How to Find Websites That Are Using Your Photos
Sharing your photos online brings an increased risk of people and companies using your photographs without permission. The internet is of course huge, and that makes it difficult for finding where your photos have been used online. Copyright infringement is never welcomed by any photographer, but it is a problem that more and more of us have to face.
Probably the most common copyright infringement occurs on Facebook due to its huge user base. Luckily, you can file a report to Facebook, and they will remove the photo very quickly. Another common culprit is small, personal blogs. Many people don’t understand the rules behind photo use, thinking that if they supply credit that is acceptable. That doesn’t make it okay, but this misunderstanding increases the likelihood of you seeing your work on websites it shouldn’t be on.
Further Reading: “What is Copyright? Understanding Your Rights“
However, the biggest problem usually comes from companies who know what they are doing. On many occasion I’ve found newspapers using my photos without permission. Even some substantial companies will take a photograph, edit it into a different scenario (for example onto the “screen” of a TV they are selling), and place it on their website. Usually you would never discover this infringement, but there is now a tool that has given us photographers a huge advantage…
Google’s “Search by Image” Function
Google has come to the rescue with this fantastic new feature. Instead of traditionally searching for images by keyword, you can now search by image instead. This means you can provide Google with an image, and it will display search results of every website that it can find which is displaying the same photo. This even goes as far as to showing you your photo even when it has been altered and edited. This is fantastic, as often you’ll find text has been put onto a photo or it has been cropped, for example.
It’s really simple. To do this, head to the Google Images page on a desktop computer. You’ll be faced with the normal search bar that we are all used to, but notice the small camera sitting on the right of it (circled in the example below).
Click this button, and you’ll be faced with a new set of options to search by image. If you have your photo hosted online, just copy the direct URL (link) to the photo and paste it into the search field. Or, you can upload your photo to Google instead by clicking the “Upload an image” tab. Google doesn’t keep the file for anything, and will just use it to search for you.
If your photo is appearing anywhere else online, it will probably show up in the search results. You can then trawl through and find any serious copyright infringement and deal with it accordingly. If I put one of my photos into Google Search by Image, here is what I find:
For just one photograph of a juvenile little owl there were 123 results. That’s a lot of websites! Looking at the bottom result, you can see that the photo has been cropped and converted to black and white, but Google has still found it for me.
You may find that nowhere is infringing your copyright – the first two results you see in this screenshot by National Geographic and Earth Shots are legitimate uses of my photograph. However, I can’t say that for the others.
This is a powerful tool for photographers, but don’t get addicted to using it. An occasional search is good to do, but becoming obsessive over it can be a waste of your time. Don’t forget to watermark your photos and upload smaller files to help combat unauthorised usage.