I've just started with graphic design, and I want to put some of the stuff I'm doing up on a Tumblr blog. I'm also taking some classes and doing a Certificate Program at MCAD soon, and want to form good habits as I'm starting out.

What considerations should I be taking in regards to copyright? Should I use a watermark, should I embed information in the image?

  • 4
    In general, don't put up anything that you don't want stolen. A watermark can be removed and so can any EXIF/meta data
    – JohnB
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 23:26
  • 1
    In my experience nearly everyone using tumblr will not even credit the real source when posting. It is going to be impossible for you to post your images and avoid being reposted without the real credit. Personally I don't like tumblr at all. Mainly because of that mindless reposting. For portfolio purposes I'd recommend behance.net it is way more professional and you can build an actually good network
    – leugim
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 0:29
  • As others have said - you won't have any control once it's on the web, for better and for worse. You can make sure the version you put online is modified in some way from the original (e.g. reduced resolution) so it's easy to prove you are the author, should it ever come to that. Side note: If you're ever curious where your images are showing up on the web, you can use reverse image search tools like images.google.com and tineye.com
    – Noah C
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


As a general rule, if you want to be 100% sure that your work will not be stolen don't put it on the Internet. As John and DA01 pointed out watermarks, stamps and so on can be cropped out, replaced or somehow excluded from the image file. If anybody really just wants to use your image without your agreement he will and it is likely that you will never find out; a lot of people use pictures (in presentations, to show around, whatever) found somewhere without referencing them which is strictly interpreted violating copyright rules. However there is the concept of Fair Use, allowing the use of resources for educational purposes or similar.

All these point asides there are lots of rewards of actually showing off your stuff on the Internet: for the very few people that may take advantage of your work (and who will actually try to commercialize it?) there will be dozens viewing it, some will leave a comment and there will even be this one person that gets inspired by your work, creates their own and gives you credit. If you want to head in this direction think about using a Creative Common or Copyleft license (rather than strict copyright) in which you'll give away complete protection of your work in order to let people share or adapt it.


The basics of copyright are fairly simple: If you create something, you own the right to decide who may copy it.

By the very act of you creating work, means you own the copyright.

Watermarking/Embedding/etc are all technology solutions to a legal concept. So they don't really have anything to do with copyright. They simply make it a bit more annoying for others to take your work if they so desire.

You have to decide how much you care about that.

As for legally protecting your work, one thing you can do is register your copyright with the government. This gives you a bit of added recourse to collect damages if you ever decide to pursue legal action. Beyond that, it's basically a legal game (read: you hire a lawyer).

P.S. MCAD = Minneapolis? If so, good school. I had a very brief stint teaching there. Have fun!

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