Copyright issues are very important for all photographer's these days, and it seems there are more misconceptions than fact when you look for information or ask others about these complicated laws. I myself have read books, magazine articles, and spoken to many on this subject in order to protect myself from blatant violations.
Notice I used the word “blatant”, which to me means a case where someone else is obviously benefiting from my creative work and has not tried to compensate me in any way. My whole philosophy on image “stealing” is that if you do not want to ever have anyone “borrow” one of your images, then don't put it online. Once you put something out into cyberspace, you can't stop anyone from decided they want to use it without your permission.
The practice of sharing tiny images to me defeats the whole purpose of sharing your work in the first place. And watermarks can easily be removed in Photoshop, unless they're so big that the legitimate buyer can not really appreciate the work. I prefer to take advantage of the tremendous benefits to online exposure and take my chances with those who do not value and respect the creative work of others.
While I have had images used without my permission many times, I do not believe it has cost me any real income, and has probably helped to expose my brand and work to others. The income I have generated from my work that has been substantial has come from clients who wouldn't steal anyone's work to begin with. And I'm an optimist at heart, so I really don't worry too much about things I can't control.
So with that said, the best way to protect yourself is by becoming familiar with copyright law and how to use it to protect your images. Photoshelter has released a great, easy to read guide that I highly recommend you download and checkout. And best of all it's free.
The Photographer's Guide to Copyright
Get tips to keep your work safe, plus read in-depth interviews from photographers and experts from ASMP, including Executive Director Eugene Mopsik and General Counsel and Managing Director Vic Perlman, who address:
How to make copyright registration part of your workflow. …