I want to copy protect a digital photo on a USB flash drive. The answer wasn’t as obvious as I had hoped, but I did find it.
Below is the process I used to get what I needed.
The first thing I want to emphasize is that I want to protect a digital copy of a photo rather than a physical copy of a photo.
So, how to prevent a digital photo from being copied from a USB flash drive is a difficult question to answer. My first thought is about the medium I intend to use to send a digital photo to someone.
- Do I offer a download link?
- Do I send them a digital copy on a storage device like a portable hard drive or USB flash drive?
- Do I provide them a weblink to view the file from a hosted server?
The more I considered a delivery method, the more questions I had.
My first thought was to host the photo on a private webpage. Only users with access to the page could view the photo.
This isn’t going to work. I realized that once the viewer is on the page and viewing the photo, they can save it or screen capture it. After that, they could share the digital photo with whoever they wanted. There isn’t much protection here.
My next thought was to put the digital photo in a password-protected zip file. That is a good idea. The photo can only be viewed by someone who knows the password.
Oh wait, that doesn’t work either. I end up with the same problem as the hosted webpage. Once the file is accessed, the user can do anything they want.
So it occurs to me… I keep returning to an encryption solution rather than a copy protection solution. Encryption is useful because only those with the correct password can access the photo; however, it is not the same as my ultimate goal, which is to copy protect a digital photo and prevent it from being copied.
I guess you can say encryption is a way of keeping the honest people… well, honest.
I need a way to protect my photo regardless of the recipient’s intent. I realized I needed a solution in which everyone can see the photo but no one can do anything with it. Is it even possible to find such a solution?
When I was talking with a neighbor who is an IT guy, he mentioned a concept that I’d heard of before but didn’t apply to my thinking. Rather than a digital method of sending the photo, he proposed a type of physical dongle that held the photo. He explained that without the physical device, viewing the photo is impossible.
The lightbulb went on!