images, it would be quite hard to for people to remove the notices you have included on your website.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Darren F.

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