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Stop Using Copy Protection

Give up. The only full protection is not to post your image in the first place.

I’ve seen a million features out there to ‘prevent people from stealing your content.’ The idea is that by preventing people from (easily) copying your work, you stop them from stealing it and profiting off your efforts. You may even think that you’re saving your images from being stolen. In general, they use javascript to prevent things like right-click, view source, copying text, and disabling keyboard short cuts. In general, they suck and here’s why.

User Experience User Experience

Anyone who uses a screenreader or an alternative mouse tool now, officially, hates you. You’ve made your site look like absolute crap. Some screen readers can no longer read your content at all. Also not everything handles javascript very well (which is by far the ‘most popular’ way to block out content) and that makes for a pretty lousy experience for your visitors.

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Support Support

If you have a problem with your website and ask the world at large for help, they will take one look and hate you. No one can easily help you with your CSS or your layouts or your design now, because you’re protecting content. When customers ask for help, the first thing I do is turn those plugins off so I can use my normal debugging methods and not worry about cruft interference.

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It Doesn’t Work It Doesn’t Work

If you disable right-click, you make it harder for me to bring up Chrome’s dev tools, but not impossible. You can’t make it impossible. This is, in part, because there are so many different browsers to account for, but also because developers really don’t want you to be able to kill dev tools. We need them to fix the web, and if I were to leave the dev tools open and then visit your site I would be able to have it open on your site.

Once I have dev tools open, I can view the resources loaded by your page. Take Instagram, who doesn’t let you right-click on an image to download. I can instead right-click, chose ‘Inspect Element’ and I get this:

element.style {
    background-image: url(http://photos-g.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-11/10912600_6619567248918_1818171895_n.jpg);
}

Guess what I can do now? Load that URL in another window, download, done. If that’s not available, I’ll go over to the Resources tab, open up the Instagram folder, then Images, and find the image I want. Again, done.

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There’s Only One Way There’s Only One Way

There is but one foolproof way to prevent your content from being stolen: Don’t publish it.

But of course no one wants to hear that. So what’s the other way? Well give up on not having your words stolen. Even if you make it difficult, people will get at it. People type up books and scripts today, they’ll do it for your website if they’re properly motivated. Images, on the other hand, are a different issue. If you’re a photographer, don’t put your full-sized images online unless you’re selling them. And if you are selling photographs, put them on a cloud host like Amazon. Large files and PHP aren’t the best of friends anyway. Your website, unless it’s a store, doesn’t need the 10meg image file.

As much as it pains me to say it, DRM is also a solution. So is watermarking your images. The way people like Getty protect their images is to lock it down to purchased users only. You can (fairly easily) download the smaller, sample images, but the awesome big ones are locked down.

But that’s how you protect your content. Not with those plugins.

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