Websites are designed to be accessible to the public. Just the nature of the internet makes it impossible to prevent people from downloading images. In fact, when someone views an image on your website, their browser has already downloaded the image. An image must be downloaded to be viewed.
Someone might download and print images, but it's usually an actual potential collector trying to decide on a purchase.
The good news is that images intended for online use will generally not have enough resolution to create high-quality reproductions. This is why we recommend a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch). See this FAQ: Image Upload Size
A high-quality reproduction requires at least 300 dpi.
If you upload your images at 72 dpi, any image printed from your site will not have enough quality to make a decent printout. The higher the dpi, the better the quality of a printout from your site.
Some artists choose to upload images with a higher dpi so that they or their site visitors can actually print the art. Most artists prefer to keep images at 72 dpi.
The other good news is that in 1978 copyright laws changed greatly in favor of the artist. If you are concerned with legal ramifications you may wish to consult the U.S. Copyright Office.
There are measures such as right-click alarms that deter some users, but they are easily bypassed. Sites that promise to protect images are giving false hope. In fact, you usually don't want to block anyone from downloading your images, because, as Seth Godin says, ideas that spread, win. You want your images to spread in a way that reflects positively on you and sends people back to your site. What you want is proper attribution on your images.
Here's a company that will crawl your site and take your images and even show ads next to them! Yet nearly every artist wants this company to take their images: Google.
Google grabs your images for inclusion in Google Image Search. You probably don't want to try and stop that source of attribution and traffic.
So how can we protect our images?
One option is to watermark the image. The term watermark is used loosely. You might simply add some subtle text over each image that reads Copyright to warn people that your work is protected. Many artists add their name and/or their domain. Then when someone sees your artwork on Facebook, Email, Pinterest etc, your name and website address are on the image in a tasteful way.
Granted, it may have the drawback of detracting from the actual work, and it won't do anything to stop true thieves. It is possible for another artist to copy your work by repainting it; having a watermark won't stop them. Still, many artists feel that watermarks are useful.
Follow the steps in the FAQ to automatically add classy watermarks and attribution lines to your images on your FASO website.
Bottom line: If you let the fear grip you, of having images stolen, you are defeating the purpose of having a website. Millions of artists and photographers have their prized images displayed online, gaining exposure and selling work because they were willing to take a chance with the internet.
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