Content stealing is one of the biggest problems for website owners. Many bloggers simply copy and use your images on their website without permission or credit. Though this is similar to stealing physical stuff, there will be no real punishment for this in digital world. Google will not penalize the blogs stealing images from others and in fact those spam blogs can outrank your original content sometime. In this article, we will explore more about image theft and how to prevent image theft in WordPress sites.
Note that copyright laws may change from country to country. Check out the official website in USA to understand what is copyright and the applicable restrictions in usage.
How to Find Image Theft?
There are two kinds of stealing image from your site:
- People copy and paste your images
- People directly link your images with image URL
It is relatively easy to find the second cases by checking your backlink profile. However, unlike text content, it is really hard to find when someone copy paste your images. You have to Google search and analyze the websites before finding your images are stolen. Below is one of the examples of a website stole our image and used without permission. Though the source is mentioned as our website, it does not make sense to steal without written permission.
Why People Steal Images?
There are two reasons why people steal images from your website. One is for money and other is to spoil your reputation.
- Blogging is one of the major sources for image theft. Nowadays, anyone can start a blog using content management systems like WordPress. However, preparing quality images need additional tools and time. Otherwise, you need to spend money and purchase stock images from third-party websites. Bloggers starting with few dollars of cheap hosting plans will not invest much for image resources. The simple option for them is to Google search and steal the images without permission.
- Besides individual bloggers, there are freelancers working as content writers for other’s blogs. You can hire them from websites like Upwork or freelancer for a cheap price and use them as ghost writers for your blog. We have tested many freelancers from these platforms and hardly few of them understand the meaning of image copyright infringement. Many freelancers will simply copy and sell images as their own and assume stealing images is not a big crime.
- Other problem is for the professional photographers having photography and services websites. Your competitor may intentionally steal images and post on public forums and irrelevant websites to spoil your reputation.
When You Should Act for Image Theft?
In general, you have full rights to act against image theft regardless of the impact and outcome. However, in most cases it is difficult to track and act for each image stolen from your website. Statistics says that out of 3 billion images shared every day, whooping 85% are stolen images. However, you need to act when there is a direct impact for you:
- You are a photographer or digital agency losing revenue due to image theft.
- Stolen image is showing on top of Google search thus affecting your site’s traffic.
- Someone stole and published your product images affecting your online sales.
How to Prevent Image Theft in WordPress?
Though you can’t completely prevent image theft, there are some easy and tricky options available for you. The firsts options explained below are for after you find the theft while remaining are to prevent the stealing beforehand.
1. Contact Website Owner
The first option for you is to contact the website owner and ask him to remove your images. This works in most cases if the site owner is reachable. However, it will not work if the owner is a full-time spammer or intentionally stealing your images.
- You can go to the contact form on the spam website and send the owner a polite request to remove the copyrighted images.
- If there are no response after a week, you can send another reminder.
- Next find the hosting company of the website and send them a request to take down the website as it violates copyrights. Reputed hosting companies will check and respond your query while many hosting companies may ignore the request.
If none of the above works for you then move on to the next step.
2. File DMCA Complaint
Many people think, DMCA complaint is applicable only for text content. However, you can also file DMCA complaint to Google for image theft. Check out our article on how to file DMCA complaint with Google to take down the stolen content from search results. Unfortunately, the thief can republish the image with different posts, and you have to file another complaint which is hassle.
You can also get in touch with third-party services for filing DMCA notice for a nominal payment.
3. Add Copyright Information
The above two options are useful after finding the image theft. However, prevention is better than cure and you need preventive actions when images are important for you. All commercial WordPress themes allow you to add copyright notice in the footer. You can simply insert copyright symbol with small text like “All rights reserved” or “Content is copyrighted” in the footer. This is a soft reminder for those looking for stealing images from your site.
4. Disable Right Click
The first option for preventing image theft is to use a WordPress plugin to disable right click on your site. This will help to avoid stealing images by right clicking and saving to local computer.
- Login to your WordPress site’s admin panel.
- Go to “Plugins > Add New” and search for “image theft”. You will find plenty of plugins to disable right click and other image protection options.
- Install and activate “No Right Click Images Plugin”.
- The plugin will disable right clicking on any images in your site. Remember, you have to log out of your admin panel when testing on the same browser. Alternatively, you can use different browser to test the right click is disabled only on images.
- Go to “Settings > No Right Click Images” section and set additional options if required.
Simply deactivate the plugin on your site, whenever you want to enable right click.
5. Add Watermark on Images
Next option is to add a transparent layer or watermark on all your images. This will stop the thieves reusing your images on their blog. You can do this with tools like Snagit or Photoshop when preparing the images. Alternatively, you can use a plugin for adding watermark when you upload images in WordPress admin panel.
- Install and activate Easy Watermark plugin on your site.
- Go to “Tools > Easy Watermark” to create a watermark background for your images.
- Click on “Add New Watermark” button and add text or image watermark.
- The plugin offers large set of options for customizing your text or image watermark. There are also plenty of placeholders to use on the watermark like blog name, URL, author name, current date, current time, etc.
- You can preview the watermark adjust the height, size and opacity.
- In addition, you can choose the image file extensions and post type to apply automatic watermark when uploading images to your media library.
- Save you changes and the plugin will add the water to any image you upload to media library in future. If you want to apply the watermark to all your existing images, then go to “Tools” section and apply bulk watermark to all existing images.
- The plugin will backup all your images and apply the selected watermark. Before applying watermark, you can go to “Settings” tab and set the JPEG image quality. You can anytime restore the original images without watermark from the backup
- Depending upon your settings, the watermark will look something like below. We recommend avoid the watermark at the corners so that image thieves can’t crop the image corners and continue stealing the images. You can insert the watermark at the center with proper opacity so that images are protected as well as readable for your users.
6. Use Hotlink Protection
Hotlinking is the process of directly linking your image URL on another website. WordPress offers multiple ways to insert images on the Gutenberg editor. Image thieves can simply copy your image URL from Google search and insert on their blog using image block.
The problem with this approach is that for every page load, images will be served from your webserver. You have to pay the bandwidth and money for someone stealing your images, which is awkward situation. Good part is that you can prevent image hotlinking from cPanel hosting or with .htaccess directive as explained in this article. Alternatively, you can use security or hotlink prevention plugins to stop image hotlinking.
If you want to show an aggressive response to the thieve, you can replace the original image URL with a nasty image. Below is an example showing the image was stolen from another site. Now, any user reading the content will know the owner steal the image (probably content as well) and will never purchase or trust the website.
Note that some CDN services for WordPress offer this feature to replace the original image when hotlinked. If you are using CDN for your site, then check with your service provider whether they can help you in implementing this.
7. Try Third-Party Services
The final option for you is to rely on third-party monitoring services. You can go for this when you completely rely on your images for surviving online. You can try the services like Pixsy, Copytrack and SmartFrame for monitoring the usage of your images online. They can help you to take down infringed images and send legal notices to the thieves. All these companies offer demo or free account with limited features. You can first try out whether it helps you before purchasing a premium plan.
An image is equivalent to thousand words. Hence, stealing an image is equal to stealing one thousand words from another website. People spend lot of time and effort for preparing images and stealing other’s work is a crime. We strongly recommend using your own tools for creating images and taking instructional screenshots for your articles. Sometimes, you might have unknowingly published a stolen image purchased from a freelancer or content marketing agency. If you receive request for removing such images, respond politely and delete them from your site.
If you are affected by image theft, follow the above listed methods and try to take down the stolen images. You may not succeed all the time, but do not fed up with copycats and continue with your creative work. Copycats will disappear over the time and your originality will survive and reward you in long term.