Copyright for Photos and Artwork Online

by sheilamarie

Here's how to protect your work from copyright infringement so you can add your own photos and artwork to your online articles to make your work shine.

How can you protect your artwork and photos when you use them for illustrating your online articles or making products on Zazzle?

With just a few extra minutes of your time, you can register your images and keep a proof of your ownership in order to protect your rights in these days of internet visibility.

Learn how to protect yourself and where to register your work so that your copyright can be documented if an issue should ever come up.

Copyright Your Photos and Artwork

Keeping Your Artwork Safe

Copyright issues can sometimes make you think twice about using your own original photos and artwork while writing online on the many different venues. After all, there are thousands, maybe millions, of people like yourself, trying to supplement their incomes by writing online in this changing economy.

But everyone knows that originality is key to doing a good job with an online venture. Yes, there are copyright-free photo sites, such as,, and others, but if you are handy with a camera, who better than you can capture the exact image that goes with your own words? This is especially true if you are writing about a specific location or a how-to craft article or if you are adding to the massive online cookbook.

Because the online world is all about sharing, maybe you are not concerned that anyone could steal your images for their own use. But maybe, on the contrary, you want to protect your images from being used indiscriminately by strangers. After all, you've worked hard to produce those images and it doesn't seem fair that your talents should become fair play for those who want to use them while someone whose talents fall more in the area of commerce or plumbing get paid handsomely for their efforts. No one would assume that an electrician should do his work for free, but somehow those whose gifts are in the field of the arts are often expected to feel okay about giving it all away and throwing groceries to the wind. 

(An aside: I don't know many bankers who dumpster dive, but I have known many fine "undiscovered" artists who have done just that to survive.)

Now I'm not trying to be depressing: I'm just stating the facts. You may be an excellent artist or a talented writer or produce stunning photos. The online world can be a revolutionary venue to showcase your work, work that would in an earlier day be stuffed into a desk drawer. But you also need to be aware of how to protect that work so that someone whose marketing skills are paramount cannot come along and take your image and run with it, making oodles of cash in the process while you sit aside and eat beans.

True, I'm being a little facetious here, but you know what I mean. 

Do You Think Writers and Artists Ought to be Compensated for Their Work?

Or Should Art Be Free
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Are you kidding? Artists work hard, too, and need to pay the rent.
samsons1 on 02/08/2012

of course, if it's worthy...

CountryMouseStudio on 02/08/2012

I agree with the comment below, we need to pay the rent too :O)

dustytoes on 02/08/2012

Yes! It took time and effort to create our unique photos, art, etc. I get very annoyed when I see someone who has "borrowed" an image of mine and used it to enhance their blog - with no tribute to me. A link to my work, site, or blog is usually enough to make me happy. How hard is that?

Ralpapajan on 02/08/2012

Exactly! Artists and Writers ~ there is no difference and Photographers are also Artists. Taking someone's art off the Internet is simple stealing.

Sam on 02/08/2012

As somebody that her licenses images via stockphotography sites, I certainly want to be paid for my hard work. All these photos and illustrations took time and money to create.

My Free Copyright

Site for Protecting Your Copyright

I first learned about My Free Copyright while making my Zazzle store. I wanted to use my photographs, but I didn't want to give up my rights to them. I was also concerned that photographs of family members not appear somewhere illustrating someone's article and perhaps even being associated with ideas I do not share. 

Online friends recommended using the My Free Copyright site. Basically how it works is you upload your creation and it is given a digital fingerprint, which is emailed to you. Thus a record of your photo or drawing is created which can be held as proof in case an issue comes up in which someone whether intentionally or unwittingly uses your work without your consent. No one can claim the work for his or her own because you have proof that it belongs to you.

The site is simple and easy to use. After registering on the site for free, you are ready to go. Click "Protect My Creation." Choose what type of copyright you want to protect -- File (illustration, photograph, poem, ebook, music, lyrics, etc.), Blog/Podcast, or Webpage. When you choose "File," you can give your image a title. Be sure to give it a descriptive title you will remember so that you have an easy time identifying it later. You can then enter a description of the image. Again, be as detailed as you can for your own benefit and ease of use. There's a drop-down category list you must choose from that lets you distinguish whether the file you're uploading is a photograph, art, illustration, music, novel, etc.

You then upload your file to the site and your digital fingerprint is automatically created. My Free Copyright sends you an email confirming your new digital fingerprint. You can also log into the site and look up your information under your account. 

In addition to protecting individual pieces, My Free Copyright provides you with the script for putting this little symbol on your page or website: Registered & Protected 


When you use the free service at My Free Copyright, you have the peace of mind of knowing you have that extra bit of security that you can keep ownership of your work even after using it online.

Have You Ever Used My Free Copyright?

Do You Protect Your Images and Writing Online?

Using Photos and Artwork on Zazzle

You Still Need to Protect Them

If you use your photos and artwork to make Zazzle products, other people can use your images so that when readers click on them, they link to the product in your store. This is a great way to bring more traffic to your store and perhaps even to make a sale or two. However, I would still recommend registering a digital fingerprint for each image you use in your Zazzle store. Unfortunately, not everyone will remember to link properly, and anyway, it never hurts to be safe. You may find it useful to register your other products that use original clever sayings and such, too. 

Sharing online can still be something you do generously and freely. However, a little prudence around the uses of your hard work will ensure that your work is respected. There are no real guarantees that someone may still steal your images, but at least you can have recourse to your ownership by taking some of these preventative steps.

If You Want to Watermark Your Photo

Read This Article for Some Great Advice
If I can do it so can you! I couldn't understand all the directions and made up my own. It's easy!

Do You Have Something You'd Like to Share?

Why Not Write Your Own Wizzley Article About It?


Updated: 10/04/2012, sheilamarie
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What Has Your Experience with Copyright Been?

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sheilamarie on 10/03/2012

You're welcome! It's a helpful article.

Sheri_Oz on 10/03/2012

I just noticed you linked here to my watermark article. Thanks. That was a pleasant surprise.

sheilamarie on 02/08/2012

@Ralpapajan I don't think there's any foolproof way of protecting one's work, especially as it's almost impossible to monitor the whole web to make sure your work has not been used by someone else. I tend to avoid posting photos on Facebook, unless I have a photo I really don't care about. I wonder about some of those compromising photos splattered all over out there.
@Sheri I took that photo in British Columbia. Reflections are amazing, aren't they?
The thing about the registration process is that they send you an email with the digital fingerprint. As long as you keep it safe on your computer and maybe with some backup, even if they shut down their service, you have dated proof of your ownership.
@Dustytoes I know what you mean about the chore of having to deal with a lot of images. Maybe it would be worth choosing some of your best ones and then just making registering your new ones part of the process you go through to upload them to Zazzle. I'm not the best one for knowing all the ins and outs of legal processes if you find out someone has stolen your work, but if you ask them to take down your photo, some people will do so, saying something like, "I didn't realize . . ." And if they refuse to take it down, you have a better case if you've tried to cover yourself ahead of time.
@Thanks, CountryMouseStudio. I'm glad it was helpful.

CountryMouseStudio on 02/08/2012

Thanks for such an informative and interesting article, I'm going to forward it on to other people who. wanted to know this

dustytoes on 02/08/2012

I have so many images it's not possible to protect them all. Zazzle adds a watermark to many of our images, which is nice. I just recently looked up a certain type of seashell and my image came up on Google - with a blog link that was not me! I've also had conscientious people ask permission to use an image of mine which I allow with a link back. Unfortunately lots of online people think photos are out there free to grab.

Sheri_Oz on 02/08/2012

This is excellent advice and I'm going there right now to check it out. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We just have to hope that the photo registration site doesn't close at some point.
I love your photos - I have one just like the water reflection one; mine is from Norway, where is yours from?

Ralpapajan on 02/08/2012

Thank you for this. I have always wondered if there was a method of hiding a copyright on a photograph. The Watermark is OK ~ up to a point ~ but is quite easily moved if one uses a Removal Program - I was sent one free and it worked. It worried me as, even though I don't use it, in fact I removed it once I had proved it, others could.

The Facebook terms also worry me. I only post 'throwaway' or advertising photos but some people post their best shots and that means they transfer the Copyright to Facebook to use. I think that, even with the electronic embedded copyright in place, the Facebook Terms might override it.

Anyway as I am starting Stock Photography this seems to be an idea. Will the agencies accept a digital copyright, I wonder, or do they put in their own? I must find out.

So I joined and really appreciate your sharing of this knowledge.

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