Securing online content and images

The Internet is a great visual tool for displaying artwork and photos. 
However, because the source code for Web pages is easily accessible, there is no
tried and true method to completely secure your copyright-protected work on the
Internet, other than not
posting them, any more than you can prohibit people from photocopying text in a book.  I've seen a variety of
ways that people have used to block stealing of photos and artwork that are
posted in Web pages.  One way is to disable the right-click, another is to
replace the good image with a bogus image on mouseover.  Both of these
ways, at best, slow a visitor down.  Let me explain why each of these do
not provide a good level of security for your online content and images.

Disabling right click

I've seen many requests from people for script that disables the right-click
on their Web pages.  Very often, someone has seen this on another Web site
and thought it was a good idea for securing their own artwork or photos. 
However, although a visitor doesn't have access to the right click for the page
displayed, they generally do have access to the menu bar, and on the View
menu, there is a Source option that allows people to open up the source
code in a text editor, such as Notepad.

You may think that the source code isn't going to help them much, but it
does.  For example, say the following HTML code is in one of your pages,
and this displays a photo that you took and are selling on your Web site.

<img src="awardwinningphoto.jpg">

Viewing the source gives the visitor the name of the image file, and the path
to the Web page gives the visitor the rest.  So, say for example the path
to the page where the above HTML occurs is  All someone needs to
do is open up the file in
the browser, and once they view it in the browser, they can right-click on it
and choose Save Picture As.

Replace Image on Mouseover

Another trick that Web designers and developers use to prohibit stealing of
artwork and photos is to replace one image with another image when the visitor
mouses over it.  This also would seem to be great for securing online
images.  After all, if they can't right-click on the image and choose Save
Picture As, they can't steal the image, right? However, as with the right-click,
the best this does is slow them down.  If someone really wants to steal an
image, they can easily view the source and get the filename and path to the
image, and do what I described above.

Then how can I secure my images?

Many Web designers and developer would answer that question by saying to not
post the images, but if you make your living out of selling your photos or
paintings, this may not be an option for you, so there are a few things that you
can do.

  1. Post lower quality graphics.  When someone tries to steal an image,
    they won't get a great quality picture, just a representation of what the
    image looks like.  If they attempt to enlarge it, the quality will be
    poor enough to discourage even the most determined. 
  2. Use a digital copyright.  A digital copyright acts as a
    digital signature, and as with digital signatures, you need to purchase a
    digital copyright and use a graphics application to add it to your images. 
    I'm no expert on this, so I won't even attempt to explain how it works or
    how to do it.  Take a look at resources on line from experts if you're
    interested in using a digital copyright for your online content and images. 
    If I understand this correctly, a digital copyright doesn't print but
    provides a legally binding way for you to recover loses if someone
    appropriates your intellectual property.
  3. Use a watermark on the image. A watermark is a usually text
    overlayed on top of an image, perhaps a copyright symbol, your name and the
    date.  It will certainly discourage people from taking images, but it
    can also disfigure an image to the point where it may not be
    distinguishable.  This option is my least favorite of the three. 
    Why?  If I want to print out a picture to see if it goes with my
    favorite bedspread or the couch in the den, the watermark disfigures the
    image to the point where printing it will not give me a good idea of whether
    the picture will work for me or not, making me far less likely to buy the
    finished product because I don't know if it's exactly right for what I want.

While the information age does bring new problems and opportunities for
people to cause harm, as you decide what is best for displaying your artwork,
photos, and other online content, keep in mind that most who come to your site
are just there to browse and perhaps shop and buy. Consider how you want people
to use your site and provide needed security without inhibiting how visitors
will use your site.

Comments (17)
  1. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    Isn’t the publishing of images on the net in the contradiction with any attempt to prevent people from copying? Just wondering…

  2. Westin says:

    Also, you can split the image up into small pieces laid out in a complex table.

    Ultimately, a screen print can always steal web images.

  3. Uwe Wollin says:

    Some years ago I saw software that encrypted the web document, disabling the possibility to view the source code, but then again as Westin wrote using print screen is a work around. I think there’s no other way than establishing standards for managing copyright on digitalized intellectual property.

  4. Lisa Wollin says:

    (Hey, Uwe! :D)

    Different countries may handle copyrights differently, so since the Internet is international, check with the copyright laws in your own country so that you can understand what your legal rights are when you publish content or pictures on the Internet. Likely those laws have addendums or additions to deal with digital copyrights.

  5. Nice article. I would like to add it to the web site that we are planning on this subject. I would of course give you fill credit as the author.

    Please let me know if this would be ok and what your tag line should be if it is.


    Chris Nielsen

  6. Jeremy Scarp says:

    I just created a web site using Frontpage 2003 and I know people are going to copy my quotes and so forth. I was told that there might be a script option in frontpage to disable the right mouse button. If so, does anyone know how I can do this? Also, what would I have to do to trademark a quote? Thanks very much.

  7. Maia Louro says:

    Nice article. I have a problem though with Word. If I include a digitalized signature in a word document, and password protect the document, no one will be able to edit but they will be able to copy the digitalized signature. How can I prevent this ?


    Maia Louro

  8. Mike says:

     You can not secure any photos period. Those who want the photo can get it, as mentioned ealier printscreen works,  but people always have the cache to fall back on.  A little more work, but if you want a photo 9 times out of 10 it is there complete for the taking.

  9. chris says:

    This place secures people from RIGHT CLICKING!

  10. Shruthi says:

    I made a website…. I want to disable right click in my site…does anybody know to do it??? Pls tell me… cause i have some jokes in my site which anybody and copy easily……quick! quick!

  11. Shruthi says:

    Found it! I browsed for an an answer and finally got it! I got a way to disable right click!

    If you are using frontpage, open the page where you want right-click disabled. When you open the page there is a bar in the below which reads NORMAL , HTML and PREVIEW.

    Click on the preview option and search for <body>. When you find it type:-

    <body onContextMenu="return false">

    Thus right click will be disabled! Thanks to me ! HIP HIP HOORAY!

  12. ahhagha says:


  13. says:

    Sorry for my ignorance, but I am somewhat new in the game.  I am quite concerned about people being able to right click and save images (photos and original graphics).  I just stumbled on this page by sheer luck while searching for information on how to secure images online.  Could you please tell me:

    How do you disable the right click on a image anyway?  What is the html code for that and where do you put it?  I use Dreamweaver most of the time now to create websites,  but do have a complete html reference book in case I need to refer to something.  Could you help me with this one?  I would like to test that piece of code which disables the right click on a image.

    Many thanks.


  14. Dave Russell says:

    The only logical solution to guard images is #1 suggested by Lisa.  It doesn’t take a very large file or a high quality image to display well on a web page.  You can experiment in photo editing software to find the right balance for your particular image.  Only a total idiot disables the right click function.  By doing so, you are taking away control of the computer from the user, particularly a seasoned user who uses it constantly for fast short cuts for, depending on the browser, printing, moving forward and backward, bookmarking and adding to favorites, saving, and creating a shortcut (something, by the way, that most web masters would love to have happen).  It even prevents the highly desirable opening of additional tabs, rather than new pages, in those browsers that function as such.  Many people will move on past your site to more friendly pastures when they experience such inconsiderate inconvenience.  As was mentioned, the image can be had for the asking in the end by either the printscreen button, or by opening the page in FrontPage and deleting the disabling script in the HTML – make the image a poor one if it is so valuable and nobody loses and nobody gains.  I’ve seen many pages with practially nothing on them that had disabled the right click because the page author had learned a trick.  Wow!  Look at how many of the big name, high profile web sites (i.e. eBay and Microsoft) and see how many disable right click.

  15. Theresa says:

    Lighten up, Dave.  I think preventing the user from right-clicking is fine for specific pages.

    Here’s another question.  How can you disable the right-click after they click on a thumbnail from the Photo Gallery?  It’s not really an html page.

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