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Should I be concerned about someone removing a watermark I add to my image? Are there steps I can take to ensure that it's not possible?

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See also "Is watermarking worth it?" on photo.stackexchange: photo.stackexchange.com/q/856/1913 –  koiyu Jan 8 '11 at 11:02
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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Can someone remove the watermark from your image? Yes, of course.

Is it easy? No, not without the right tools

Just like with any other area of human endeavor, it's an arms race. Whatever protection can be devised can be circumvented. Whatever attack is known, can be defended against. It's a never-ending cycle.

A watermark on an image keeps honest people honest, just like a lock on a door. But a watermark (or any other security scheme) will never protect from someone with true larcenous intent.

A good question to ask is: How much value do I place on this image, and how much time and money do I want to spend to make it a little harder (not impossible) for someone to use without my consent?

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Generally speaking, a watermark is effective. It doesn't keep honest people honest. Someone who needs a watermark to deter them from copyright infringement isn't honest--they just know it's easier to find an image without a watermark. The real downside of a watermark is that it treats honest users as thieves also and just look plain ugly. If you keep the watermark small, it can be cropped out, but if it's big, it looks obnoxious. IMO, it's better to just accept that some 16-year-old might steal your image than to watermark an image you want to display to people. –  Calvin Huang Jan 8 '11 at 4:13
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Also, in my experience, the artists/photographers that use the most obnoxious watermarks tend to also be the type who really don't have to worry about anyone stealing their images. I don't know why that is, but it seems like the really successful photographers/designers never really worry about someone saving their images or passing it off as their own. –  Calvin Huang Jan 8 '11 at 4:18
    
@Calvin, you can have a subtle watermark, one that largely doesn't interfere with the legibility of the image but still 'protects' the copyright owners rights. Maybe it should say "keeps comparatively honest people honest"; It won't stop a determined person but it will keep the majority of people from nicking your work. –  Jaips Jan 17 '11 at 10:53
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One method to consider is that instead of adding a water mark, is to add more of a stamp im some place that it won't be easily removable. Such as, if you have a picture of a person, put a black (c) partly over their face. This will force someone to actually recreate part of the image vs just removing a watermark. But of course, this looks pretty ugly. It would depend on how you're using the watermarked image of course.

Probably the best method is to only make a small version of your image available. People can copy it, but it will just look plain ugly, which won't stop people, but it's better than nothing :)

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when browsing content I much prefer to see a large image with a subtle watermark than a clean image thats only viewable as a little thumbnail. –  Jaips Jan 17 '11 at 10:56
    
@Jaips I agree with you, but unfortunately people are always asking for the best way to protect their images and usually, the best ways make it difficult for everyone. –  Darryl Hein Jan 17 '11 at 19:16
    
i think 'best' is a term that implies a subjective trade-off, balancing factors as you move from good > better > best. Objectively, your probably right that a work is less at risk of being hijacked if its small enough (though how do you determine 'enough'?), though if thats the risk you want to minimise, surely there is even less risk if it never went on the web in the first place! Why put it on the web if not for the consumers benefit? Further why heavily diminish the consumers experience if thats who it is for? –  Jaips Jan 18 '11 at 2:35
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