Posted October 24, 2013 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

Who’s stealing your photos?

Image-TheftWarning! This blog post might cause annoyance and paranoia… but don’t let that stop you reading it!

Thanks to the internet, image theft is on the rise and the harsh reality is there’s not much us photographers can do to stop it.

Don’t think for a second that it will only be your best work that’s at risk. Take a look at how many times my snap shot of a pile of memory cards has been used by others (all without my permission). It’s hardly a photo I’m ever going to print out but it’s probably my most stolen!

It’s not just photographers. In the past week I know of someone who found one of her photos published in a magazine without her knowledge. To be fair to the magazine, they were sent it by a reader who claimed it was there’s. Neither the owner of the photo nor the magazine is connected to photography.

Minimise the risk
Short of not uploading anything to the internet, what can you do to stop image theft?

Well, first off you could stop worrying about it. Everyday Facebook users add 300 million photos, so the chances of anyone stealing yours are mathematically very small. You might want to add a watermark to your images or add copyright metadata. Yes they can be easily removed but they can also act as a deterrent to the casual image thief.

There’s also the option for making you photos available with a Creative Commons licence allowing your images to be used in certain ways and not in others.

Image-Theft-2Finding your Images
So who’s using your images without permission? Well probably no one but there are ways to check with the help of a couple of websites. Here are two I’d recommend.

Google Reverse Image Search is like a backwards version of Google’s usual image search. Instead of find images that match words it finds images that match images and then tells you where they are. It’s quick, free and very accurate.

To find it go to Google’s Image search, click the camera icon and paste a link to an image you want to match. Alternatively you can upload a sample image.

The results are displayed just like any other Google search.

Image-Theft-3TinEye has been around longer then Google but doesn’t have the reach of Google’s reverse image search. Just like Google you can search using an image that’s already online or upload your own.

One nice feature is the option to look at a whole webpage for images and you can choose which of those you want to search for.

TinEye doesn’t have the reach of Google but don’t rule it out. Sometimes if finds results Google misses.

What to do next
Hopefully the only pages using your photos are yours or pages you work with. However if you do find your images in use elsewhere there are a number of things you can do. Some of them involve legal action, not something I do lightly and beyond the scope of this post. However if the transgressor isn’t worth the time and stress legal recourse may require and all you want is the image taken down or credit given, then a polite but firm email often works wonders.

Gavin Hoey