Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of putting copyright notices on online JPEGs.
Just this afternoon, yet again, I found a picture I would have liked to use for our "Random Excellence" feature. It was on a sleepy little site buried on a back page where it probably gets very little traffic, and the point of its being there is that the photographer, an Australian, is trying to sell prints of it for AUD$70.
But when I went to get the larger version of it—probably all of 750 pixels across—there it was: "COPYRIGHT by," etc., big and bold. This means I have to a) contact the photographer to get explicit permission to post it here, or, failing a), b) not use the picture. And of course, in this case, although there were automated forms to help me buy the print if I wanted to, there appeared to be no way to contact the photographer. So there goes that. You know what they say: Oh well.
Lots and lots
But how smart is this, really? Who's going to steal your 750 x 500 pixel image and use it for anything that they should have paid you for? Who makes any money by doing that? (Perhaps porn mavens, I don't know—then again, I doubt those types would be punctilious about the niceties of copyright.)
You just can't do all that much with a 750-pixel-wide JPEG. And, as I'm sure you've noticed, there are rather a lot of them on the World Wide Web.
What I would have done with the picture, of course, is to introduce it to a whole new audience and then link to the rest of the guy's work. I don't know if being seen by, I don't know, maybe thirty or forty thousand sets of eyes on TOP over the next week or two would have sold any prints for the guy. But it probably couldn't hurt. Again and again I get notes from people to whom we've linked telling me that we spiked their hit count big time.
Copyright may be important for the big shots whose work is in tremendous demand. But I suspect it just helps small fry remain obscure.
I might be wrong about this. (Again: Oh well.) My advice, though: If you're worried enough about your little JPEGs to attach copytight notices to them, make sure you also put your contact information somewhere nearby, so people like me can get in touch with you if they want to threaten your rights with some valuable free publicity.