Watermark your images
The first port of call in protecting your work as a content creator, says Andrew Wiard, experienced professional photographer and board member of the British Press Photographers' Association, is to put a watermark on all images which are uploaded to the web.
"One obvious step to take is to watermark all your images with your name or copyright notice or phone number or email address or web address," he said. "Make sure that every picture going up is protected in this way. There are now iPhone and iPad apps available which allow you to watermark pictures before you send them anywhere."
Although it is possible to remove watermarks from an image, this process will make it much more difficult for rogue publishers to infringe on copyright.
Programme your own metadata
Most digital cameras and smartphones already attach metadata to an image in the form of an Exif file, says Paul Ellis, founder of the Stop43 campaign and experienced professional photographer, in the form of date and time stamps and possibly a GPS location.We have to reach the point where it is illegal to publish our pictures without our names and the consequences of stripping the metadata from our files carries very heavy penaltiesAndrew Wiard
But almost all professional standard digital cameras can be programmed to put a line of your own metadata into the Exif. That information ought to be your name, your copyright symbol and your contact phone number, says Ellis.
"Programme that into your camera because that will ensure that every image you shoot from it will have that contact information in it at first," he said.
Join a registry
Ellis recommends PLUS, or the Picture Licensing Universal System, as a platform for showcasing authored work with clearly displayed licensing terms and authorship identification.
"The point about registering yourself, and later your photographs, is that it makes them easier to be licensed," said Ellis, "so it's actually a convenience for users who want to be able to license your work or who already have licences and want to be able to check the licence status. But if you register yourself and your work then they can't be declared orphan."
This article from the Editorial Photographers of the United Kingdom and Ireland gives more information about PLUS.
Support the Copyright Hub
Ellis and Wiard both recommended the Copyright Hub as a project in development which has the potential to circumvent problems created by the law.
By linking together present and future registries and digital copyright exchanges, such as Getty Images, the Copyright Hub will enable publishers to search for images or find copyright holders by using visual recognition software, said Ellis.
"In the not too distant future it will be possible for every picture I take to be traceable through the Copyright Hub," explained Wiard. "It may be through a third-party registry or through an agency or through my own website, but whatever the procedure it will be possible to find my work in this way.
"If it matches with a picture on whichever registry links with the Copyright Hub, you will then see the author, the phone number of the author and so on. This is a way of de-orphaning orphans."
The project is receiving government support and Ellis expects the first phase to launch in July.
Lobby for the legislation of moral rights and against the stripping of metadata
Wiard said these two measures are repeatedly brought up but "universally ignored" in consultations with legislators, but would make it much more difficult for works to be orphaned.
"Moral rights extend further than having your name by your picture, they include the right to be credited as the author," he said. "If we do not have the right to be credited as the author there is ultimately no way to protect ourselves from our work being orphaned.
"That also includes the right to have our name in metadata and it requires legislation against the stripping of metadata. There is some law against it now but there are no effective sanctions. We have to reach the point where it is illegal to publish our pictures without our names and the consequences of stripping the metadata from our files carries very heavy penalties."