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Pictures with watermarks #1877
Back To Discussion List Written: 2007.05.22 by: Lee Lau

I inserted this picture.

In a rather lengthy series of emails Robin asked me to put in a shot which didn't have my watermark so conspicuously inserted. Note that I have my watermark in the centre and then also in the lower left corner. This watermark is the phrase "" - which is my private work and play-related site.

Robin objected to the centre watermark as he thought it was "advertising". He then proceeded to toggle my pictures so that they were not on public display.

I was extremely annoyed by this since before I had uploaded and painstakingly marked some 20 photos to the site with all the ridiculous field contents required by bivouac I had provided an example of the watermark to Robin and asked him whether my intended form of watermark (" in the centre and in the bottom left corner) was fine.

I then pointed out to Robin that the site is merely a pointer to my blog-style trip report site (and to my personal work-related site) and that I neither sell anything through the site nor have anything on that site which competes with bivouac.

I watermark my pictures because I want to clearly mark them as belonging to me. I pointed out to Robin that I do not watermark my pictures to sell them. I have had pictures stolen in the past and do not want that repeated in the future. Google search "graeme spratley" if you are really interested in the entire sordid detail.

Now I make no secret of the fact that I think Robin is totally utterly wrong in this and that I have zero respect for his decision in the matter.

I do think bivouac is an important resource, from which I have received a lot of knowledge. My photos are an effort to give back to the community.

You might say, well this is Robin's site and whether or not you think he is being a pedantic twit with this decision, well you have to play by the rules. That's a fair comment.

If that's the decision, then I simply won't have any of my pictures on public display without appropriate watermarks and I will delete all my contributions.

I would then ask Robin to put some photo watermark guidelines up so that no other potential contributor wastes their time putting up pictures and then having those pictures pulled because Robin dreamed up yet another rule from the ether.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I further note that in a more intemperate moment I have emailed Robin telling him that I have toggled all my photo essays on and that if he doesn't like it he can go screw himself.

Sorry for the lengthy post but I had to get this issue out in the open - petty as it sounds.


#857 - 2007.05.24 Paul Kubik - For what it's worth
Personally Lee, I enjoy your articles on clubtread. I know the sometimes silly rules get under people's skin and have led to other high-profile climbers and contributors getting pissed off and leaving. It's too bad. clubtread is more of a chat-site in my opinion and you have to wade through a lot of chaff to get to the good stuff. The purpose of the rules (not all of which are applicable to your current discussion) is to organize the site like an encyclopeadia. They are onerous but in the end the overall result is positive. Many times the whole rules thing has bemused me as the autocrats running the site swing back and forth like a pendulum. Just look at the past discussions/rants about peak naming and subpeaks. I can't even remember what the final result of all that hot air was.

As for the current discussion, my pictures are generally of such a low quality that no one in their right mind would use them other than a reference. Maybe you could degrade the quality to the point where it's in no one's interest to steal them. Anyone wanting better quality could go to your site or contact you.

#856 - 2007.05.23 Lee Lau
Perhaps I've overreacted and need to get out in the mountains more.

David Campbell. Thanks for understanding the main cause of frustration ie that I asked for permission to watermark, was granted that permission after I submitted an initial sample picture and then subsequently was told to change it.

Ramsay. The pictures being taken by a third party is the main concern. I had some shots used by a commercial magazine in the UK without my knowledge. They justified the taking on the ground that I hadn't watermarked my shots. I looked into this phenomenon more and found that this kind of theft happens with some frequency.

I also see your point and Doug's point that it would violate Bivouac's terms of use for me to pull the photo's I have submitted. After thinking about it more, that would be be a pretty immature thing to do so. I'll leave the already submitted photos up and the editors can deal with them as they see fit.

Doug and David Wasserman - you're right. It's pretty easy to remove the watermarks. I know that. But its a lot easier to crop the picture to remove the small mark as opposed to removing the centre mark. I actually agonized for a long time about putting in a centre mark as I do agree it makes the pictures look bad. I put it in to make it just a tiny bit more work to remove watermarks.

Doug, you're also right that I'm being more then a bit snarky in my initial posted comments. That is out of line and I apologize for that.

Sandra. I'm sorry you see it that way but you are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

#855 - 2007.05.23 Ramsay Dyer - Good Photo
I like that photo Lee; it is a good contribution to the encyclopedia. However, I also feel that copyright notice is not appropriate on this site. It is good that you opened up discussion on the topic; hopefully somebody will suggest a satisfying resolution.

I can understand your frustration at having your images used without permission or attribution. By submitting the photo to Bivouac, you are giving permission for its use on this site (forever). I assume that you wish to retain the watermark only to prevent theft of the image by another party. Maybe this responsibility of protection should now be in the hands of bivouac itself? Maybe there are more subtle means to protect the images -- invisible digital signatures or something.

I think Sandra has a good point also -- by retaining the watermark you are not fully giving the image to bivouac. There must be some kind of acceptable alternative. One suggestion is to use the recommended 900x675 resolution. Presumably this is too coarse to be useful for a printed publication anyway.

#854 - 2007.05.23 David Wasserman - The best picture should be the goal
When I'm deciding whether or not to recommend a photo on Bivouac, a photo with nothing added to it is more attractive. If the photo is just to identify a route, or a particular peak in a group, a line or a number is acceptable to me, but a clean clear view is best. So sticking your name in the middle reduces the attractiveness of the picture, just as looking at the view through a dirty window detracts from the view.

If you want people to visit your web site, putting a link on your author page should be sufficient.

If someone wants to use your photo as their own, photo editing software will allow them to remove any kind of identifying information. If doing that destroys the picture, then the original identifying information must have achieved even greater destruction of the image.

Just let go and share freely.

#853 - 2007.05.23 Doug Brown - Any Middle Ground?

I sympathize with your concerns. The Bivi rules are once you upload something (photo, trip report) you can't take it down, so your contributions are forever. Thus, if you are truly concerned about people stealing your photos, it seems reasonable to request some sort of protection.

Of course, the watermark is only a discouragement. I am an amateur, and in 30 seconds I did a reasonable job of removing your watermark: see here (note that I added a "" to the photo after removing the watermark). The original is here. I only did that for sake of this discussion, and will take the photo down in a couple days. My point being, watermarks aren't exactly a rock solid protection mechanism, only something so that the thief can't pretend she didn't know she was stealing. But once the watermark is gone others can use the ignorance defense ...

You can, of course, mark your copyright in the EXIF header; that is obviously much more visually pleasing, it may be even better protection as I would guess most thieves probably would not look there to cover their tracks. Lots of free software about to edit your EXIF data.

I personally find the centre watermark quite distracting, and think it negatively impacts your creative work. I would support a watermark in a corner of a photo, but agree the centre watermark should be against bivi rules.

In regards to Robin's decision, you said "I have zero respect for his decision in the matter". IMO, that isn't very productive. For this online community to work I think a bit more tolerance and understanding is necessary. If you think about how much work you've put in into bivouac, then you can at least begin to comprehend how much Robin has put in - it has been his life's work for something like 10 years. I'm pretty sure he isn't doing it for the money, and so think he is entitled to some strong opinions, even if he is wrong.

Having said all that, I think this is a worthwhile topic. In the past, I become aware of a certain bivi user essentially downloading all of that interested him so he didn't have to pay for a bivi membership every year. Which is of course in violation of the bivi copyright rules. That incident resulted a beefed up copyright notice being displayed at the top of the bivi home page. It is probably time for a clear policy on watermarks to be developed and published.

#852 - 2007.05.23 Sandra McGuinness - OK with the watermark, but where is the altruism?
I am OK with the watermark as it doesn't seem that intrusive to me. However, gotta say I don't feel very strongly one way or the other. My life is too short to google "graeme sprately" to find out the whole story.

However, I do find it somewhat odd, when people talk about giving back to the community, and then follow up by saying if I don't get my way, I'll pull all my stuff off the site, and the owner of the site can go screw himself. So much for altruism.

#851 - 2007.05.23 David Campbell - I second Robin
Sorry Lee, but I have to say that I felt the pictures looked like advertising to me (I am refereing to the larger lettering across the middle). I think the idea of a smaller signiture at the bottom corner wouldn't be too bad. I have also seen other authors add a link to their personal web sites on their author's page. I guess if copyright is your concern, then your website with the watermarks might be the best venue.

I have to agree with you that often the "rules" on this website are not well set, and decisions are often made about individuals work without being consulted. I would argure that it is an editors job to inform authors if they are going to change the content of their work.