I’ve recently finished designing a website for a Fleetwood customer who asked me for something that I don’t usually do. Namely, to disable the right mouse click on their website pages.

Why? Well, the reason is a commonly requested one. They wanted to protect the photographs of their bespoke wrought iron gates and railings from being copied via ‘Save Picture As…’ and then used by competitors.

Well that makes sense…

Yes, it does and it doesn’t. If you’ve designed something unique and beautiful such as these ornamental gates, it makes sense to try and protect your designs so people don’t copy them or pass them off as their own.

Sadly though, right-click is just one of a wide variety of ways of obtaining images and the truth is that once published to the internet, there is simply no technological method available to enforce copyright.

In order to get to an image, a user can:

  • Drag it to the address bar (using the mouse) in Internet Explorer and many other browers. And then right-click the image displayed in isolation of its original web page to save it as normal.
  • Drag it onto Windows Desktop or into a drawing package.
  • Switch off Javascript in the browser, so that the code to protect the image no longer operates.
  • Use the browser menu to view the source of the web page and find the location of the relevant image, then type that location into the browser address bar and use right-click and save as normal.
  • Use the ‘Prt Scr‘ key on their keyboard to copy the whole screen and then paste it into a drawing package, cutting out the image they want to copy.
  • Get the image from the browser’s cache, where it will have been downloaded to speed up access to the site next time .
  • Print the page in high quality to their printer and then scan it back in.
  • Take a digital photograph of the screen.
  • Use Mozilla Firefox which has an option to disable disabling of the right-click or Opera which offers quick disabling if Javascript is encountered on a right-click.
  • Ask a more ‘internet savvy’ friend or family member to get it for them.

Admittedly many of the above are beyond most users, but where there is determination, there is Google and a quick search will reveal dozen’s of sites discussing the issue.

And in the case of the customer in question, there is nothing to stop a competitor or anyone else from physcially taking photographs of any wrought ironwork in Blackpool, Fylde or Over Wyre that they encounter on their travels, save maybe if the owner of the property chases them off!

And fully disabling right-click can be annoying…

There are a number of very handy functions attached to a right-click that many users (myself included) rely on whenever we browse the internet. These include ‘Open in New Tab’, ‘Print’ and ‘Add to Favourites’.

Any site that denies access to these functions runs the immediate risk of being abandoned for one that doesn’t, such is the fickle nature of the internet user.

So what can you do?

Well, from a customer’s perspective it’d be better to do something than nothing at all.

So here’s what you can do:

  • Watermarking is a good way of protecting images (as employed on this wedding photography site), but it is time consuming and to be of any real use, needs to obscure the image you want your potential customer to be looking at.
  • Slicing up images is a way of making the job of copying them more difficult, but again it is time consuming.
  • Partially disabling right click does at least prevent those who are not in the know from getting to the photographs, without obstructing other right-click functionality.

The latter is the right-click method I used in the end, as it still allows users to shortcut to ‘Add to Favourites’ or ‘Print’ the page, etc.. Not perfect, but then nothing is!

Further Reading

If I’ve whet your appetite on this subject, the following interesting articles discuss this question in varying detail and with differing (and stronger!) points of view:

In Conclusion…

If the music and film industry can’t prevent the wholesale theft of their entire catalogues, what chance does a lowly local web designer like me stand?

If you don’t want people to steal your stuff, don’t put it on the internet.