Watermarks Get in the way of the art
I know my stance on this is not popular, but I don’t really care. The photography-media is out there trying to scare you into protecting your work with watermarks… I urge you not to live your online life and make your online decisions based on fear. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. A little green friend once told me that.
As you may know, my work is all Creative Commons Non-Commercial. That means people, as long as they give credit and link back to StuckInCustoms.com , can use my images on their blogs, wallpaper, personal use – anything – as long as it is not used commercially. Every day, I upload a HUGE 6000+ pixel max-resolution image to the Internet. I do not have any fear at all… Believe me, it’s quite liberating living in a world without internet-stealth-fear.
This does not prevent licensing of the images. We do a ton of this activity when people contact us through the website.
So why don’t I use watermarks? It’s a multi-part philosophy:
Updated List o’ Reasons
1) Watermarks look ugly. Whenever I look at a photo with a watermark, often times, ALL I can think about is that watermark! It’s so distracting. Also, I find that I begin to psycho-analyze the photographer based on their font choice. I can tell immediately if they are a cheesy wedding photographer or someone that has no sense of graphic design couth. Now, maybe this is just me. But I don’t want to spend any time thinking about the watermark. I just want to look at the image. And, conversely, I think this is what people want when they look at my images.
2) Legitimate companies do not steal images to use commercially. So I don’t have any logical fear there. *In case of emergency, break glass and see #4
3) There are other services, like Google Reverse Image Search that can help me easily find bottom-feeders that DO re-post your images.
4) We do register our images with the copyright office, so if someone uses an image commercially without a proper license, it is an easy lawsuit. Easy. We’ve had many many wins (often which happen even before you go to court), but we can’t talk about them because it’s always in the paperwork. But there are many online articles you can find out about our lawsuits… everyone from Time magazine to the Sydney Newspapers.
5) I don’t have to maintain two versions of each image – one with a watermark and one without.
6) NOT using watermarks and using creative commons helps more and more people to use your image freely for fun, which increases traffic and builds something I call “internet-trust.” If more people link to your images, then you get more Google juice that flows down your river.
7) As image search and image recognition get better and better, there will be no need to watermark things. In a very short time, we’ll be able to use online tools to find the original creator of an image.
8) Yes, last, there will be bottom-feeders that steal your stuff. I call this the cost of doing business on the internet. These are the Tic-Tacs that are stolen from the 7-11. It is impossible to maintain 100% of your digital inventory, so wanting “perfection” in your online strategy is an illusion.
Hangout about Watermarks
This article ended up inspiring this hangout. We even got an attorney on to talk about orphan works and whatnot. If you want to watch it with the Questions Interface (so you can scrub back and forth and find the part you want) See This Version of the Hangout.