Photographers have had a hard time lately, partly due to having their work taken and copied freely on the internet. Now it is easier than ever to fight back against copyright infringement thanks to some new technology. I have blogged previously about the excellent tool at Tineye.com, and now Google has entered the same game. For those unfamiliar, these ‘reverse image search engines’ take an image and find copies of the image on web pages. The copies can be found even if cropped or scaled, or with some retouching such as colour alteration or text overlay. To use the Google version, go to the standard Google image search screen, and just drag the image you want to search onto the query field. You can also enter the URL of an image you’d like to search for. I use both and find them to be equally good so far. They both find only a fraction of images on the internet, but with different results so you can find more results overall by using both tools.

Once you have found an illegal use of one of your images, you can contact the site owner and do one or more of the following:
– demand payment for usage
– demand removal of image
– threaten legal action
– offer continued use on condition that a link to your website appears next to the image

You should make a screen capture to document the infringement. Personally I don’t bother to threaten non-commercial bloggers with legal action, but I do get the images removed. This will help to get the message across that images are generally not public property and not free to use. If the blogger does not co-operate, most ISPs hosting the sites will have a help page showing how to report the copyright infringement and get the image removed. I have been successful at this at least 90% of the time.

If the image is used on a commercial website, then the value of your infringement claim may be significantly higher – you may want to seek legal advice to establish the amount of the claim. Happy hunting!

2 comments so far

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  1. Thank you for this invaluable tip. This morning I found one of my photographs being used by two commercial entities without permission.

  2. Great blog. There are Firefox addons that facilitate using reverse image searches if you use them a lot.

    I used the tool to find the creator of the “Should I work for free” chart you posted earlier. It’s Jessica Hische — http://www.jessicahische.is/obsessedwiththeinternet/andbeingranty/should-i-work-for-free%E2%80%94a-flowchart.

    (If you don’t mind my posting here about movies involving photography, Hitchcock’s Rear Window comes to mind).