Thursday, 23 February 2012

Copyright Infringement

Each month as part of my image licensing administration I spend a fair bit of time meticulously recording all of the reproduction licenses that either myself, or my agents provide to clients. This is followed up by taking a random sample of my images and then by using the likes of Google Image Search as well as other search software I carry out a trawl of the web for unauthorised image use. Pretty much every time I do this I catch someone who is using my images without permission.

Recently I have noticed that it's not just people downloading images to illustrate a blog, or an individual with a personal website doing it. Instead it is often big businesses, many of which have the cheek to add their copyright statements to the websites my unlicensed images have been placed on.

These so called "copyright infringers" to use a more polite term (some photographers simply prefer to call them thieves) come from a broad spectrum of companies and individuals from across the world. Yesterday the businesses I found using my images were an engineering organisation in Thailand, a fumigation company in Costa Rica and an English educational establishment. A national newspaper, a book publisher and a semi-commercial Blog, (all British) were identified in the previous trawl.

This is one from yesterdays trawl

Unorthorised image use

In this example I know for a fact this image has not been licensed to them. The copyright info screen on the right also shows I own the copyright to the spider image. Oh and just for the record it makes little difference if someone removes the metadata, or alters the image. This is because reverse image search engines look for the image and not just the associated metadata. We also hold the digital negative (RAW File) if any further proof is needed.

On a more positive note my invoices and/or take down notices are in the post so it is not all bad news.


  1. This is amazing. I didn't realise the extent of what is going on, so after I read your piece I did a quick search on some of my own pictures and found an Irish jewellery company, an Irish B&B and a Lake District holiday company using my images. I fired some emails off and had a very quick and apologetic response from the Lakeland company but have heard nothing from the others. But it's early days.
    This has made me really angry, but for someone like you, David, who depends on his images for a livelihood, I can begin to appreciate how you must feel. It's bad enough having your own work hijacked, but when it's your bread and butter as well it must drive you to distraction.
    Alen McF

    1. Your right Alen, it is very frustrating. I can understand Joe Blogs as it were not knowing the law, but businesses. Most of the time their attitude is to ignore emails, or simply say they did not know. Until this search software was made available it was pot luck catching people, but I am really shocked at just how bad it actually is - especially with big business. I know someone who has had so many images nicked, if they were to employ a take down notice company at $49.00 dollars a go it would have cost her $19,500 so far. I simply invoice the lot now myself. Sad thing is images have never been cheaper and depending on the image size and use, people can license them legally for between £10.00-£100.00.

      I hope you get yours sorted out ok. If they still ignore your emails send them an invoice, it is amazing the effect it has. You can also complain to the ISP if you cannot get them to take down the images - good luck