Who’s stolen my images?

I’ve been reading a few blogs recently covering copyright infringement and the issues photographers encounter with unlicensed use of their images on the Internet.  From my previous bogs you’ll recall I’m not a professional photographer, I have a day job to pay the wages, but just like a professional photographer I wouldn’t take too likely to my images being used without consent licensing and/or attribution.

I have a few general rules regarding the use of my images I take and host online.

  1. Contact me and ask – whilst almost all of my images are Copyright All Rights Reserved I am open to re-use.  It’s not always about the money…. I’m more than happy to allow free Creative Commons re-use for non-commercial purposes e.g. charity work, education etc. and have licensed a couple of images for use.  Just drop me an email and ask.
  2. Commercial re-use – I will not entertain commercial re-use of my images without paid licensing being in place.  Again, whilst it is not necessarily about the money for me I won’t see somebody use my work for commercial gain without fair compensation, with the emphasis on fair.
  3. Personal Use – again drop me an email and ask, alternatively you can always buy and/or download images for personal use via my website www.8dcphotography.co.uk

Recently I received an email from a marketing company asking me if they could use one of my images to support a campaign they were running on behalf of a building company.   They said they would be willing to pay me for re-use.  So, interested I thought I’d find out more about what exactly they wanted to do and how much they were offering.  The reply was along the lines of…… 1/2 Page image in a glossy brochure for a print run of 3000 copies.  Additionally they would like to use the image in local press adverts over a period of 3 months and use the image on their client’s website.  For this they would pay the the handsome sum of £30 yes THIRTY whole British POUNDS!!!!!

So I thought I’d try a bargaining and did a little research to see what this requirement would cost me if I were to go via a stock photo site like Getty Images.  The cost from Getty was approaching £1500.  Armed with his info I replied back highlighting my research and suggested that I would be willing to accept a fee of just £500 – very fair I thought given the very specific nature of the image and the value compared  to Getty.

As expected I didn’t get any response back.  The point I’m trying to make here relates to Rule number 2 above e.g. “fair compensation” Whilst I wouldn’t grumble at a bit of extra cash, I’m not going to be insulted by a derisory offer.  In this case it seemed like the marketing company believed they could correctly gain license for image use by targeting amateur photographers via Flickr in the belief that the amateur would be unsure of their rights and the going market rates for such use.  I’ve also no doubt that if I had taken the offer they probably would have charged their client for the going market rate pocketing the difference themselves.

In the instance above no images were stolen or used without permission but how can you ascertain if somebody is using your images without permission?   The answer when physical reproduction occurs is “give up” as far as I can see (suggestions are welcome though).  However there are some helpful tools to assist identifying re-use of images when hosted on the Internet.

Google helpfully provides a reverse image search feature “Search by Image” which allows you to either upload an image or image URL to run a search for similar images on the Net.  Similarly  TinEye provides almost the same functionality although I don’t think it is quite as good as the Google offering at the moment.  I’m sure there are other services out there but one advantage for both of these services if you’re running the Chrome browser is you can install a plug-in (TinEye Google Image Search)  that allows right-click functionality in the browser making it much easier to automatically search for similar images straight from your website or flickr photostream for example.

Armed with these tools I thought I’d give it a go on a few of my most popular images from my website and flickr photostream.  Lo-and-behold Google brought back a number of potential infringements.  I decided to look closer at two examples…. One, a blatant re-edited copy of one of my images sitting on the cover page of a PDF City Guide the other incorrect use of Creative Commons Licensing e.g. my image was available to license using Creative Commons but there was no attribution to myself and referral link back to my website.

So what next? in all honesty I’m not sure.  This will be subject to further research but I have sent emails to both offenders politely highlighting their potential infringement and to either rectify the omission or lack of licensing or to remove offending images.   Both infringers are US based (a WhoIS search confirmed the sites were both hosted in the US) so I also mentioned the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and the fact that if necessary I could approach their website hosts to request a DMCA Takedown.

That’s about the extent of my knowledge so far.  I’ll let you know how I get on with the two examples above but would appreciate comments covering your own experience and or advice.

In the meantime if like me you’re new to all this take a look at Carolyn E Wright’s website which gives you a great overview of the issues, mostly with a US slant.

Have a great weekend people and keep safe……