How can you tell when your images are being used without your consent?

In other words, How can you find your images being used in the real world?

I imagine the most prolific medium using images irrespective of copyright would be the web, then print, and so on... Are there ways you can detect your images' usage? If so, how do you go about it?


I don't know about print, but for the web.. http://www.tineye.com/ is a reverse image search used for these kinds of purposes.

  • 2
    I've found that TinEye is less than reliable - it couldn't find where my photo had been used by the Daily Mail (without permission) Jan 19 '11 at 20:54
  • 1
    Ya, I've seen accounts of mixed results, I just don't know of anything better. Its not perfect, thats for sure.
    – rfusca
    Jan 19 '11 at 21:12
  • @Rowland, How did you find out? (if it involved prolonged study of the Daily Mail, you have my sympathy) Jan 20 '11 at 14:04
  • @Ian In that case, I was tipped off by a friend; it would be a full time job to track down if any of my other photos had been used beyond licence. See also: photo.stackexchange.com/q/856/21 Jan 20 '11 at 14:12
  • I agree. TinEye was awesome a few years ago, but Google's SearchByImage has -- for almost obvious reasons -- a significantly better hit rate.
    – Ryccardo
    Apr 3 '13 at 14:41

I've heard about a site called http://www.imagerights.com , it'll not only find your images, but it'll also help you to get paid (They take a cut, but it's not bad, so...) They'll let you use their finder service for free, they only ask that you use their recovery service as well.

  • WOW, "50%" is rather healthy cut (check the pricing page). Not saying its unfair, just a bit stunned.
    – rfusca
    Jan 19 '11 at 22:53
  • Well if you had never found it it would be 0%. Also, it allows you to get proper attribution, which is worth something. I think this service may be more useful to professionals than tineye because it limits its scope to websites that are profiting off your photo. Who cares if some small blog links to your photo? Tineye tries to do too much, and I think it does a poor job because of this.
    – rm999
    Jan 20 '11 at 0:50
  • @rm999 - I didn't say it was unfair...just didn't expect that is all.
    – rfusca
    Jan 20 '11 at 2:34
  • Technically, if a small blog is stealing your photo, you can still sue them. It's a bit mean, but... I look at it like this though, 100% of $0 is still $0... Jan 20 '11 at 2:53

Other than Tineye - which doesn't work all that well - you can't. The world is too big, and you're too unknown for your fans or representation to realize that your work was used at to let you know.


I asked David Hobby (of Strobist) fame, who has had several recent high-profile cases of infringement. He replied:

Helps to have 500k pairs of eyes out there noticing things for you...

...which, I think, is a pretty good critique on the state of infringement detection for the masses. :-\


There is one service that I believe is definitely heading in the right direction, it adds a digital 'watermark' in to your images and then has a search engine constantly looking for them on the open internet. You simply 'watermark' them before first posting on the internet and then is "borrowed" then they can be traced.

This may not be perfect now, but if it grows then it's index of images will certainly be a basis for what is some sound technology. Obviously this is only good for digital format where the image is indexable on the web, it won't find printed material .. the only way there is the 500k pair of eyes mention by another post.

Starting at $100 for a year of service with 2,000 images watermarked and searched for it is certainly within the reach of most serious photographers.



From my experience Google Image Search is more reliable and has wider database than TinEye. Click on the camera on the right side of the search field and either post a link or drag your photo into it.


How can you tell when your images are being used without your consent?

you can't

There are many faulty systems that can check for image similarity, you've already got a variety of answers regarding their mixed results. Those systems don't take fair use into account anyway.

If you're hosting images on the web, you could programmatically check for hotlinking, but the damage is done. When you put something on the internet, you've lost all hope of ever keeping people from using your stuff,

and that's the beauty of it all.

That's what the internet is all about, sharing stuff you made and letting other people share it. To think that you can stop people is incredibly vain. Not everyone lives in your country, and therefor not everyone has to comply with the copyright laws of your country.

If you do find someone using your work, ask them nicely if they'll at least cite their sources. It's the polite thing to do, and polite people will often comply.

  • I love it when people downvote and don't explain why.
    – zzzzBov
    Jan 20 '11 at 4:04
  • 2
    Because it feels like a soapbox you decided to get on about the "sharing" of the internet and not a useful answer.
    – rfusca
    Jan 20 '11 at 5:47
  • 1
    First part is useful, second isn't...
    – gerikson
    Jan 20 '11 at 6:04
  • 2
    To say "you can't" needs a little more justification. For example, the Digimarc service seems to have some merit. As for fair use, the first step is to find where the photo is being used then you, the owner, can determine from the context whether it is fair use or whether you can condone the usage. As to the second part of your answer, while I support Open Source and the Creative Commons and therefore I am sensitive to the concept of creative sharing, you ignore the fundamental right of every creator to choose whether and how he would like his work to be shared.
    – labnut
    Jan 20 '11 at 9:28
  • 3
    Uhhh, OK @zzzzBov... argumentative smart@ss answers (and comments) probably wont get you too much play. The community tends to value sincere efforts to provide truly helpful answers without a lot of snark mixed in. Please feel free to try again, though! Jan 21 '11 at 5:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.