If any of your images live online in any shape or form, it is inevitable that they will get stolen.
With the Internet, copyright infringement has become rampant and is a worldwide phenomenon.
Some individuals don’t understand copyright and think that because an image appears online that it’s theirs for the taking.
However, there are a lot of companies that steal images and use them for commercial purposes – to sell their own products!
How do you know if your image has been stolen?
You can do random image searches on your images in Google. This is a cool feature, but rather tedious and incredibly time-consuming. If you have an extensive library of images, this could take more time than you’d want to spend.
A better alternative is sites like Copytrack, Pixray or Pixsy, which are image tracking services that not only find your stolen images but also will file a copyright infringement claim and sue for damages on your behalf.
This is a great way to seek restitution for stolen photos without the hassle of having to do everything yourself. Not to mention, there is no way you could scan millions of images on the Internet, looking for your work. The technology these services offer does it all for you.
Utilizing an image tracking service is something every photographer should consider. It’s a sad reality that so many photographers today are struggling, while thieves are profiting from our hard work.
An image tracking service can save you a ton of legwork. Most of the time, it’s as simple as uploading your photos. If you get notified that some of your photographs are appearing without permission or licensing, you can file a DMCA takedown notice or a legal claim through the service.
The image search function is free – to a point. It depends on how many images you upload. If you file a legal claim, the service will take a commission.
One caveat to using an image tracking site is that if you do stock photography, it can be hard to ascertain where your image has legitimately appeared.
Stock agencies don’t usually disclose to you who licensed your image. Also, many have partnered up with other stock agencies to sell your work, making your images even more difficult to track.
How an image tracking service works
According to the image tracking site Copytrack, 3 billion images are shared online every day. 85% of them get stolen.
Licensing images is about more than just tracking down infringements. Once you discover an infringement, you need to make a decision as to what you’ll do about it.
Both Copytrack and Pixsy can handle the legal side in the fight for fair payment for your work.
You simply upload your images while their Reverse Image Search functions in the background. They will notify you of your matches by email.
Once you confirm the stolen images, they take steps to enforce your copyright.
You don’t need to do anything.
What are scraper sites?
One of the worst types of offenders in the realm of stolen images and copyright infringement online are scraper sites.
Scraper sites steal your content for their own sites or blogs. Some will just scrape content, but most use automated software that takes your images and posts content on their own site.
These sites take images from Pinterest, Google, and your own website and host them illegally.
Not only does your website host the images for them but also they take up your bandwidth!
If you write a blog in addition to post photos, you may find your content appearing on these sites.
What are your options if your image gets stolen?
If your image gets stolen, your first option is to do nothing, which is exactly what many photographers do. The hassle can make it seem not worth it sometimes.
However, if the company that has stolen your image is a large one, you can hire a copyright attorney to take them to court, as this type of claim may be worth thousands of dollars to you.
In most cases, the best option is to use a company like Pixsy and either have them file a DMC Takedown Notice, or file a claim on your behalf.
A DMC Takedown Notice is a request to remove content from a website at the request of the owner of the copyright of the content.
How to file a DMC takedown
DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. To get your stolen content removed from a website you need to file a DMCA takedown notice.
To file a DMC takedown, you can either hire a service or do it yourself.
You need to find out who owns the website. You can use a Who Is lookup tool.
The problem is that it can be difficult to find out who the website owner is in order to send them the notice, as a lot of these sites hide this info. For example, they use Cloudflare to hide their real IP address.
Luckily, there are DMC takedown services that can help you with this. DMCA charges $10 USD a month for their protection services and charges $199 USD for a full takedown.
How to register your copyright
As a photographer, you automatically own the copyright as soon as you create the image. This means that you do not necessarily have to file copyright for all your photos.
In most countries, you do not need to file copyright papers to prove you own the content or copyright. Government Registered Copyright is NOT necessary in order to get your content removed, however, suing for damages IS easier if you have registered your copyright.
To register your copyright, search online with keywords such as “register copyright Canada/US/Australia” etc., to find the Intellectual Property Office in your country.
If you have had your images stolen, it’s up to you to decide if you want to pursue restitution.
Small transgressions may not seem worth the time and energy, however, if someone is making money off your work, you may want to consider seeking compensation. Not only for the money but also the principle.
Have you had any of your images stolen? Share with us in the comments below.