Protect images - how?

If you are an image gallery website owner, or you just have a lot of high quality pictures on your site, you should have experienced the image theft problem.
And you should have asked yourself what technology to use to protect your images.

Currently there are 3 main technologies that offer website image protection:

- image watermarking
- java or activeX based image protection solutions
- HTML Guardian's Image Guardian

Let's see what each of them offers:

- Any image editing software available these days offers the option to put a watermark in your images. This is some sort of a text or other information that appears in each image. Some people will not use in their websites images that have watermarks stating the image belongs to another site and is copyrighted. But most probably will, after removing the watermark.
There are basically two types of webmasters - ones that will obey copyright notices and will never use any copyrighted content without permission, and ones that don't care at all about such things.
For the people that care about copyright notices, a simple text stating that your images can't be used in another websites is enough - no need to put watermarks at all. For the people that don't care, watermarks are just a minor technical problem. Usually the watarmark can be easily removed from the the image with the same program that inserted it - or with one of the many other programs available today. If it can't be easily removed, the image is crippled so much that the visitors of your site will wonder what it is about.
In conclusion, if you use 'light' image watermarking, your images can't be protected from people that want to reuse them without permission. If you use 'heavy' watermarking, this will just annoy most of the visitors of your site. For the last 5 years, the share of watermarking image protection is constantly going down with a rate of about 20% decraese per year. It is now considered unreliable, because it does offer actual image protection - either the protection can be easily removed, or the original images are crippled too much. We can say that image watermarking belongs to the past.

- Java or ActiveX based protection of images
This sort of protection has many advantages compared to simple watermarking - you can display on your site images that are protected, but not crippled in any way.
The disadvantages however far exceed the advantages - because most people will simply not be able to view any content protected using java or activeX technology.
Java (don't mess it with Javascript, these are completely different things) is now supported in about 45 - 50% of the browsers. For example, the initial release of WindowsXP had no integrated support for Java. It appears as an option in XP service pack 1, but more than 50% of the visitors of your site will most likely not be able to see any content that requires a Java virtual machine installed. On most of the corporate PC's, Java is disabled for security purposes.
Theoretically, any user of Internet Explorer browser should be able to view any website that uses activeX technology - activeX support is a native part of IE. So at first sight using activeX technology to protect images seems OK - now IE is used by more than 90 % of the people.
But you should be aware of some facts - nowadays about 80% of web browsing is done from corporate, government, universirty, school etc. computers. Such computers are usually managed by system administrators or IT departments that define what can and what can not be used. In 95% of corporate, government, universirty and school computers, the users can't view whatever activeX content because it is considered a serious security risk. The same applies for Java in most cases.
In conclusion, Java or activeX based protection of images is absolutely unreliable - most people will just not be able to see the protected images at all.

- HTML Guardian's Image Guardian only requires a javascript enabled browser for viewing the protected images and any other protected content. Javascript (unlike Java) is a native part of all browsers released in the last 10 - 12 years. So any website having images protected by ProtWare's Image Guardian can be viewed in any browser on any platform.
That's why HTML Guardian's Image Guardian is nowadays adopted as a de facto standard in website image protection, with a constantly increasing market share.
If you protect images on your website with ImageGuardian, you will have the best possible security / compatibility (usability) ratio.

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