Stealing Photos

Ok so this week has been a busy week for me dealing with one of my pet peeves.   Theft of photos.  Just because a photo is on the internet does not mean it is yours for the taking.  In fact it is a crime with fines that can be well over $100,000.

But how does someone get caught.  A couple of ways.  First of all someone sees it and tells the photographer.  That is how one of my current cases was discovered.  It seems someone decided that they didn’t need to pay for a photo for their advertising.  As usual, I turned the matter over to a lawyer.   He took it on contingency, which means he gets a percentage.  Lawyers like money, so guess what that means to the violator.

Another method to find the stolen images is via Google image search.   Go to Google and click images and you will see a page like this.

Image Search

Image Search

Click the camera icon and upload your photo.  The search will then find your image.  It finds images that have been cropped, converted to B&W and even combined onto other artwork.  Of course then it is pretty easy to track them down.

Another method of location is using the search tool Tineye.   This tool is also designed to find images on other sites.

The two should be used together as they use different methods and will yield different results on many occasions.

I do this once a month and typically find 10-20 violations.  This is how rampant theft is.  I don’t have time to search all my photos, but I know which ones are popular and search those every time and throw in a few new ones on each search.

If you want to use a photograph you see on the internet contact the photographer.  You would be surprised at how affordable it can be.  Not sure who the photo belongs to.  Use the same searches we use to find violators to find the photographer.

If a stolen photo is located a photographer may contact a lawyer, you will be found guilty and the penalty are huge.  “I didn’t know” isn’t protection.  If it is a website the photographer may send a DMCA take down notice to you and the ISP.  This could result in the loss of your website if the ISP is involved.

I do not want to make fees from stolen images a revenue stream, and most photographers I spoke to don’t either.  We just want to be paid for our hard work and get the credit we deserve.

Photographers should make sure to register all you images with the copyright office for maximum collection of damages.  You can register on-line and in bulk for only $35 at the Copyright Office.    And of course put the appropriate information for copyright and contact in the EXIF for every photo.

Often it is the small business that steals the image.  Getting caught can potentially mean the loss of your entire business.  I always ask someone how they would feel if I walked into their business and walked out with their product and didn’t pay.  They all said they would have me arrested.  Taking a photo is the same thing, photographs are our product.

So please don’t steal our photos. It is not worth the risk.

Google is a registered trademark.


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