If I post my images on the Internet does it mean that anyone can use them as they wish? Legally no, but from what I have found people are obviously ignorant or choose to be so! A few months back after a quick Google search I found a tourism website illegally using my images so I decided to email the webmaster advising them of their glaring omission and that if a suitable payment was agreed upon I would over look this. As they had no budget for photography they removed the image and I decided not to pursue it any further. So how do you protect your images online?
Watermark / Copyright your images
Put a distracting bit of text all over your images saying © Lee Duguid 2011. You think this might stop people but NOOoooo! I’ve seen one person stealing other photographers work and passing it off as their own, they even removed the Copyright text.
Disable Right Click functionality
Digitally Watermark your images
Companies such as Digimarc for a fee allow you to digitally watermark your images. A digital watermark is a bit different to adding text to your image in that it is not visible. On a subscription basis you can then track your images online and see exactly where they are being used. This is absolutely the best way to protect your images but of course it costs money. I would say it’s a small price to pay if you are running a stock photography business as you can make sure customers stick to their contractual image usage restrictions! For the rest of us the on going cost might out way the benefit.
I found my image being used without permission as the photo is rare in Google terms being of a remote location in Tasmania. But how do you know who is using your photo of the Opera House? Do you trawl through thousands of images? Thankfully help is at hand, dude who stole my pictures….well it would appear that many people have. This amazing Firefox plugin allows you to right click on your own image and search for all uses or similar images via Google and a number of other search engines. All you then need to do is scan through a couple pages of links to check for sites that you know it shouldn’t be on. I’ve been amazed at where my images have turned up.
Update: Another great tool for finding image thiefs that works in any browser: jarred.github.com/src-img
So what now?
Well that depends what you want to achieve. It most cases you might be happy for them to be removed, others you may want compensation or to take legal action. The most important thing to do before taking any action is to make sure you obtain evidence. For this I suggest doing a screen capture with Camtasia or similar showing exactly where from the websites homepage or Google your images can be found. Now send the website owner an email giving them chance to rectify their omission rather than straight out threatening legal action.
“I am willing to overlook this transgression if you pay a premium for its legal use. The price for exclusive use is $ALOTOFMONEY (1 YEAR) after which the image must be removed from your site or we can negotiate a continuing rate. If you wish to pay for a second year upfront you can do so for $NOTSOMUCHMONEY”
From here you can decide what to do. For legal advice read more here: RightsforArtists.com