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:
<div align="center"><a href="https://www.amummytoo.co.uk/2012/01/are-people-stealing-your-images/" target="_blank"><img title="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" src="https://www.amummytoo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/copyrightbadge.png" alt="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" /></a></div>
Here’s the big version I use in my sidebar:
<div align="center"><a target="_blank" href="https://www.amummytoo.co.uk/2012/01/are-people-stealing-your-images/"><img title="This site is copyright protected - Click to get the badge" src="https://www.amummytoo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/copyright-notice.png" 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.