Photographers don't make any profit when someone steals their copyrighted images. So, most photographers work hard to protect their images from getting ripped off. However, there are 255 million websites on the Internet, and it is literally impossible to manually monitor them for infringement. To that end, this post reveals the four most successful ways that I have found to find infringers.
TinEye is a free service that allows photographers to upload a picture and then search for the same image across the Internet. TinEye has been a useful tool for quite some time for photographers, but it usually only finds 1 in 20 of my photos even when I know for a fact that they are publicly accessible online.
Google Image Search
Recently, Google added the functionality to Google Images for photographers to upload (by dragging and dropping your image file into the search bar) a photo and then it will search for instances of that same photo on the Internet. I was quite impressed with how well this worked in my test. Although it did not find every instance of my photos, it performed significantly better than TinEye.
ImageRights is a company that works to secure your rights to your photos. The service has both paid and free plans, in which photographers upload their photos and can choose to allow ImageRights to help with registering the copyright (for US photographers), searching the web to find violators, and they even work to achieve legal settlements with violators and then pay you about 50% of the money from the settlement that they work out. ImageRights is a valuable service for photographers who need the most protection possible.
Change the file name and EXIF data
I have found more violators by simply editing my EXIF data than any other method. When I edit my EXIF data, I simply put the copyright information and also my name in the comment field. Then, I set up a Google alert for my name. This works perfectly for me because I'm about the only Jim Harmer in the world, but it obviously wouldn't work if you have a common name. When someone posts one of my photos without altering the EXIF data, it often comes up on a Google alert if their CMS is set to use the comment field as a caption, which is quite common. I find a violator with this method about once per month.