Do you know who’s stealing your images?

No one will steal my images, surely! – naive me

I was playing around with Google Image Search on Saturday morning looking for inspiration when I decided to use their image tool to find photographs considered visually similar to my own.

The first result that came up for my picture of a heavily pregnant me was on someone else’s site and was not credited! Grrr. Worse still it was for weightloss *cries*

I started searching through and found this has happened dozens of times to dozens of my pictures. And that’s not all: I haven’t been through all 450 yet, so the scale of the problem is probably much worse. It’s shocking, isn’t it, that people would be so disrespectful as to effectively steal another person’s work?

So here’s what I’m doing, and what you might want to do, too (bearing in mind I’m not legally trained):

Step 1: Find out who’s been stealing from you

  • Grab the URL of the image you want to check. In most browsers this means hovering over it with the mouse, right clicking and then choosing ‘copy link’, ‘copy target URL’ or similar
  • Go to Google Image Search and click the little camera icon to the right of the search bar
  • Paste your image URL into the pop-up box and hit Search
  • Make a note of any site using your image without permission (I actually had to start a spreadsheet to record all of mine)
  • Repeat for every image on your site – or every image you care about, if preferred

Step 2: Contact them

  • Write to each of the sites that has used your content without permission. (There’s usually an email address or form somewhere in the Contact or About pages)
  • If you want them to take it down completely, put something like: “Hello, On this page ([LINK]) you have used an image I own without my permission, therefore breaching copyright. Please remove immediately. Thanks, [YOUR NAME, YOUR URL]
  • If you would be happy with a credit and link back, put: “Hello, On this page ([LINK]) you have used an image I own without my permission, therefore breaching copyright. Please either a) remove immediately or b) add a caption beneath the image to state it is “© [YOUR SITE NAME]” AND add a hyperlink on the image pointing to [YOUR SITE URL]. Thanks, [YOUR NAME, YOUR URL]
  • If you don’t hear back after a few days, you could contact them again saying: “Hello, I contacted you a few days ago regarding the use of my copyright image on this page ([LINK]) – please remove or add a credit as previously requested within 5 days or I will be forced to report this matter direct to Google and your site host. Thanks, [YOUR NAME, YOUR URL]
  • Note: You might well want to be friendlier about it, particularly at first, but that’s the gist so you can tailor from site to site and depending on how your image has been used

Step 3: Report them

  • If the site fails to respond, you can report them to Google. It won’t get the content removed from the site, but in clear cut cases like this, there shouldn’t be a problem getting it removed from Google’s listings
  • Note: a copy of each legal notice Google receives is sent to a third-party partner for publication and annotation. As such, your message will be published on to Chilling Effects, with your personal information removed.
  • Submit a complaint to the host, known as a DMCA notice – there are full instructions on how to do this on Ravenfea’s site

Step 4: Copyright stamp your site

  • Make sure you have ©[YOUR SITE NAME] on your blog somewhere, so that it appears on every page – this doesn’t stop people stealing your work, but it does make it clear that it’s not a free-for-all
  • You’re also welcome to add the badge below to your site somewhere where it will show on every page (e.g. in the side column) so as to make it even clearer to visitors that copying your content is stealing

Here’s the small version:

This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge
<div align="center"><a href="" target="_blank"><img title="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" src="" alt="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" /></a></div>

Here’s the big version I use in my sidebar:

This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge
<div align="center"><a target="_blank" href=""><img title="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" src="" alt="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" /></a></div>

Step 5: Add a watermark to your images

  • Note: don’t change any images until AFTER you’ve made any necessary claims with Google, as the upload date on your image is one way you can prove it’s yours
  • Add a protective mark to every image e.g. your logo or the name of your site, so that if it’s stolen, it at least bears a label showing that you’re the owner.
  • In most image editing programs, you can simply type “©[YOUR SITE NAME]” over the top corner of the image in a high contrast colour (e.g. white) like I have done in the 4th and 6th images below
  • If you have the ability to create ‘layers’ in your image editor, you might instead want to:
    • Create a new layer on top of your image (“Layer” > “New” > “Layer” in Photoshop Elements)
    • Type “©[YOUR SITE NAME]” over the top
    • Reduce the opacity of the layer to 20-30% (in Photoshop Elements the opacity control is just above the list of layers on the right hand control panel; in PhotoScape you doubleclick the image layer and it brings up a slider)
    • Your watermark should now show faintly on top of your image and can be saved as a JPEG or PNG
    • (In Picassa, it’s even simpler – you just use the ‘Add a watermark’ check box when exporting images and it handles the whole thing for you)

Finally, I’d say if your content is being used without your permission, don’t stand for it. Keep searching and keep complaining. People do this because they think it doesn’t matter and no one will mind, some do know it’s wrong but think no one will find out. Let’s send a message that it’s not ok.

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  1. funny pictures says

    This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise information… Many thanks for
    sharing this one. A must read article!
    funny pictures recently posted…funny picturesMy Profile

  2. Marta says

    Hello Emily! This is great info. Only recently I started to put some information in the pictures.
    I will use the copyright stamp on my blog.

    Thank you so much for this.

  3. says

    Thank you so much for this article! It’s great,I know I’m bad about doing the watermark thing and I know I should. I will add your banner to my site. Thanks.

  4. Mr B says

    The easiest way to stop people from using your images is to send them a nominal license with an invoice attached. Although each case is different the ‘rule of thumb’ price would be £680 if the valuation is correctly presented to the court and you don’t need a solicitor.

    Watch how fast they stop using your images now!

  5. says

    I found an awful site that had mine that I thought the police would be interested in and they were not. Lesson learned that I only put images on that I think could be taken (not that I want them to be). I never did put kids completely naked but did have topless pics of my boys (bath reviews) that certainly wont be going up again.
    Pinkoddy recently posted…Packing for £9.50 Sun HolidayMy Profile

  6. says

    Thank you! I just added your badge to my site!
    The serious nuisance with this as well is the amount of time and energy it takes to check all the images out and deal with the breaches :-(
    I’ve been loading up my images full size, and as yet haven’t added watermarks so there’s a lot to be done already… About the size of the photos, can I ask what you generally use when you’re importing them to your media library?
    Thanks again.
    Steph recently posted…Velvety Berry Compote, Valentine’s for Baby & YouMy Profile

  7. says

    Hi Emily. I just wanted to say thank for your post about copyright and the copyright badge (which I have now added to my site). I have not been blogging for long but was worried about copyright, thank you so much for making the copyright badge available to your readers, I am very grateful. Hopefully this will deter any unlawful behaviour.

    Kind regards

    Julie recently posted…Spicy Potatoes, Chorizo and Peppers with Pan Fried Sea BassMy Profile

  8. says

    I’ve been doing a similar online search recently, and am amazed at the number of sites that have taken my images and used them without permission, even though I only upload them with watermarks, and have clear information on my website and Facebook page about copyright. Being able to drop an image into Google’s search bar to look for similar images online makes it very easy to find photos that are being used elsewhere.

    I’m in the process of chasing these up, but so far many of my messages have been ignored. It’s also surprising that so many sites have no contact details. It’s useful to know they can be reported to Google – thanks for that tip!

    It seems there is a general lack of awareness about rights regarding photography – it’s pretty frustrating to find folk reply with things like “I found it on Google so I thought I could use it”.

    There’s also been a recent change in UK legislation which makes it easier for photographers to pursue damages for breach of copyright. There’s information about it here:

    Thanks for the post!

  9. says

    Great post! Not so great about people stealing your pictures though. Argh!! I’ve had my pictures stolen before, not from this blog though so now I do watermark them. Someone had actually STOLE a photo of ME and made a facebook profile claiming it was them (used a different name), I was SO mad.
    I never knew you could check via google – thanks for the tutorial and tips. x
    Sarah recently posted…Liebster AwardMy Profile

  10. says

    Wow. I decided to just randomly pick a couple of images from my blog and do this and it’s MAD how many people have stolen them. I had no idea. Thanks for such a helpful post detailing what steps to take now – trying to decide if I’m going to go through every image now – argh.
    Ruth recently posted…Things We LoveMy Profile

  11. Gemma Matthews says

    What an interesting read, I can’t believe people would so outrightly steal your photographs, the cheek of some people! I’m just starting my own blog so this may be useful, very untechnical but slowly learning :-/ I love getting your blog updates though, great work and thanks for this one! :)

  12. says

    Hi Emily this is a super post. I remember seeing it ages ago before I started my blog and have just dug through your site to find it again. There is so much to learn with this blogging malarkey isn’t there! I’m floundering around like a flapping fish at the moment! I’d love to use your copyright badge too if that’s still OK? Thanks for all the helpful tips. x
    Emma Smith recently posted…No Time To Shave, I Almost Killed The Cat And Grandma’s BirthdayMy Profile

  13. says

    I’m stealing your copyright protected picture! lol. (you did provide the code!)

    This post is fantastic. I’ve just been a victim of photo theft a few days ago. Someone stole an image of my babies and used it to create a fake profile on facebook which they then used to fraudulently win an Ipad without giving any of their own information away!

    I’m going to look into the watermarks and I’ve bookmarked this page so I can work my way through it all and keep it for future use (and recommend to friends).

    Thanks for creating this post. xx
    Emma recently posted…Get Milky Baby Clothing Giveaway & ReviewMy Profile

    • says

      This same thing happened to me (around the same time you posted this comment) with images of my kids too. I ended up putting a right & left click disable on my blog to deter the lazy thief. I also watermark much larger now with my URL so if they were to pin my image & then save it from there they would have to spend a good amount of time in photoshop to remove it. I also try to put the watermark close to the face when it comes to my kids so it would be harder to crop it out.

      Disgusting that people do this & take the joy out of blogging & sharing images with those that are good people. What ever happened to not touching things that don’t belong to you?
      Gina recently posted…Pineapple Upside-Down Cake {Recipe}My Profile

  14. says

    Thanks so much for posting this Emily. For my personal photos, I will add the watermark. That way if anyone steals them, I at least get credit back to my site. I think a simple caption underneath the pic should be simple courtesy that we can offer to all.
    Dana Che recently posted…Six Steps to Starting Your Own BlogMy Profile

  15. says

    Great post Emily, thank you. I’ve done a quick check on the pics I’ve taken myself and no stealers, which is fab. Did it for some stock images and loads of people are using them, but they probably just bought the same CD I did, maybe, who knows? Ah well, as long as the photos I took myself aren’t being reproduced, that’ll do for me. I did wonder how I would even know if someone stole them, so thank you.
    Trouble Doubled recently posted…The end of term art bundle.My Profile

  16. says

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of this post Emily…I was actually thinking about this a few days ago but had no idea where I had seen the post! I will have a good read of it again & work on watermarking my images…thanks, Helen x

  17. says

    Thanks for such writing such a clear and informative post. I have hundreds of images on my site, most taken with my camera phone and although I’ve put a watermark on most, didn’t really know how to find out if anyone is using my photos or what to do if they were!

  18. says

    Thank you for this, I’ve only searched a couple of images and already found one being used without my permission or a link back to me! The site is in Czech though so not sure how far I’ll get with contacting them.

    • says

      Just an update, actually the site was in Russian, but with the help of Google Translate I managed to contact the site owner and they have removed the whole page – result! The page contained lots of images which had been used without any credit, so they have all been removed too!

      I don’t mind people using my images if they link back to me but it’s a bit cheeky not to, especially as it was a picture of something that I had made, and when I translated the text I found that the author of the page was asking people to choose which items they liked the look of so that she could copy them and sell them!

      Thanks again,

  19. Lorraine Cooper says

    I’ve been through the oldest section of my archive, and found the strangest photo has been “borrowed”. A picture of a bikini cup that I used to cover the metal hinges on my futon, appearing on a Russian desktop images site. ODD. Trouble is, there’s no contact details. Ah well, as far as stolen pics go, I’m not exactly bothered about that. It did remind me that I need to change the filenames of some pics though, there’s tonight’s job!

  20. Lorraine Cooper says

    I’ve been through the oldest section of my archive, and found the strangest photo has been “borrowed”. A picture of a bikini cup that I used to cover the metal hinges on my futon, appearing on a Russian desktop images site. ODD. Trouble is, there’s no contact details. Ah well, as far as stolen pics go, I’m not exactly bothered about that. It did remind me that I need to change the filenames of some pics though, there’s tonight’s job!

  21. Lorraine Cooper says

    I’ve been through the oldest section of my archive, and found the strangest photo has been “borrowed”. A picture of a bikini cup that I used to cover the metal hinges on my futon, appearing on a Russian desktop images site. ODD. Trouble is, there’s no contact details. Ah well, as far as stolen pics go, I’m not exactly bothered about that. It did remind me that I need to change the filenames of some pics though, there’s tonight’s job!

    • says

      Hi. That does indeed sound like a weird one to steal! Hope this post has proved useful. Sorry for the slow reply, your comment accidentally landed in my spam filter :-/

  22. Alexander residence says

    Great post, have had a look and I think not labelling or naming my pictures has probably helped prevent searches, but the picassa watermark tip is fab, thank you!

  23. says

    Great advice on how to tackle the problem and has given me a nudge to take a look at my images.

    Funnily enough I’ve been meaning to add a copyright to each individual image and have put it off for yrs!

  24. Anonymous says

    I’ve just been through mine and checked and thankfully nothing has been pinched! I am really considering going self hosted as I would like to block the lifting of any images from my blog, especially ones of my boy. It’s annoying that I should have to go to this hassle though!

    • says

      Yes there are plugins that can do that but to honest it’s not that effective. There are loads of ways round the block but obviously I won’t list them here!

  25. Colin Shelbourn says

    I don’t know whether to feel relieved or insulted but no one appears to be stealing my illustrations.

    Admittedly, it was a cursory search. And I do tend to watermark, put copyright notices nearby and threaten to set the household dog on anyone who filches one of my cartoons.

    Nonetheless, this was invaluable advice – thanks Emily!

  26. says

    I’m not the most technically minded so this step-by-step was so useful.

    Yesterday I noticed that one image on my blog had been viewed dozens of times in one day which felt a bit odd. I just used your tips and found that no one else seems to have taken the image, which has put my mind at ease.

    I’m now going to look into protecting the images on my blog for peace of mind. I’m not self hosted (i use Blogger) do you happen to know if I can still stop the images from being copied?

    Thanks for sharing, I really appreciate it.

  27. says

    Good article.

    There are not enough hours in the day to chase up all the images that have been lifted, not only with an email but going back to check what has happened subsequently.

    I just checked one of our images and there are eight pages of sites that have lifted that image.

    Like you no doubt, we generally want backlinks in order to get higher up in the search rankings.

    What I would like is a tool that will do a similar image search and then list the websites by page rank, monthly page views, whether the image is credited, the anchor text and the context – then I could spend my time chasing sites down more wisely.

  28. Ness Gorton says

    So glad you wrote this. Thanks it’s great. I’m going to add it to my blog …….. but with a link purely to your site! Don’t want to steal any of the glory from you xx

  29. says

    if your self hosted there is a plug in which prevents anyone lifting images. Try lifting images on Tara Cain’s blog – Sticky Fingers you get a message telling you off! @nickicawood on twitter has info – I’m sure she’d point you in the right direction if you ask.
    I should do this – I’m not self hosted and keep meaning to organise watermarking – but don’t have photoshop or picasso.

  30. says

    Thanks for doing this post. I had already started to put my blog address on images, but I do need to go back over older pics and do those. But thanks very much, this has been really very useful. x

  31. says

    Thank you for all this work – I will add the badge and a copyright notice – been meaning to do it for a while now. I found part of a post reproduced on another website and asked for it to be removed. They did but it took a while

    • says

      Glad it’s useful – I’m sure most people don’t mean any harm when they take images, they just don’t think of the person behind it. Hopefully this will help encourage the good ones not to do it, and scare the bad ones off ;)

  32. says

    So interesting! I don’t think my images are worthy of theft, but I am going to add your copyright button to my site. But how rude to use an obviously pregnant belly for weightloss!

  33. thebabywife says

    I haven’t had this issue, due to not really using personal images on the blog, but will keep it in mind for the future x

  34. says

    Thank you for this, I always use my own photos on the blog and would be annoyed if people used them without crediting me. It is an effort and does take time to take them and they are mine!

  35. says

    I have to confess that I do occasionally use images from other sites and blogs on my HowToWriteBetter site, although the vast majority of the images I use are copyright-free or my own photographs. When I do use someone else’s though, if time permits and I can find a contact easily, I email and ask permission or failing that I credit the source and link to it with a message saying “image gratefully borrowed from (name and URL.)”

    So far I haven’t had any complaints from copyright owners. It’s not the perfect way to go about using images, but at least I hold my arm out so my wrist can be slapped!

    • says

      Hi Suze.

      If their images are marked as “creative commons” it’s usually fine to do what you describe.

      If I need an image (not for this blog as all images are mine, but on others) I sometimes search for a relevant keyword plus “creative commons” and it usually brings plenty of people up who are happy for you to use their work without prior permission as long as you credit.

      I think people often don’t realise the work that goes into even the simplest of images. All of mine (though not to pro standard, I’m sure) take hours of getting the lighting right, getting the camera settings right, snapping several (hundred sometimes) from different angles, whittling down to the best ones, editing in Photoshop (removing scratches, marks and blemishes), resizing, saving for web, uploading, tagging etc etc. That’s a lot of effort for someone to just sweep in an nick them uncredited!

      We have to bear in mind too that many photographers and artists try to sell their work – either directly or through stock photography sites – and if an image is stolen, particularly without credit, then that’s not only money out of that person’s pocket once, but potentially repeatedly.

      The other reason I’d like to be asked permission first, even for the ones I don’t mind people using, is that I want some control over the context they’re used in. For example, there are certain stories/arguments I most certainly wouldn’t pictures of myself or my children appearing against.

      Thanks for commenting :)

  36. bakingaddict says

    Thanks for this. I’ve read recently about bloggers have images and content stolen. I never thought it would happen to me – who would want my amateur photos. I clicked on the google image search and entered my blog profile pic (which is a cupcake) and it appeared somewhere else with no credit!! I’ve left a message as you suggested and will wait for a response otherwise I will have to report them. You are right and we should not stand for it. I should consider using a watermark.

    • says

      It is surprising isn’t? You just don’t expect it! I know most people don’t do it with malice, but it isn’t a nice feeling when you find your work uncredited elsewhere, is it? Hope the site using your image responds positively x

  37. Anonymous says

    Ooo it’s cheeky isn’t it? I don’t mind anyone pinching my images – but maybe I should. I’ve never really thought about it until now. I shall go away, think and come back again!

    • says

      Thanks Annie.

      I didn’t think I minded. Actually I decisively didn’t want to put my ‘stamp’ on images as I’m not a pro photographer and I worried people would say, “Ooooh, who does she think she is?”
      But then I started finding my images out there uncredited on the interwebs and I felt a bit sad…then I felt cross…then I wrote this post :D

      • Paul Sutton says

        I’m the same in that I wouldn’t have an issue. But then, I don’t share personal images on my own blog and, were it a parent blog, I’d be implementing this advice right now for that exact reason. I know that were I to find a picture of myself heavily pregnant on another website I’d be mighty upset. [Although if there was a picture of me heavily pregnant ANYWHERE I suspect I’d have bigger issues… :o) ]

        • says

          Haha! I’ve think I’ve seen those pictures, Paul – you were blooming ;) Seriously though, as I said to Suze above, I’m not always going to say ‘no’ if people ask to use my work – in fact it’s positively great to see my work elsewhere in many cases – I just object to them doing it without permission or credit. Thanks for commenting :)