This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Anyone who follows my writing on FineArtViews knows that I'm a strong supporter of copyright. That said, I'm also a supporter of common sense -- and not allowing copyright infringers to rule the way we display images of art online. Thus, I have issue with visible digital watermarking. In my opinion visible digital watermarks are a distraction -- they complicate the viewing experience. Point blank -- visible digital watermarking becomes an obstacle for art marketing online -- an obstacle spurred by insecurity and fear.
I realize that artists champion the use of visible digital watermarks because they feel it is the best way to protect images from would-be copyright infringers. In concept that may be true -- however, in reality visible digital watermarks do little to protect an image. I'd go as far as to suggest that visible digital watermarks are a paper tiger defense against copyright infringement. They appear imposing -- powerful -- but when you get down to the grit of it these protective safeguards are rather weak. Thus, they only serve, in my opinion, to distract viewers -- all viewers... including potential buyers.
Contrary to what appears to be popular belief within the online art community it is really not that difficult to remove a visible digital watermark. It is safe to say that professional copyright infringers -- those who actively seek images created by others in order to profit from them in some way -- know how to remove these paper tiger barriers... OR know someone who can. It is naïve to think that these watermarks can 'protect' you 100% of the time.
Visit the forums of most social art sites and you will find this problem explored -- and we have seen it in online scandals involving alleged copyright infringement... think Art4Love. Point blank -- a visible digital watermarking may 'protect' you from an average Joe -- but it will likely only serve as a minor annoyance in regard to tech savvy copyright infringers. As I've said in the past, if someone wants an art image that you've posted online bad enough they will find a way to obtain it and use it.
Currently there is an average of over 90,000 Google searches per month for 'remove watermark' -- and anywhere between 500 and 40,000+ searches for variants of that keyword search. In fact, with just a few Google searches of those variants one will discover websites dedicated to how to remove a visible digital watermark from an image. In addition to that, one can find digital watermark removing software for sale. Point blank -- there are people who want to remove visible digital watermarks... and with a little research they will find out how.
I understand why some artists choose to use visible digital watermarks -- and by all means, if you want to use them... use them. That said, do realize that they are not the fortress of security that you may have been lead to believe. In addition to that, realize that as far as marketing your art online is concerned -- visible digital watermarks clearly serve as a barrier between the digital image of your art and people -- including potential buyers -- who want to view it. In a sense, visible digital watermarks can limit your online art marketing efforts by becoming a distraction -- a distraction cultivated by insecurity and fear.
Many artists who champion visible digital watermarks also champion right-click disabled pages. True, with a right-click disabled website visitors don't have the 'Save Image As...' option. I don't have an issue with websites being right-click disabled per se. However, I do think that artists need to realize that just because the site is right click disabled does not mean that people can't obtain art images in other ways. In fact, the most common way to work around that is to simply press 'Prt Scr' -- Print Screen -- in order to copy the entire image of the page to an image program. From there the copyright infringer can simply crop the image to suit his or her needs. Within seconds he or she will have a duplicate image of the image that you uploaded to the right-click disabled art website. Nothing is 100% safe.
In closing, image protection online in the form of visible digital watermarking and right-click disabled websites is merely an illusion. Both of these paper tiger barriers can be broken down easily by would-be copyright infringers -- and anyone else for that matter. In the case of using visible digital watermarking... it can actually become an obstacle in regard to your online art marketing efforts by hampering the viewing experience. I realize that people will do what they want to do -- but I do hope that artists will give what I'm saying some consideration. That said, I still think that copyright registration with the US Copyright Office is the best protection an artist can have -- and as I've pointed out in the past, there are some affordable options.
Take care, Stay true