For years people have said that watermarks are the domain of the hobbyist or paranoid semi-pro. But the rampant online spreading of photos with no way of knowing who took the original has opened my eyes to the value of a well-designed (and placed) watermark. The real world examples are numerous, I'll share one from last week: I've been trying to license a handful of images that I've found on facebook pages that had no credit or copyright information. I contacted the owner of the facebook page to ask him for credit info for the pictures in question (I knew he wouldn't have it, but wanted to make a point), and his response was that he usually doesn't know because he "gets them from other sites with no info".
So I began my hunt to try and find the original creator of the image. Google's similar image search is helpful, but if a photo has gone viral, Google will find countless similars but they're all just tumblr reblogs and pinterest repins.
As it is obvious that the cat is out of the proverbial bag when it comes to unauthorized sharing of images online, I think the best thing you can do is create a watermark or graphic that will travel with the photo as it hops around from twitter to tumblr to facebook to pinterest and back again.
Of course, there are people who are working hard to make it easier to remove the watermark. A quick Google search for "how to remove a watermark" yielded over 45,000 results.
What are some other ways that you can leave a digital fingerprint? Any great examples of watermarks that are well-designed?