How do I prevent visitors from downloading and copying photos from web site or blog?

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I am a photographer and have my work on the web. How can I prevent people from downloading and copying photos and pictures from my web site? I think I read somewhere that a program or a script will do this job but I can’t find the information now. Thanks in advance.
Mark Dolkins

This unassuming question always gives me a horrendous time. I’ve had difficulty in getting people to “believe” in the answer – not just the newly initiated but also those who understand how the internet works at a basic level. It sometimes takes more than 10 minutes to get the message across.

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Anyway, the answer to the question whether you can prevent download and copying of photos (or any other files) off your web site is a simple – NO!. There is just no way to stop visitors from downloading or copying your content. The web, by its very nature, is “public” – it’s available to everyone – let me detail this further. [By the way, don’t confuse ‘public’ with ‘public domain’.]

Prevent download? Heck, the content has already been downloaded

I shall start by explaining how a page from your web site or blog is displayed by the web browser on the visitors’ computer. The browser program connects to the web server on which your site reside. All the content of the web page is downloaded to the visitors’ computer and the browser then formats and displays it. So to prevent download means stopping visitors from viewing your web site or blog. For more information, refer how does a web browser work and what is a web server. FYI, the “content of the web page or blog post” includes the actual web file and any multimedia files ’embedded’ in it – photos, video, music, animation etc.

Typically, images and photos can be copied with a simple right-click (on Windows computers) and selecting “Save image as” or equivalent option from the menu – for details and screenshots, refer how to download images from a web page.

Video and music files may pose a little challenge but then they too can be saved if you know how to! Remember, if a web page and its content is available to the public, you cannot prevent download of content to the client machine (this is a fancy name for the visitors’ computer).

All web browsers keep the downloaded content from the various web pages they visit in what is called the cache. Determined users can either scan this cache location manually or use a program to dig out the file they want.

Prevent people from copying photos from your web site

I hope you have understood that there is no way to prevent people from copying photos or any other content from your web site or blog. However (finally some good news), you can make it difficult for visitors. Placing a watermark is the simplest way, though not foolproof. There are also free online services which let you add a watermark to the image or a photo. For other options, I suggest reading how to stop people from copying images from web site.

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