I Was Wrong! Watermarks Are Not Useless!

I was wrong! Watermarks are not useless! Keep reading to learn why.


Some time last year I wrote a blog post and made a video, describing why I think watermarks are useless. In that blog post/video, I used four arguments to support my opinion. I said that watermarks:

  • get in the way
  • are easy to remove
  • don’t provide a way to measure “exposure” of your work
  • don’t provide copyright protection.

It is that last point where I made a mistake, and I thought it would be wise to make corrections.

Quick History

How did I realize my mistake? The truth is, I didn’t. I recently saw a post on the Fstoppers facebook page talking about watermarks. I commented with a link to my blog post and… a person named AC replied to my comment. He explained how my information about copyright protection was not quite accurate.

We had a brief, very kind, email exchange. In this conversation, AC shared a lot of information. He explained that, in many cases, copyright lawyers actually recommend watermarking images. They also recommend adding meta-data to your images with your copyright information.

AC also shared quite a few links that supported his research. Some of the links describe how copyright protection may even work for international creatives against US-based infringements. AC agreed for the links to be posted on my blog.

Copyright Office & Copyright Attorney Links

  1. The Value of Watermarks:  http://thecopyrightzone.com/?p=1351
  2. Seven Reasons to Add Watermarks:  https://www.photoattorney.com/7-reasons-add-watermark-photos/
  3. Including CMI to Photographs:  https://www.photoattorney.com/options-recovering-infringement-damages/
  4. Washington, DC Copyright Attorney Joshua Kaufman (Video Copyright Registration):  https://youtu.be/cBOKkrleY3Y
  5. Washington, DC Copyright Attorney Joshua Kaufman (Video Copyright Notice):  https://youtu.be/IQGx2NOcca0
  6. The US Copyright Office 2018 video guide on how to register groups of UN-published photographs:  https://youtu.be/xyMNIzkyAoQ
  7. The US Copyright Office 2018 video guide on how to register groups of PUBLISHED photographs:  https://youtu.be/vgEDW-RBSCY
    NOTE:  You can NOT mix published and UNpublished photographs in the same registration–they MUST be separated into their own specific registration.
  8. US Copyright Offices FAQ:  https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/index.html
  9. Additional Copyright Office general question assistance:  https://www.copyright.gov/circs/
  10. Registering your (photographic) works at the US Copyright Office (Registration Portal):  https://www.copyright.gov/registration/ and https://www.copyright.gov/registration/photographs/index.html
  11. Ed Greenburg Copyright Attorney YouTube video (LONG):  
    Video #1:  https://youtu.be/Yi9353BTM_s
    Video #2:  https://youtu.be/6QC_cuq0b6w
  12. Why Registering Your Copyrights is More Essential Than You Think:  https://www.rangefinderonline.com/news-features/tips-techniques/why-registering-your-copyrights-is-more-essential-than-you-think/

As you can see, AC’s research was way more thorough than mine. That’s why I have to say: thank you AC for pointing me in the right direction!


I still need to point out that neither AC nor I are lawyers. Please, don’t take this information as legal advice! If you have questions about copyright or legal issues about your creative work, talk to a local lawyer.

And that is how watermarks do serve a purpose. Yes, they get in the way. No, they don’t provide a clear way to track exposure. However, they can help protect your work. Of course, this protection is even better if you register your images with the copyright authority in your country.

Have you registered your images? What was your experience? Please, leave a comment below.

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One Comment

  1. It’s refreshing to see YouTube presenters/educators like *Alex Silva* share other perspectives on controversial topics like watermarking photographs & timely registering them with the US Copyright Office.

    BEFORE casting judgement on the legal benefits of affixing watermark logos, your name/copyright attribution, metadata, and other “Copyright Management Information” (CMI) to your posted & shared photographs, take some time to view some or all of the attorney-links Alex has provided.

    The best plan is to add a cool-looking watermark logo (and metadata) to your posted/shared photographs, videos, and artworks that points to your website or social media handle–make it super easy for your fans and licensees (new customers) to find you!

    Removing Watermarks: Parties who use Photoshop or another editing software to knowingly remove, change, or cover up a watermark (logo), copyright name, and other “Copyright Management Information” (CMI) to hide a copyright infringement or to further induce infringements can be financially liable from US$2,500 to US$25,000 PLUS the photographer’s attorney fees PLUS legal costs, AND other remedies (at the court’s discretion). See 17 USC §§ 1202-1203 or visit this or Alex’s links: https://www.photoattorney.com/options-recovering-infringement-damages/

    In addition, the conscious removal or alteration of a watermark/logo and other CMI can constitute WILLFUL copyright infringement. If a photograph was *timely* registered with the US Copyright Office, the plaintiff photographer is eligible for enhance statutory money damages (from US$30,000 up to US$150,000) and the ability to get the infringer to pay for the photographer’s attorney fees and legal costs–COOL! Without a timely registered photograph, the photographer can only pursue actual damages (typically the licensing fee, which can be low) and the disgorgement of unlawful profits (if any!). With these low recovery money damages, the photographer will likely not be able to pay for his/her attorney fees.

    When you include a watermark logo, metadata, and other identifiers AND you timely register your copyrights with the US Copyright Office, you *reinforce* your creative rights! Many are trying to weaken or eliminate our copyrights.

    Copyright attorney, Andrew D. Epstein, writes, “We recommend always attaching a watermark or other copyright management information [CMI] to all works that you distribute. Although you do not need to have a copyright registration to recover under the DMCA [CMI], we always recommend [timely] registering your photographs with the Copyright Office to be able to qualify for maximum awards for copyright infringement ($750 to $150,000 per infringement, plus costs and attorney’s fees).” http://www.photolaw.net/did-someone-remove-the-copyright-notice-from-your-photograph.html

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