You’re a savvy blogger who knows that it’s important to share not only words on your site, but photos as well. Visitors will be more likely to engage with an article that catches their eye with a great photograph, infographic, or drawing than they will with a wall of text.
A wise blogger knows that you can’t just use any random photo you find online, so perhaps you’ve purchased some stock images or used Creative Commons photos on your blog.
But what about the opposite scenario? What if you’ve posted your own photos and you have this gut feeling that folks might be taking them or using them elsewhere?
Should You Care?
Before diving into how to police your images, it’s worth considering if you want to spend time doing this. Most interesting images that end up on the internet stand a good chance of being repurposed, reblogged, swiped for a personal blog post, or stolen for some other purpose. Technically most of these uses constitute copyright infringement and in theory the offender is liable for damages, but it’s also worth consideration if policing the web for unauthorized image use is the most productive use of your time. There’s no right answer to this question, but consider what you feel is the harm caused by a potential infringement versus the other work for your business that you could do in the time needed to monitor the usage.
Okay, Let’s Go Photo-Hunting
If you’ve decided it might be interesting to track some of your more interesting photos, there are a couple sites/services that I can recommend.
The leading service in this field is TinEye, which allows you to search for an image on the web from a variety of sources. In the example here, we’re curious about your photo that you originally posted to your website or photo sharing service. You can either upload the image to TinEye, or give it the source URL for your photo as a starting point. TinEye performs some analysis on the photo and then returns a list of results where it thinks it has found that same photo being used elsewhere on the internet. You can browse through the results and see which uses are legit and which might be the result of someone “borrowing” your work. In addition to ad hoc queries, TinEye offers commercial services if you’ll want to search for large amounts of your work on an ongoing basis.
Another good option for the occasional search is Google’s Search by Image feature, which allows for searching the web with the power of Google, except instead of starting with a text query, you start with an image. Much like TinEye, you can start with the image URL, a direct upload, or even use a browser extension to enable easier searching. Google then presents a Google search results page including other copies of the photo with contextual information about where it is being used.
Once you’ve found an offender, you can contact the blogger, webmaster, or even the web host and request either that the image be taken down, linked and credited, or licensed.
Do you police for your content elsewhere on the web? Do you consider the occasional image theft a cost of doing business? Do you use another service that folks should know about? Please share in a comment below.