When a photographer places a photo on the web, there is always a possibility of an unauthorized download. There are various stratergies that can be used to protect the posted picture from being pirated. It can be download protected, but that can be thwarted by doing a screen capture and then printing that capture. Or a watermark can be used, but cropping can remove an unobtrusive watermark. Of course the watermark can be placed in a critical part of the picture, but that has aesthetic problems. Instead of making it difficult to pirate your pictures, you can make them less desirable by using low resolution encoding, or uploading only a relatively small number of pixels, for example, 800x600.

Protecting photographs from unauthorized use is important if you are trying to earn revenue from your endeavors. But a growing number of photographers are sharing their pictures with the general public with no desire for financial gain. Rather, they are content for people to appreciate their work and willing to let it be freely used as long as proper credit is given.

After much soul searching, I decided that I am not into bird photography for financial gain. Having made this conclusion, I make my better photos available to the public through Wikimedia Commons. While many of you may not have heard of Wikimedia, almost all will have heard of the related entity Wikipedia - the online free encyclopedia. The next time you are reading an article on Wikipedia, click on a photo. Most of the time you will find yourself linked to a Wikipedia Commons page and that page will contain licensing information that indicates how the photo can be used.

This license information has been developed by Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase sharing and improve collaboration. One way they encourage sharing is to provide standard licenses that can be used instead of copywriting. The particular license that most of my Wikimedia photos use is Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. In brief, this license indicates that others are free to use the material as they like, but they must attribute the original photo to the photographer. In addition to Wikimedia Commons and the Wikipedia Foundation in general, other organizations also make available Creative Commons licenses. For example, the very popular photo site Flickr lets uses apply a Creative Commons license to their photos.