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Markus Spring

Certainly copyright violations by using screen-resolution images for printing purposes happen. Albeit the quality is, even when taking the new ipad resolution into account, sufficient only for small prints or low quality reproduction. I don't think that photography lovers would be content with such prints, but somebody who is will probably be unwilling or unable to pay the price for a decent print.

On the other hand, small images on the web (and watermarked ones even more) most often make me stop looking at even interesting images as there is simply not enough to view and to take in.

This is definitely easy to be said from the perspective of a photographer with a day job and without tangible income from photography, so I am sure that there will be well founded opinions deviating a lot from mine. Still, in terms of viewing too small images, this is my almost daily experience.

Steve Gledhill

A very good question - and one for which the answer is sure to depend to a large degree on whether or not you sell images. Personally I want to see images on line or in PDFs and other published forms as large as my screens will allow and zoom in to see as much detail as possible. But, so far I personally haven't been prepared to publish anything larger than about 800px. I took delivery of my iPad 3 last Friday, acquired with the primary purpose of exploring its amazing screen display for my own work. This new device will test the conflict between my desire to see larger/higher pixel images and my reluctance so far to publish larger size images. If I believed everyone was honest (just like me - of course) and wouldn't abuse the copyright of my images then I wouldn't hesitate. So, at this point I haven't an answer to Brooks' very valid question, but I'm hoping to think more clearly about it now I have an iPad 3 to play with.

Frank Field

To a certain extent, we have already faced this question with the iPad2 and competitive devices. The iPad3 merely makes the question more obvious. To my way of thinking, anyone who is going to swipe an image is apt to be just as happy with printing a 1024 Px (long edge) image as he/she would be with a 2048 Px image. I, too, acquired the iPad3 primarily to exploe the whole world of "PDF publishing" as a way to distribute my work and expect to be including images at least as fine as 2048 Px and perhaps a bit more.

Having said that, my website is populated with images no larger than 600 Px and I chose that value on account of concern for copyright and for page load times. While they are passable, though not great on a normal monitor, they don't look too good on the iPad3. So, yes, I will probably bump them up in size but will likely not take them to the same resolution I would use in a PDF. I think that websites are still for quick browsing and we do still need to be somewhat concerned with page load times if we start placing too many 2048 Px images on a web page.

Godfrey DiGiorgi

Of course, I'm not a lawyer and I don't claim to be. If you need legal advice about a theft of copyrighted works, you should talk to a lawyer about your options. That said, this is my impression of the situation at hand:

People will nab photos for their personal use no matter what you do, no matter what size you post. Most are not intent on making a profit from your work, they just like it and think it would be nice to have for casual viewing. None of this casual use nets anyone any profits, for the most part. But if having people do that bothers you, you shouldn't post photos to the web or share them to other people's portable devices.

The question is whether people are using your work with the express intent of profiting from it without compensating you for the privilege, and is there any way to stop them.

- Honorable people and honorable companies always contact the authors of works and ask permission. Either because they know it is the right thing to do or because they fear being sued.

- Dishonorable people and companies steal for their gain. The issues here are discovering who is stealing from you and then going after them for compensation. The discovery issue is a large problem ... there are some tools available but unless it's a glaring use most will go undetected. However, given the chance that you find a theft and want to go after the perpetrator, the ONLY weapon that you have at your disposal is a copyright registration. No court will award you compensation without a registered copyright for the image in question.

People might nab a larger photo and print it for their own use. Well, I could complain about that but honestly, the fact that they want to do that from what is still a low-res image and they're happy with that generally means that they're not looking to be my customer anyway. My customers buy a print from me because I created it for them at the best possible quality that I can muster. They pay for that service, for that print, because they appreciate the craft as well as the photo. And (most of the time anyway) they appreciate the relationship it engenders between me and them.

So ... to me, posted size is irrelevant. Post your pictures with due diligence to registering copyright AND making sure that you use metadata tagging and/or watermarks and/or other cues (like borders, etc) so people know that it is your property, and perhaps how to find you in the event that they want a nice print of the photo. The honest companies who like your work will get to you and you might make some nice personal relationships in the process as well.

The dishonest ... you're always going to have to hunt for them and push on them to obtain compensation, so if you're worried about that, good luck. Be ready with your registered copyright for when you find them.

In my experience, the honest out-number the dishonest by a good margin. ;-)

Stuart Williams

i believe that the above respondents have covered the subject well: in short, go into putting your images out there with your eyes wide open - and cover yourself with registered copyright if you're really that worried.

that being said, it is surprising that software developers have not done two things: i) made it difficult to extract images from either the web or from pdfs (screen grab software is what, i guess, most people would use??) without inserting signatures (say, extracted from image metadata or other such copyright information or security signatures to the image), and ii) to develop software to search out 'stolen' images (each image is, after all, a unique array of digital data - searching for a portion of those digital data would provide a shortlist of images that might be stolen).

on second thoughts, maybe it isn't so surprising: how much money is there to be made from such software?

Henkki Zakkinen

I have my images online at a size of 1500x1000. And I have suspiciously many feed-hits and frequently visitors from "suspicious" addesses going through a lot of them. Sometimes I wondered whether somebody steals images. Well, if, nobody buys them anyway, so why should I care :) Of what use could they be?

I don't FEEL copyright registration is the right way to go. That just creates business for lawyers and companies making money with other peoples work and the rights they have anyway. And I am loosing interest in photography if there are too many legal complications. First I cannot take the photo at all, because it's somebody else's property or face on it, then I have to defend my rights against people who want to steal my work. Depressing. But I think it might be the only way. Provide a copy of the photo or a smaller size copy plus a signed cryptographical hash to some registrar so you can later proove it is yours. Do the same again after any alteration so you can also proove the editing is yours. Problem - even slight alterations change the hash, so anyone can easily come up with a tempered version, register it under their name. You see what I'm getting at. Should be easy and inexpensive and reliable.

Technically it is a bit difficult displaying an image on the net and at the same time making it difficult to display. That would need som cryptographical encoding of the image and some software that will only decode it when payed for. And still, once that is done, it can be copied again.

Do you register your photos? And if, where and how?

I hope Godfrey is right about the numbers and will just continue. As I said, my work is probably meaningless enough to not care.

Walter Hawn

I will always watermark my stuff on the 'net. A smallish, reserved sort of thing in the lower left corner. This has two purposes: First, and most importantly, it allows anyone to see to whom the photograph belongs, and that it is copyrighted. Even if my work is taken and re-posted without other attribution, a viewer can know from whence it came. Secondly, if the watermark is cropped off or obscured -- changed in any way -- the person doing the changing is in violation of the DCMA and criminal sanctions, in addition to a copyright violation, can apply.

We have a real problem with many sites, including Facebook, stripping the metadata from photo files. I always leave my name, phone, website, and copyright data fields in place but those seldom survive more than one or two copies on the 'net, so the watermark becomes the only identifying feature.

I like to post two or three sizes, small (under 500px) medium and large, (1200px). I've noticed that those who want to print a copy, to post in their cubicles, perhaps, are not put off by the relatively low resolution of even an 800px piece, so I'll let them have a bit better job, if they want to take the trouble. Occasionally, they'll begin to like the piece enough to buy a good print.

Terry McDonald

This was the gist of my email to Brooks back on 14 Jan. At that point the new iPad was still on the horizon but its wonderful display was already well known. This raised huge concerns then and even bigger concerns know that we've actually seen how great it is.

Images on the web have always been vulnerable to being lifted for commercial purposes, but with comparatively small sizes, this has never materialized as a major concern. But, if you want to look good on an new iPad, you need high rez images.

This brings to mind a recent greeting card my wife received. It carried a beautiful image that was of questionable quality (possibly lifted by nefarious means), and someone is making pots of money marketing such a card. No photo credit is given so it becomes especially suspicious. With images marketed through books for the iPad (and, consequently other readers), there will be a huge influx of even higher quality images available for publishing houses that wish to avail themselves of "free" graphics acquired illegally.

Even if illegal use was discovered, what photographer (or visual artist) would have the time or pockets deep enough to pursue legal action especially if the use of the image was by an overseas firm. This is my greatest concern, one which no doubt has been going on for quite some time, but will now become even easier to perpetrate. I hope I'm not being a Chicken Little, but I fear this is where we are headed unless someone comes up with a method of preventing images from being lifted from electronic books.

Terry McDonald

In discussing this with my wife, she reminded me of a time when we lived in England and I tried to scan some pound sterling notes to make some play money for our young daughter. Somewhere in the scanning pipeline (Epson scanner, Mac desktop) I was prevented from scanning the bank note. The image would not come up and I received a message telling me I was attempting something illegal. Somehow, the bank note was "recognised".

I might be thinking "pie in the sky" here, but wouldn't it be great if a few lines of code could be incorporated into every OS to prevent the illicit copying of photographs in a similar way to me being prevented from scanning the bank note. Those who wish to protect their photos could have a line of code inserted into the file that the OS would recognise - or some kind of invisible or near invisible watermark added to the graphic - that could be recognized by the OS.

No doubt someone would come up with a work around in this "arms race" of sorts, but at least it would be a deterrent. Food for thought for some clever inventor, I hope.

George Pop

Terry, the closest thing I know of to what you described is the Digimarc technology, which used to be incorporated by default in older versions of Photoshop (I don’t know about newer versions). It adds an identification number to your images in an invisible amount of noise that can survive scaling, printing and rescanning. I made a few tests a while back and I was impressed. You had to degrade the image considerably to destroy the invisible watermark.

George Pop

On a more general note, I don’t think that publishing small, obtrusively watermarked photos will serve a photographer’s interest in the long run. One reason I’m not interested in the LensWork digital products is exactly this: as screen resolutions increase, I will not enjoy looking at lower resolution images.

Don’t photographers make most of their money doing custom jobs or selling rights to publishers? In that case, I don’t expect much to change if they published larger images. Publishers, who presumably have exposure, will still want to secure rights.

Kim G

I posted about this after reading this post. I've subscribed to the print edition of LensWork in the past and love it! I'm considering signing up for the digital edition, but this will depend very much on how it looks on the 3rd generation (retina) iPad.

In writing the post, I found a great quote by Trey Ratcliff:
"Choosing to switch-off innovation is a fool’s errand"

Trey has been very successful using a more open model (Creative Commons). As others have said, crooks will steal. The rest will admire and hopefully purchase prints. It's the big fish you should be looking out for.

Blog post:

Retina Display

I think at a certain point, those are just numbers that the general public wouldn't care about or even notice unless directly pointed out to them. I would simply propose that the post-pc era began with the iPad 1 and that the iPad 3's higher resolution simply improved upon it.

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