As a photographer who posts her work on the web – I’ve always known my photos were being used without my permission on various websites. Until recently – I had no clue how prevalent the problem was.
Using Google’s Reverse Image Search engine – I’ve identified well over 500 unauthorized uses of my photos on websites around the world – and that’s just looking at photos posted to my blog in a 6 month period. Google is turning up many more uses than TinEye ever has – even for the same photos. Google’s Reverse Image search is awesome – all you need to do is go to images.google.com and click on the camera icon – and enter the URL of one of your photos.
Hit Enter – and Google will show you all the sites it has identified with that image on it. Here’s part of page showing where one of my bleeding heart photos can be found on the web. When you click on the photo – google takes you right to the page with the image.
In the past – I would file DMCA complaints when I found an infringement. But I only caught the people who gave me a photo credit or put a link to my website. I never caught the ones who just used my photos – now I can find them.
I’ve found both watermarked and unwatermarked images being used. I’m seeing my watermarks being removed -and other people’s watermarks applied to them. One of my favorites was the person who wrote “note her website on the photo” underneath my watermarked photo on her site.
And what I found really surprised me. I wasn’t surprised to find my photos on many personal blogs, as facebook and twitter avatars, on pinterest, etc. I was amazed to see how many businesses and non-profit organizations are using my photos without permission – from real estate companies, travel agents, florists, nurseries, botanical gardens, museums, etc
And then there were the ones I never expected – used as the cover photo for an ebook from a respected publisher, on the cover of a biology book for middle schoolers, on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, and copies of my Ceylon Daffodil photo available as a custom painted oil painting that can be ordered wholesale from China!!!!
And of course – the question is – now that I’ve found all these infringements – what am I going to do about them! The answer is – it depends . . .
In cases where I can identify the owner of US based websites where my image is being used – I’ll be sending them a Cease & Desist Letter with a demand for payment. PhotoAttorney Carolyn Wright has customizable forms and letters on her website for photographers – including a Cease & Desist Letter for just such circumstances.
For sites I can’t identify the owners that are hosted in the US – I’ll be filing DMCA complaints with their hosting companies.
I haven’t figured out yet what if anything I can do about photos on sites hosted in other countries.
And as for which infringement I’m going after first – I’m not sure yet – but I suspect that the tea-party backed candidate for U.S. Congress who supports repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act who has one of my photos on his website – is pretty high on the list . . .