The part that is difficult to grasp for some people may be that even though you have put your photos in Online Albums with a Public access setting (which is what I always do), if somebody does a "right-click-save" on my pictures, this does not mean they have "stolen" the picture from me. The picture, by law, still belongs to me exclusively, even though I've done nothing whatsoever to protect my rights. I can still make a print of the picture, sign my name to it and sell it at a local Gallery. Also, if somebody specifically wants to pay me a fee to use one of my photos in a brochure, I still have that right of ownership, and on one occasion I have actually done so, even though in that case I agreed the fee would be $0.00. It went down this way - Natural Resources Canada requested from me, by email, non exclusive rights to use this picture in their publications. I could have said "yes, for a fee" and have been within my rights, but for a very good reason, I did not - I simply replied to the email granting them the rights to use it for free.
What possible "very good reason" would I have for giving something away to the Government for free? For starters, exactly because it was the Government. Although unlikely, they could have easily turned me over to Revenue Canada for investigation if I am in the business of selling photographs, but in fact I'm not. And herein lies the point of "protecting your pictures online" - you're either in the business, or you're not. I am not, therefore I have no vested interest in protecting myself, and I know that, by law, when I upload to Flickr with "All Rights Reserved", I do retain legal ownership of all my photos.
But don't I want to make extra money? Sure, I'm retired, and I could always use some extra money. The issue for me, however, is well explained here. Photography for me is pure pleasure - a fascination that also provides me a little fresh air and exercise. Turning into a business would completely ruin it for me. Besides, making extra money in any manner right now would really upset my very good Income Tax position.
I tend to look at Photography purely as a Visual Art, and the only ambition I have is to make large prints of some of my work and display them in a small local Art Gallery, either as "one-off's" or limited editions, and place smallish price tags on them. Beyond that, the reason I so willingly put my pictures "out there" is to generate some recognition, and solicit feedback - if I were in business this would be akin to free advertising and marketing. For me right now, I'm more interested in "Copyleft" than Copyright.
I will leave you with some pointers, if you are considering getting into "the business", and for that reason want to protect your work online:
- Keep in mind that no matter what, unless you have signed your pictures over to another party in exchange for commission or salary, by virtue of "All Rights Reserved", the pictures, and the right to license them, are yours.
- If you really don't want anybody to take copies of your work ("right-click-save"), then don't put them online. The downside of this of course is that the world will never see them. (Ask yourself - what did Photographers do before the internet happened?)
- Put them online but make them "useless for consumption"
- Make very small copies and export them, not your full sized originals, or
- Put a Copyright watermark somewhere on the image