What is a digital watermark? It is something that is added to an image that is posted online. It could be a logo, a name, or other identification that tells others that the image is yours and that it shouldn’t be copied. Before adding one to your images, consider these pros and cons of digital watermarking to see if the practice is right for you.
The Pros of Digital Watermarking
1. It provides a certain level of theft protection for original images.
This is extremely important for those who make a living by selling or distributing their images. If their artwork can be scraped for profits by others, then that’s money coming out of the artist’s checking account.
2. There is a certain level of marketing that can happen with a digital watermark.
If someone loves an image that has been posted and they choose to share it, then the watermark gets shared to others. This exposes new people to the brand the watermark represents and can bring in new customers.
3. The images can include tracking components that let you know where copies of your image have been placed.
These copies can then be observed to see how they are performing, if they’re being used for commercial purposes, and if you need to get involved to get your percentage of any profits.
4. It lends credibility to the images that have been uploaded.
Almost all of the large photo agencies that distribute images today watermark everything because it protects their income streams. By replicating what others are doing, you are naturally placing your own work at the same level as the largest producers of digital images in the world today.
5. When it is done tastefully, a digital watermark can make an image look like it was actually signed by the artist.
People are used to seeing artists sign their works, so a watermark that replicates this experience can be less distracting. Add in the fact that the watermark can be color faded into the image and sometimes people may not even notice that there’s a watermark present.
6. It’s a chance to sell advertising.
If you have a large enough following for your work, then a digital watermark can also be used to promote other businesses for a fee if you wish. This gives others a chance at some brand exposure and the digital image creator gets some cash up-front.
The Cons of Digital Watermarking
1. The watermark can interfere with the image, making it difficult for viewers to focus on the actual subject that is being displayed.
This distraction can drive visitors away from your content. It literally disfigures the image because it draws the attention of the viewer to the watermark instead of the content the image contains.
2. With current digital image software, it is very easy for someone to eliminate the watermark anyway so they can freely distribute the image.
For this reason, it might be better to occasionally search through Google for similar images to yours to see who has been copying your images.
3. Unless you are 100% certain that the image is yours, you could be placing a digital watermark on an image that is copyrighted to another artist.
If you use that image for commercial gain, which can be as simple as posting the image on a site with advertising banners on it, then you could be held liable for image royalties.
4. Digital watermarks don’t usually lead to extra sales.
It may be able to stop someone from copying an image that is liked and printing it, but it will usually stop someone from wanting to purchase a print as well. The average business isn’t going to steal an image that is an artist’s personal property because A) they don’t need to do so and B) they can be sued if they do.
5. It is easy to prove an image is yours.
If someone ever did make a lot of money from the artwork that gets posted online, then as an artist you should be celebrating this fact. Then you and your attorney should be drawing up a demand letter for your fair share of those profits because you created the artwork in the first place. You’d have to go to court, of course, but you’d likely get your fair share
6. It takes time to add a good watermark.
When you’re an artist, time equals money. You could be creating something new instead of adding a brand image.
The pros and cons of digital marketing tend to involve personal preferences. If you’re concerned about theft, then you’ll likely add a watermark. If not, then you will not bother with it. Evaluate these key points to see what side of the debate you fall on today.
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