Protecting your property: The art of copyrighting your art

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We know scoundrels exist. We lock our cars, we install security systems and we turn on lights to prevent them from taking our possessions.
We also need to protect our creative property — our photographs, art and articles — a feat that can be challenging, but especially important in the Internet age.
Posting photos and artwork on the Internet is like baiting the constantly prowling predators of the cyber world. Cyber thieves pounce upon unprotected works and use them as their own. This is especially true of photographs. Unscrupulous designers from all corners of the Earth are constantly searching for and stealing unique photos for their own commercial purposes.
Although it is commonly understood that the artist or photographer is the holder of that copyright, and that the work cannot be legally used by another without permission, it is important that viewers of the work be reminded of that fact. Your photographs need a “No Trespassing” sign or a lock.
Embedding a copyright notice into a photo destined for display on the Internet is an absolute necessity and it’s easy to do.
First: Most modern Digital Single Lens Reflex, or DSLR, cameras offer an option to embed a copyright notice into the image’s metadata file at the moment the shutter is released and the image captured. This notice must be programmed into the camera itself by the photographer. That option is found in the camera’s “Menu” and the procedure is fairly simple. Consult your camera’s manual for instructions.
Second: An additional © Copyright notice can, and should, be embedded into the image files upon downloading them into Photoshop or Lightroom. Photoshop users can select the “advanced” radio button on the Bridge download box and select the box noted as “Copyright,” click the “Copyright” option and then input a custom copyright notice such as: © Copyright, John J. Smith, 2014, All Right Reserved. The copyright notice should also be included in all metadata keyword templates that you may create and attach to images.
Third: Images destined for display online must be downsized to a computer-friendly viewing dimension of 72 dots per inch, or dpi, which is an industry standard. Larger files may be posted and viewed online, but the small 72 dpi, files provide a minor bit of protection from copying to printable size files. (Be aware that software programs exist to interpolate pixels and gradually upsize images to high quality so sizing is not enough protection). It is important to avoid
auto-downsizing options such as Photoshop’s “Save for Web and Devices” tool. It is easy to use, but it strips the metadata from the image. Bye-bye copyright notice. Rather, manually resize all images destined for online display. A standard online image size is 72 dpi and no more than 600 pixels on the long side.
Fourth: Place an obvious © Copyright notice, with your name and website, directly upon to the image. This obvious copyright notice cannot be easily removed, but it can be cloned out by a skilled Photoshop user. For that reason, it should be strategically placed to cover some portion of the image’s main subject to complicate cloning and discourage misuse of the image. It also direct viewers to your website.

Instructions for creating a custom, one-click, © Copyright brush in Photoshop

  • On the upper task bar, click> New
  • In the window/box that opens, set the dimensions to “inches.”
  • Input a width of 6 inches and height of 2 inches. Size is optional.
  • Set the resolution to 300 DPI.
  • In the “Background Contents” window, select “Transparent” from the drop-down menu.
  • Click> OK to open the new document window. It will appear in 6×2 inch dimensions.
  • Select the “T” Text tool.
  • Select the center option on the upper task bar. Center the cursor and the type your notice.
  • To apply the © symbol; hold down the Alt key and type 0169 in the number pad.
  • Type your name, studio name, URL, etc. after the © symbol.
  • Click out of the Type tool.
  • Click “Edit” on the upper task bar and in the drop-down menu, click “Define brush presets.”
  • In the window that opens you may name the brush and click “OK.”
  • Your new Copyright brush is instantly added to the brush panel.
  • To apply the custom brush, simply click on it in the brush panel and then hover the cursor over an open image to see the brush in preview. At that time, you may select the font style, size, color, opacity and placement of the brush. TIP: The brush is easily resized via the keyboard bracket keys.
    The brush color can be quickly switched from the standard black or white by tapping the X key or converted to any color via the color picker option. Any color within the image may be selected by selecting the eyedropper tool and then clicking the eyedropper onto the desired brush color such as the red of a cock pheasant’s eye patch.
  • Click the left mouse button to apply the copyright brush to your image.
    If you prefer to watch a tutorial, go to YouTube and search “creating a copyright brush” or “creating a watermark in Photoshop.” ♦

— Tim Flanigan is an award winning, Pennsylvania-based freelance outdoor writer/photographer and a proud member of OWAA since 1996. He and his wife operate Nature Exposure, a freelance writing/photography business. You can view his work at

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