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Copyright: How to Protect Your Online Content

The moment you’ve created an original photo, poem, video, book, game, blog or other content it is automatically protected by copyright. But that doesn’t mean others will automatically respect your rights.

To help others be more aware and respectful of your right to determine how your content is used, here are some steps to consider before sharing original content online:

  1. Consider the appropriateness of posting your content or images online. If you think you could ever regret it – don’t post it.
  2. Think about whether you want to restrict who can see your content, staying on the cautious side of under-sharing rather than oversharing.
  3. Consider sharing low-resolution images or illustrations so people are less likely to find value in copying the work.
  4. Add a copyright notice to your content. There are several ways to do this:

For photos:

  1. Use Image-editing tools to create a copyright watermark that is layered on top of your images
  2. Use a simple drawing program (like Windows Paint) to add text along the top or bottom of your image saying, “This image is copyright protected, please do not use without permission.”

The advantage of placing a layer of copyright over the image is that viewers can see the picture clearly but cannot remove the watermark by cropping.  Be sure to consider the resolution of the image you want displayed online as well. The lower the resolutions, the less interesting the pic is to steal, so consider the tradeoff between image quality and where it will be posted.

The advantage of a simple drawing program is that you don’t need any special software to add a watermark to your image. Additionally, pasting your image into one of these programs will usually reduce the image resolution without any further work on your part.

For text:

  1. Use tools in your writing program (like Word) to create a copyright watermark behind your text.
  2. Add a caption under your content to help remind readers and viewers that your work is copyright protected.  

Watermarks in documents are easy to create but having a diagonal watermark across your page may at times be more intrusive than you want. Using the footer functionality allows you to enter copyright information that will be added to every page of your document in a less intrusive manner when this is the better alternative. 

While these steps will not stop someone from taking your content, it will help remind everyone that the material is protected and that using it without your permission is theft.