Protect Your Design Work on the Internet

Web designers are faced with a “catch 22” situation. To attract new clients, they must showcase their work and put it on display on the internet. Yet, by doing so, they are more vulnerable to thievery. The possibility of people taking their work and re-publishing it or using it for their own gain without giving the author attribution is a grim reality.

It’s all too easy for internet users to click and save a graphic and insert it into a blog or website without the creator even knowing it is happening.

Many people who re-post graphics are not aware of the illegal nature of their actions. People think that the internet and its images are available to anyone who wants them.

In other cases, people will “steal” designs that don’t have any copyright information stated. They do not realize that an image is copyrighted material once it is published, regardless of the lack of statements surrounding it.

Do you have a team of legal experts ready to prosecute people who steal your work? Unless you have the budget of Amazon.com, this is not a likely scenario. Most freelance web designers do not have thousands of dollars to spend on legal assistance should anyone steal their content, so they must devise ways to protect their work and prevent it from misuse.

Copyright disclaimers – Consider posting a notice of copyright or “all rights reserved” on your website where visitors can see it along with a statement describing the illegal nature of stealing your work. It may not stop every perpetrator, but it will notify those who are unaware of copyright laws about stealing content and also scare others into submission. It’s similar to posting an alarm sign in front of your house to deter thieves from entering. Even if you don’t have an actual alarm system, the thought of possibly getting caught is enough to deter them.

Watermarks – Watermarks are a good deterrent and can prevent people from stealing your images. Designers typically do not like changing the look of their designs with watermarks, but many feel they are the best deterrent to theft. Some resort to a small signature and website logo on the bottom of the design as well.

Take Charge With Licensing

When you post your creative work online, copyright laws help to prevent the copying of your work and control its distribution.

If an individual steals your design and uses it for an ad, it is a direct violation of copyright law. The action is also in question if the individual incorporates the copyrighted work to create a derivative without your permission.

When you use licenses to protect your work, you still own all the copyrights, but you allow people to use your work as you deem acceptable.

The Licenses

1. Attribution

Attribution is the most lenient of the licenses. It allows others to use and distribute your work and create derivatives as long as they give you credit.

2. Attribution NonCommercial

Under this license, people can use and tweak your work and copy it only for non-commercial use provided they give you credit.

3. Attribution-ShareAlike

This license is similar to the open source software license in that any new work created from your original work must be licensed in the same manner. People who use or revamp your work for commercial purposes must credit you and all derivatives will carry the identical license. Wikipedia uses this license.

4. Attribution-NoDerivs

When you opt for the “no derivatives” license, you permit people to redistribute your work as long as they do not change it or modify it in any way. The graphics and images must remain unchanged and the publisher must give you credit.

5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

This license is similar to the Attribution-ShareAlike; however; it prohibits the use of your work for commercial purposes.

6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

For those web designers seeking the most restrictive license, this one is ideal for you. It prohibits the use of your work for commercial purposes. People can download and share your images if they credit you, but they cannot alter them.