// 24.May.2009

Claiming Copyright? No, it’s a Watermark!

Photo Credit: “Derelict Truck” by haglundc

I received an email yesterday that had me momentarily confused:

ya know its really bad form to claim copyright on photos that you haven't taken. I noticed this on a few photos on your site recently and then on http://blog.urbanmainframe.com/2009/05/mac-finder-icon-canvas/ you put your copyright on the picture even though it clearly says underneath that the photo is by purplelime. That sucks man. You really should rethink this coz it makes you look bad and I also think it illegal.

I realised that what I was actually being chastised for is the recent addition of the urbanmainframe.com digital watermark to some of the images on the site (rendered with the Scissors WordPress plug-in).

Let me make this very clear: I do not claim any kind of ownership of any asset used on this website, whether it be an image, a video clip or a sound byte, unless I have created that asset myself. Ever!

Quoting from my Credits page:

Where possible I have used my own photography or Creative Commons licensed images. I endeavour to always credit image sources when I can, either in my body text or via a hyperlink. In the event that you find a copyright image, or one that is incorrectly credited - then please advise me and I’ll either credit the image accordingly or remove it completely.

Let's take a closer look at that watermark:

It simply reads, "urbanmainframe.com." Not, "© Urban Mainframe." There's no ambiguity there.

Bandwidth Theft

The imagery I have used on this website is being hotlinked to from all over the place. What I mean by this is that many of the images I'm paying to host are being used on other websites by being called directly from my server, at the expense of my bandwidth and performance.

I could prevent this leeching completely with a simple mod_rewrite rule, but doing so would also affect sites that legitimately hotlink to my assets such as Google Images (unless I really ramped up the complexity of the rewriting algorithm - and I don't particularly want to do that).

What really pissed me off was that one website was linking to the desktop wallpapers I've made available by calling the full-size images and displaying them as thumbnails on their site. So every damn time their thumbnail pages were loaded I was serving a collection of large files (some are over a megabyte in size) at no cost to themselves - and, based on my access stats, their website sees some considerable traffic.

This is not inconsequential. Aside from the drain on my finite bandwidth, serving these files had a performance hit on my server, slowing it down for my own visitors. I emailed the webmaster at the rogue site to express my concern and he/she didn't even bother to reply! So, in their case, I've added a specific rewriting scheme that locks them out completely.

I don't mind any image being taken from this website and uploaded onto another server for reuse. I don't mind not being credited for such assets. I steal borrow stuff from all over the web, so it'd be pretty hypocritical of me to object to others doing the same. But I do object to paying for hosting and serving assets to your website. Fair enough?

But Why the Watermark?

I appreciate that, without an all-encompassing rewriting algorithm, I won't stop all hotlinking. It's the nature of the beast. Thus I decided to introduce watermarking so as to clearly indicate where a hotlinked image was being delivered from. This has only the most trivial deterrent value, but that's not why I'm doing it.

You see what I decided was that if can't prevent hotlinking, then I might as well at least try to get some benefit out of it. With my domain name watermarked on these images what I'm getting is free advertising! Everytime one of these images is viewed on another site - there's that little text, "urbanmainframe.com" and if it brings me just a handful of new subscribers then it brings me value - and that's a win!

Last Revision: May 24th, 2009 at 14:01

2 Comments for “Claiming Copyright? No, it’s a Watermark!”

  1. Watermark is a must have for digital images published in the Web. I’m totally agree with your point of view. Since I bought my favorite watermarking tool, ByteScout’s Watermarking, I began to watermark even my daughter’s photos Nice and protected.

  2. It’s not something I’d have wanted to do Clair. But I feel that my hand has been forced. At least this way I stand to get something back.

    There’s always somebody who has to spoil things isn’t there?

    Such is life.