Three Ways Photographers Can See Who’s Using Their Images


Computer and Magnifying Glass

If you publish images on the Web then you might wonder if someone is using them without your permission and violating your copyright. There are three services that will search the World Wide Web and let you know where it finds your images.

The first is TinEye.  It’s a reverse image search engine that uses “image identification technology rather than keywords [or] metadata” to find your image. It’s free to use for non-commercial uses. It’s pretty easy to use; just upload an image or enter an image URL and hit search. I entered a URL of one of my images on Flickr. The site came back with a few of my Flickr images and had me select the correct one. It then searched 1.6 billion images looking for a match. It didn’t find one and the site says it may be because it hasn’t crawled the site where it appears yet.

The second service is ImageRights. They’ll search 80 million web pages a month looking for your image even if (according to the site) it’s been cropped, altered or embedded in another image. Then, they’ll help you recover settlement fees. How much you get depends on a tiered system. You can sign up for a free account and get half of all fees recovered.  For $295 a year you’ll get 60% of the fees; and for $595 a year, you’ll get 65%. When you consider that statutory damages can be 150-to-200 thousand dollars, plus actual damages and attorney fees, you could be looking at a nice chunk of change. They’ll even register your copyright for you. Personally, I say register yor images yourself. It’s $35 for as many as you can upload in an hour and it doesn’t take that long.

The third service is Digimarc. For $49 a year, Digimarc will add a digital watermark to your image. This “fingerprint” identifies your image and communicates the copyright info. The “Pro” version is $99 and includes twice as many (2000 vs. 1000) images.

Of course these are only helpful if you register your copyright to begin with. Yes, you own the copyright the moment you took the picture; and yes, you have recourses to make the infringer stop using your image. But if they don’t/won’t and you want to take legal action, your case will be much stronger with that certificate that comes from the Library of Congress.

This post was inspired by a fellow photographer whos work I admire and follow on Facebook. She posted that one of her images was being used without permission for the second time in a month. She did not register the copyright. Judging by the comments most people thought A.) that watermarking your image would be enough and B.) That registering your copyright was expensive. To learn why both those comments are false, read my past blogs on the topics:

Ironclad Protection For Your Images At Rock Bottom Prices!

Failure to Register Copyright Cost Photographer $201,550.

Best Use of Watermark in a Photograph

I’ve also heard that professional organizations like American Society of Media Photographers and Professional Photographers of America can help members if their copyright has been infringed.

Aside from testing TinEye, I have not used the services I mentioned here; so take it as a suggestion only. I’d love to know your experience with any of the services or if there are others you know of.