How to find out if your images are being used online in 3 clicks!

We are all familiar with how to search for an image online using “the Google”.
how to find out if your images are being used online thumb

However, you might not be familiar with how to find out if your images are being used online.

The “reverse search” method to find the original source of an image can be done in 3 clicks and is actually relevant to everyone who puts an image online (or posts their photos online).

Why?

If you are an artist, illustrator, photographer, chef, or a parent, you might want to make sure your images are being used online WITH your permission!

Similarly, if you use images you find online it is YOUR responsibility to find the original source of the image to make sure you have permission to use it on your website or other communication.

If you use an image online that is subject to copyright without permission or attribution (if permitted) it is considered theft regardless of your intention, and you could find yourself dealing with legal action. And yes, that does happen.

Watch the short video below that walks you through how to find out of it your images are being used online.

(I’ll also you show the difference between image theft (without attribution) and the right way to do it!)

When researching this post I actually found over 50 of my drawings used without attribution as outlined in my Creative Commons License.

I emailed SOME of the people who used my images without attribution but not all.

Finding out that someone has used your images online without your permission can feel really icky (putting it mildly) and be a HUGE time and energy suck.

I will admit that I’ve wasted far too much time and energy fighting with people over this in the past, contacting lawyers etc … and what did it bring my business? Not a huge amount.

The fact is that we have a choice; either we scream “THIEF” or we send an email and hope that the situation can be rectified amicably. Usually it’s rectified super fast, but occasionally you can get some pretty irate defensive replies – you have to be prepared for both outcomes.

Here are some of the responses I’ve received when pointing out copyright infringement:

“Oh, it was my new assistant, she’s new to social media and didn’t know.”

– If you have anyone sourcing images for you, it’s YOUR responsibility to ensure they know about copyright. At the end of the day it’s YOU who is liable, not your assistant.

“I found the image on Pinterest/Facebook and thought it was free to use!”

– Use the reverse image search outlined in the video above to FIND the original source (and umm, my images have my URL on them which is like a watermark!)

Here are some quick links for you to read more on the issue of copyright:

  • Get a Creative Commons License for your site (so you have something to refer back to in case of image theft).
  • Dig in more to Copyright and Fair Use to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules (this is for the USA but basics stand true in most countries) .

Remember, using someone’s work online without their permission is theft. It’s important that when you use someone else’s work that you attribute and link with love!

Don’t let this oversight invite unnecessary stress into your life and business!

Have you ever discovered your images are being used online without your permission?  What di you do?

Related posts:

37 Responses to How to find out if your images are being used online in 3 clicks!

  1. I love the search by image tool on Google, it’s brilliantly simple! It’s such a worry that other people could be making money from work they’ve never done – the internet is really rife with it. Apparently, it seems completely fine to steal an image and even copy, but in reality it’s no different to breaking into someone’s house and nicking their bike.

    I hope you get some positive responses from your emails!

    • Thanks Gemma, yup it’s exactly the same as someone stealing your bike, but so many don’t get it.

      Sadly, I do know a LOT of people who are actually scared to put their stuff up online for fear it will be stolen … it’s just important to accept that no one steals something shit even if it sucks when it happens!

  2. Thanks for creating this video. I have had an entire post of mine taken and put onto someone else’s site. The woman did place a link back to my site at the bottom but never asked me if she could use my work on her site. Not surprisingly, it was extremely difficult to find any way to contact her from her site. I somehow managed to do so and asked her to take it down. Never heard back but eventually she did it.

    As far as images are concerned, I spend the money and pay to download stock images from sites like iStock or Big Stock. It adds up but it’s the way to go. Once in a while I’ll take my own photos and use them.

    • Hi Jen, sorry that someone stole your content too! I had an incident last year where someone was stealing my entire posts (pics and all), removing all the internal links to my content and changing the call to action to include their email address and the sharing all over the interwebs. I only found out because I got a ping back because she’d forgotten to remove one link – I headed over in the morning all excited to see a new person online who had linked back and my JAW DROPPED. 3 posts, my images, NO credit and they all had over 30 shares on Facebook.
      When I called her out she was really rude and indignant and said her “assistant” didn’t know you couldn’t do that – right, but she knew how to change the call to action, remove all internal links, and she was in marketing, supporting a marketing business. URGH! It’s infuriating!

      The price of purchasing images can add up but in all honesty, it’s a lot cheaper than legal action! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your experience!!

  3. Loved this, and thanks Ameena! The video is great too 🙂 I’m going to check on my images and get that creative commons going on my site.

    Could you give an example of an email you’d write to someone who has used the image without attribution?

    Thanks,

    Robin

    • Thanks gorgeous – you still haven’t done your creative commons license? It’s 2 clicks 🙂 Do it!

      The email I sent out was simple:

      Hi All

      I’ve just discovered that you were using one of my drawings without attribution.

      The post containing MY drawing is here: xxx

      (My original illustration is here> xxx )

      My illustrations and work are protected under Creative Commons

      I request you either attribute myself as the original source of the image or remove it.

      Many thanks

      Ameena

      (in a couple of cases I did add this snarky snippet “Since you are aware of how Social Media and the Interwebs work I am going to assume this oversight can be rectified asap.
      But I can say that I really upset that an organisation such as yourself can overlook such BASIC rules such as stealing someone else’s work.”)

      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks for the great example, and for taking the time Ameena! I now have the license up, and will check to be sure my artwork isn’t being used without my permission.

        As usual, you rock it!

        Robin

  4. This is great info Ameena, thanks so much!
    I didn’t know it was that easy to search my own images online. I will do the detective work on mine now.
    Keep us posted on the emails you sent! 🙂

    • Thanks Raine, yes it’s super simple, but as I said, be careful as it’s a huge time and energy suck. I didn’t do it as often as I used to because I’d find myself losing a whole day ranting and getting upset.

      So far, I have received 2 apologies with attributions added to the sites and one very rude reply. I’m not spending a huge amount of time on this as I feel it’s more important to take my experience and share it with those so they can avoid making the same mistake!

  5. Thank you for sharing this information. It will make it very easy to find out if your images are being used online by others however I believe there is also a way to use your web analytics software to find this by looking up referral traffic assuming the image has a link on it which directs users to your site.

    HubSpot also has a blog article on how to protect yourself against content theft. The link for the article is http://blog.hubspot.com/internet-content-theft

    The one type of age theft that is very hard to find is if someone is on your site, right clicks and saves the image to their hard drive. They then upload the image to their server and direct link the image from their server to their own blog post.

    In a way however we need to look at this as a way of a compliment. The content was so good that others copied it.

    • Hi Dror,

      I’ve only once been led to an online thief because they forgot to remove a link from my image. If someone copies the image to their desktop and then uploads it to their media gallery the name changes but the “reverse search” still works on Google.

      Thanks for sharing that Hubspot article – it’s perfect!

      And yes, thank you, no one steals something that has no value!

        • I could dig deeper into how the Google works it’s magic but I’m not going to! It works which is what counts.

          You can see a comment below from Vince who did this search and found HIS images uploaded to various sites with OTHER people’s copyright attached to the image which means the image was saved on to a computer, modified and uploaded.

          I also found modified versions of my drawings using this search.

          I’m no techy whizz – my basic rule is, if it works then use it!

  6. People ignoring copyright issues seem to be all over the place lately.
    I was reading the other day how 2 websites had ripped off the copy of Erika Napoletano’s blog at RedHead Writing. People can be lazy to not come up with their own thoughts, writing, and artwork.

    I love google image search, tin eye, and copyscape.

    • Thanks Andy, yes it seems to be a hot topic at the moment. I’ve been suffering with this issue since my site was 3 months old. Content, sales pages, images, colours, calls to actions, you name it – copied.

      I could write pages highlighting the thieves work but it’s too much of a time suck energetically and a bit too self serving for me. I’d prefer to inspire and educate people of the potential issues and offer up solutions!

  7. Thanks Ameena! As a professional photographer who frequently creates nudes, etc., you can imagine what I found when I took a stroll through the web using your advice. Not only were many fine art nudes showing up on forums, but some were actually being used as links to porn sites and had someone else’s copyright attached! Thank you!
    Vince

    • Wow Vince! I am glad you found this useful but I am NOT happy with what you found. I am always stunned at how people can be so shameless!
      Please keep me posted on how you tackle this issue with the thieves in question.
      AND remember, NO ONE steals crap. Ever.

  8. I discovered reverse image search a few weeks ago and I really was FLOORED. I am so glad you are talking about this.For me I am not talking about one or two, but dozens and by BIG companies too. I haven’t been payed, credited, and lately just insulted by a photograph studio that used my image to promote an event. Same old story. oops, an assistant who no longer works here must have done it or here is doozy from a major corporation in an email they were not aware it had copyright because they got it off google images.

  9. Just looking at the creative commons licenses – there doesn’t seem to be one that doesn’t not allow for sharing of some kind.
    Their most restrictive says : This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
    I personally don’t want other people downloading my images – sharing I don’t mind so much (as long as it’s done properly, pinterest etc) but the thought of people downloading is a bit worrying (I photograph other people’s children)
    But I guess there is no way to police that.

    • (I didn’t clarify that statement)
      Therefore, I don’t think it would be of benefit to me to display a Creative Commons license because wouldn’t that be giving permission for people to download?

      • You can put something on your site that says “You cannot use my images” or something to that effect. Creative commons was just what I chose as I’m not in the business of selling rights to my blog post illustrations.

  10. Photos Are Dicey — You most likely are not using a small part of someone’s image or photo like you do with text excerpts. If copying photos it usually means you are using the entire original work. Because of this you are more than likely violating copyright when taking an image from the web and using it on your blog without permission.

  11. That’s so cooool!!!
    Are there any tips on how you can go about using an image (you want to use)if you find on a Google search for instance??
    Many Thanks

      • Hi…
        I searched on Google for an image to try to see where an image came from and when I paste it to see where the original was from it comes up with page cannot be display…. image to big

  12. Using copyrighted work. As a general rule, any original work — whether text, visual art, photos, or music — is protected by copyright law, which means that you may not reproduce it without permission from the copyright owner. Giving credit or thanks to the copyright owner does not change that; you are not allowed to reprint (or distribute, adapt, perform, or sell) the work without the owner’s authorization.

  13. Thanks so much for this. I never knew you could research image theft this way! I just did a search and someone ripped off my logo along with my trademark brand (just deleting the .com) and even copied the service I provide! Blood is boiling now!

    Off to write a cease/desist letter. Thanks!

  14. The problem is when someone does this :-

    1. Download your image to their pc
    2. Rename the file
    3. Upload the image
    4. Include image ALT desc

    I think your process wont work then – Google cannot recognise an image content – that’s why they have alt tags. So unless someone has simply copied the image url from your site and pasted it into their content – they can be traced – if they have not then they wont be caught by your method unfortunatley (happy to proven wrong).

  15. This is a real eye opener!
    I do have a question though, I decided to run one of my images through it and it came up with 4 facebook pages with matching images, one of which was mine. But when I try to find my image on their page, i cannot see it. Is it a mistake by google? or would it be hidden somewhere?

  16. This article including the video here is really worth sharing with others. Not many would think it’s possible to track down even their own personal pics online.
    This is really helpful and simple thanks to you Ameena!

  17. I was not aware about this but one day I found this link on Google and it’s really grateful to find who is using your own pic online.

    Thanks Ameena…………

Leave a reply