How to Find Your "Borrowed" Photographs Online:
The internet is an amazing place for a photographer but it also has its downfalls. Sigh. One of which is the ease for others to
steal borrow use your work without your permission or giving you proper credit. Sometimes you just find your work shared around on social media or blogs. Other times you might find outright theft with another person selling your image or using it to advertise their product! Yes this has happened to me. In this blog I am going to show you how you can quickly find where your images are being used online. Best of all, you can do this for free!
The image above, "Alpenglow and Wildflowers" is one of my most shared and "borrowed" images online. I often find it pop up in unexpected places. Wanna know how to find your image online? It's this easy:
Step One: Go to https://images.google.com
Step Two: Click the camera icon (red arrow) and either "paste your image url" or "upload an image" as instructed.
Step Three: Hit search and a list of all the places Google found your image online will be displayed. In my case I am okay with these uses I found in popular news articles because they gave me proper credit as the photographer. However, you might find some more nefarious places that your work is being displayed.
As a photographer you have to make a personal decision as to what uses you find bother you. In the United States your images are protected by copyright laws as soon as you press the shutter and create the photograph. Although there is a base protection once you create the image, if you register your photographs with the U.S. Copyright Offices you get additional protection in case you have to go to court over the situation. The American Society of Media Photographers has a great step by step tutorial for how to register your images online here. If you do find an image has been used online without your permission there are a number of steps you can take including filing a DCMA Take-Down Notice. For more info on what to do if you find your photos have been used without your consent check out this amazing article by PhotoAttorney.com here. Photo Attorney also has some other informative articles on the legality of dealing with copyright infringement on their site which I highly recommend.
Another important thing to consider about image protection is watermarking your photos. You can do this easily in Lightroom or Photoshop by adding some text over your image. A mistake that I often see is a photographer just pasting the word COPYRIGHT or DO NOT COPY over the image. If a random person sees your photo online the word copyright isn't going to mean much to them! Put your website, name or both as your watermark so that if someone sees your image they will at least be able to find you. It is up to personal preference how large to make the text or where to place it. I have toyed with my own watermark many times over the years. Lately Ive been placing it on the bottom right so that it is there but hopefully isn't too distracting.
In the meantime, toss a few of your favorite or most popular photographs into the Google Image Search and see what you can find.
Bonus / Alternative Search Option: Tineye is another popular reverse image search engine to find your photos online.
Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office: https://asmp.org/tutorials/online-registration-eco.html
What to do if you find your work "borrowed:" http://www.photoattorney.com/help-ive-been-infringed/
How to protect your images online: http://www.photoattorney.com/five-things-you-can-do-to-protect-your-online-images/
How to file a DCMA Take-Down notice: https://nppa.org/page/5617