Knowing how and where to find stolen images and photos of yours that other sites use without your permission is challenging, but not impossible.
There are plenty of comments online suggesting that designers and photographers should be flattered when people plagiarize their images. It drives me crazy every time I read a comment like that. Because it’s stupid and shows a disturbing lack of critical thinking skills.
How many of those same people would be flattered if their wallet was stolen, because it implies that the infringer admires their taste in designer leather goods? Zero. And it’s the same thing.
People don’t steal your images, photos, and online content because they admire it, generally speaking, they steal it because THEY CAN. They need filler content for their lame, spammy sites, and your stuff is easy to grab. Sorry, that’s the truth.
The problem with stopping image theft, which not only deprives you of traffic to your site, but infringes on your due credit as the artist or photographer, is that stolen images are usually re-named. You find stolen text by pasting your phrase into Google and looking for matches, but not so with stolen images. So to stop image theft, you’ve got to be Wiley Coyote.
***UPDATE: There’s an additional method that will find even MORE of your images from “The Graphics Fairy.” The article describing how to do this is actually about finding the original source of Pinterest images, but by using this in addition to the tip I’ve posted below, I’ve found that it returns different results than using just my method, helping me to find more of my images online.
Here’s the method to find more of your stolen photos and images:
Paste: images.google.com into your browser’s address bar to go to Google’s image search.
Now search the images on your own website by typing the following into the search bar, replacing my site’s URL with your own: site:freequickpage.com
Then click the search button.
Every image that Google has indexed on your site will appear in your search results. Don’t worry about your logo and other insignificant images that scrapers and content thieves are unlikely to steal. Instead, hover over the first photo or original image thumbnail that you see, and on the pop-up, click “other sizes.”
Here are the images for my site that Google currently has indexed. My Hanukkah page is listed first, and is extra awesome because my good friend, Marty Decker of DIYPics.com designed the background paper:
So I hovered over the Hanukkah thumbnail, and clicked, “More sizes.”
Yikes. WTF did all of these other images come from? They’re distorted to force a widescreen layout, but since my scrapbooking designs are all 12X12 inch squares, someone has clearly been messing with my image.
So how does someone go from, “Hey a free scrapbook layout for personal use,” to “Hey, I’m gonna upload someone else’s hard work to crazy-frankenstein.com and claim it as my own”? And to add insult to injury, Crazy-Frankenstupid adds his own watermark to MY design without even checking the source. Awesome.
The thing that was most irritating about this particular infringement was that it was extremely difficult to locate the sites’s webhost or any contact information for them. So I filed a DMCA Takedown notice with Google, but by the time Google answered me…about 12 hours later…I had finally located a contact form and filed a DMCA takedown through that form with the webmaster. Ten minutes later, my image was removed from the site.
Now that’s more like it.
This was only one of five stolen images that I discovered by using Google Image search this way. A couple weren’t worth pursuing, and one was on a Squidoo page. When I sent a DMCA Takedown to Squidoo for that image, they removed it immediately, but Seth Godin, or someone representing him using his email address, sent this excuse on behalf of the plagiarizer, who has 15 scrapbooking lenses and several HubPages, and I quote:
I’m guessing the word ‘free’ confused her, but I took it down.”
Okay, so maybe Squidoo should reiterate for their lensmasters that “FREE for personal use” and “Copyright Free” are two very different things. And anyone who still doesn’t understand the difference can educate themselves on Wikipedia.
Because Squidoo is one of the few quality sites where writers still have the potential to earn residual income for their original content. And I have a lot of respect for Seth Godin. But please, in the future, don’t make excuses for people who should know better. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
And if you are new at publishing online and you don’t understand the difference between a copyright with all rights reserved, a creative commons copyright, of which there are several types, fair use, and works in the public domain, then the first thing you need to do is to learn what all of these terms mean and how to apply them when including works created by other artists and photographers on your own blog or website.
Most of what you find online absolutely may not be used without permission of the copyright holder. Not maps, not drawings, not articles, not photos, not even screenshots of any of those things without permission, except under limited fair use circumstances. And just because it’s on Wikipedia doesn’t mean it’s fair game, either. You need to check the source and the license terms. Every single time.
So heed this warning, or you could end up in trouble–expensive, there-goes-your-website and your retirement trouble. Give Wikipedia’s copyright section a good read, and when in doubt, ask permission.
Life is short.
That is a MOST helpful tutorial! I immediately went to check my images. Fortunately, none appear to have been stolen. At least, none have been resized. If someone uses the same size as yours, it won’t show up on this Google image search, right?
My workaround (cuz I’m too lazy to hunt down thieves), is to add a huge watermark and then hope someone steals the image and re-posts. Like you, I have to deal with the fact that there are thieves out there. Why not have them work for you?
Thanks, Marta! Glad you found it helpful. You can also click the “similar images” link, but I didn’t happen to find any of mine that way. I did find a couple that were the same size, oddly enough. And you are correct, it can be a good boost to your site if they post your watermarked image and people visit your site through that. Unfortunately, they may also Photoshop or crop the watermark out and offer the images for download, which steals your traffic.
The main goal is to find the worst offenders–such as the site I found that had downloaded my non-watermarked scrapbook templates (which you designed the background for, by the way!) and then made them into new products labeled with their own URL.
You’re right, though. We’ll never find all of our stolen content, and we don’t really need to. We only need to find and stop the thieves who may end up stealing our traffic, as well as our images.