I was reading a post by fellow blogger and photographer Scott Wyden Kivowitz about the benefits of searching for images using the Google Image Search option so I thought I would give it a try. I have used TinEye for a while with decent results but I have to tell you that I was truly shocked at what I found using the power of Google.
I decided you search for one of my more popular images of the Wave in Northern Arizona. That’s it above. First I did a search using Tin-Eye to see if it was showing up anywhere it shouldn’t be. The search came up with 5 matches. Interestingly enough, the first three sites listed weren’t even mine. It also failed to find the original image posted in my Favorite Photos page (which, by the way, needs some serious updating), or the original article I had used it in.
So now it was time to give the Google Image Search a try. All I did was right-click on my image and copy the image URL address. Then I went to Google and pasted the URL into the search bar. When the search results came in I started looking at what was found. Google had found sites that were related to the discussion, other images that it thought looked similar, and then as I scrolled down, I started to find them.
Google had found the image in several places on my website, which I expected, but what really shocked me was the 130+ other sites that had used my image (without my permission). Some of them were occasions where someone had just copied and pasted my entire blog post on their own site (the original post was my 10 places to photograph before I die article). Of course most of these sites didn’t even bother to link back to my site. Then there were the multitudes of sites that had just snagged the image for whatever purpose they wanted. One person was even using it as their Facebook Profile picture. I dropped him a note and he was nice enough to change it. Yet another site had the nerve to be giving it away as a downloadable wallpaper.
I sent some messages to some of the more reputable sites but the majority of sites were from foreign countries where I couldn’t even read the context in which it was being used. Here it is on some Korean website, here’s one in Arabic, and here’s a fun one from a forum in Bulgaria.
While I am glad that my images have such international appeal, I am also a little shocked at the level of image theft (yes, I used the T-word) that my image has been subjected to. It’s so great that I could spend months trying to send out take-down notices and barely make a dent. I’m not a big fan of big old ugly watermarks on my photos but this experience has really opened my eyes to the fact that they are probably necessary, at least for any image that I care about.
So now comes the scary task of searching for more of my images. Thanks Scott and Google for opening my eyes and helping me realize that I need to be a little more diligent in protecting my property.