Assume for a moment that I run a public-facing website that hosts pictures and names of people in a "billboard" fashion (i.e. you do not have to register to view the information) and that my site suffers from "copy-cat" sites copying my pictures and names and posting them as their own, often asking for money and using the information to loosen their readers' purse strings.

Is there any way to make it more difficult for custom-made "bots", "spiders" or other software to automatically grab the information from the page?

Are there any considerations I should take to help minimise the risk of theft (for want of a better word), both for automated theft (e.g. software based) and for manual theft (e.g. copy/paste / screenshot grabbing)?

I appreciate that once something is put on the internet, it's out there "forever", but I have thought of the following ideas so far and am looking for more (if there are any):

  • Adding a watermark to the images would help to reduce the ease with which copy-cat sites can pass my images off as their own (but may have an impact on the effectiveness of the images, unless there's some way for me to somehow remove the watermark when the image is displayed through my site)
  • Forcing my users to log in would help to reduce the exposure of data to bots (but may have a significant impact on the numbers of viewers and/or the effectiveness of my site)
  • You should ask this question in StackOverflow.
    – Cyril N.
    Jun 25, 2012 at 14:33
  • I think this question does work from a data protection viewpoint - it translates to "what controls can I put in place to reduce the amount of copying from my application"
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 25, 2012 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


I got one simple solution for all your text information. Use a text -> image converter in order to convert names into text. http://Who.Is does this simply by displaying names of individuals as images which cannot be simply copied by bots and sets then off course.

Another solution is using reCaptcha or a more secure equivalent (considering that certain advanced bots can crack that too even now). Fundamentally get to popup every once in a while for a particular amount of requests sent from a single client. For legitimate usage it should barely even cause an inconvenience.

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