Every now and then I see someone ask ‘How do I disable right-clicking on images on my site?’ My answer, invariably, is ‘You don’t.’ The real question I suppose is ‘How do I stop people from ripping off my work on the net?’ and the answer to that is still ‘You don’t.’

Is it online? Yes? Then it can, and will, be stolen. Does that matter? Kind of. The only way to make your works un-steal-able is to never publish them anywhere.

When the last Harry Potter book came one, some diligent nerd spent countless hours photographing every page of the book, uploaded it online, and oh look, we all knew how it ended. That did not stop everyone from buying the book though, and in the end, was pretty much an amusing footnote in the saga of Harry Potter. And anyone who thought Harry wouldn’t defeat Voldemort was clearly not paying attention.

When I put my dad’s stuff up online, I told him it would be better to convert his PDFs to easily readable HTML. He didn’t want to because they could be stolen. I pointed out that the PDFs are actually easier to rip (download, done), and the HTML was just being generated by copy/pasting from the PDF anyway, so he was already there. The point was to make his work more accessible.

Does this mean you shouldn’t protect your data? Of course not! But the point is if you publish it, online or offline, it can, and will, be stolen. The only thing online media does is make it ‘easier’ to steal and re-publish under someone else’s name. Without getting into the myriad laws of copyright, I want to point out that your publish work is only part of your brand. If someone steals a post I make here, yes, they’re taking away from my audience, but realistically, they’re not hurting my bottom line. The reason you’re here, reading my posts, is because I’ve reached you. Either you read my social media outlets, my RSS feed, or you know me and follow me directly. But the people who are going to read this, you, are here because of work I’ve already done. The work I continue to do keeps you here, and you become my promoters. The only thing the thieves do is hurt my search engine rankings, and not even that in my experience. A brand is more than just your work. It’s you, your image, your representation. Spending all your time worrying about your SEO ranking means you’re missing the point. Of course a high result on a Google Search is important, but that’s just one piece of the pie.

Someone is bound to tell me that all of this is nice and dandy, but why, technically, is it a bad idea to try and protect your media/data?

Disabling right-clicks prevents people from being able to download your media. If I then view the page source, I get the URL of your image, load that into a new browser window, and download your stuff. Or I can drag-and-drop the image to my desktop, if you disable view-source. Those don’t work? Why not check the cache of what my browser automatically downloaded when I visited your page? Or how about a screen shot of what’s active on my screen right now? That’s all stuff I can do without even needing to be code-savvy.

Google for “download image when right click is disabled” and you’ll get millions of hits. There’s no way to protect your media, once it’s online. The best you can do is to brand it in such a way that even if someone does get a copy, it is permanently marked as ‘yours’. Watermarks are the normal way to do this and probably the only ‘good’ way to do it, as they tend to be the hardest thing to remove.

Don’t bother disabling right-click, or trying to stop people from downloading/stealing your stuff. Don’t put it online unless you’re willing to have it nicked. Make your brand identifiable with your site, and people will know to come to you.

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Comments

  1. There are some pretty nifty ways to block content theft, particularly of images. I was trying to download a bunch of images off of Smugmug a while back, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t do it. I ended up having to contact the owner and getting him to email me copies of them instead.

    I could have of course taken a screenshot, but it was 6MP image and would have taken most of a day to patch them all back together from the screenshots.

    They seem to be doing some sort of obfuscation with javascript. Nowhere in the source code could I find any links to images whatsoever. I think I’m pretty savvy at this stuff, so if it can stop me, it’s bound to stop average joe blo trying to pinch some stuff to put on his blog.

    • Actually there are quite a few JS hacks to defeat smug-mug’s protocol. Or any javascript induced image protection. What SmugMug does right is their watermark, however, which is, in the end, the best they can do 🙂

      My buddy is having trouble posting comments (as am I!), but as he pointed out in email, view the page source 🙂

      On Firefox, you can view page info, select ‘media’ from the options, and you’ll get a dropdown list of everything cached and non-cached. And yes, you can download the images from there with the handy ‘Save As’ button.

      Remember. If it’s on your screen, it’s saved, somewhere, on your computer. That’s just how it works.

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