One of the issues associated with the free nature of the Internet is that it leads to a lot of content theft. Music is perhaps the most commonly stolen item online, but stock photos might just take second place. Unfortunately, many stock photo providers are unaware of the fact that stealing stock photos constitutes intellectual property theft. This means that there are legal measures you can take to discourage thieves from unauthorized use of your photos. Before you can send cease and desists notices and other legal documentation to stock photo thieves, however, you've got to locate stock photos that have been lifted or used without your permission.
How Can I Find Stolen Photos?
There are several ways to go about finding your stolen stock photos. Many photographers find their photos purely by accident, but this is by no means an efficient way to keep your images safe from thieves. The most efficient way to find your stolen photos is with tools specially designed for this purpose.
TinEye is billed as a ireverse image search engine. By uploading your photo to TinEye or pointing to its listing on a stock photo website,TinEye will return data that can help you locate instances of theft. This tool is capable of finding an image's origins, and locating where it's being used. TinEye can also detect copies of the same image in different resolutions, which is an effective way to find stolen stock images that have been cropped or altered.
PicScout – ImageExchange
PicScout also makes it easy to find stolen versions of your stock photos. This free service tracks images from more than 150 different stock photo agencies and photography websites, and can also be used independently to ensure your photos are protected. By using their ImageExchange feature whenever you upload a new stock photo, you'll be able to easily track where and how that photo is being used later.
How to Prevent Stock Photo Theft?
Rather than spending your free time tracking down thieves and demanding that they honor your rights, you can also protect yourself from future stock photo theft. The easiest way to prevent theft of your photos is to list them on stock photo websites that use automatic watermarking. This has become the standard at many prominent stock photo agencies, such as iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia and Shutterstock. These watermarks prominently brand an image with the logo or name of the site it was stolen from, discouraging thieves in the process.
If you prefer to list and manage your own stock photos, you can also create watermarks for copies of your photos in image editing programs. Photoshop, Pixlr and even Microsoft's basic Paint program can help you add a watermark that will keep thieves from stealing unlicensed copies of your photos. Regardless of the methods you choose, keeping a close watch on stock photo theft will help you avoid unauthorized use of the images you create and list for sale.