We certainly live in the age of the “freebie.” There’s tons of free iphone/android apps to help you with everything from staying organized to waking up in the morning. Then there’s social media services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And there’s a slew of online companies (e.g. Canva, Last Pass, PicMonkey) that offer their a-bit-less-than-premium, but nonetheless fantastic, services for free. It truely is amazing.
Unfortunately, though, all of that free stuff being so available has also helped cultivate disdain or ignorance (or both) for the intellectual property rights of others. This is particularly true with regard to the rights of photographers and other visual artists. For example, Pinterest allows its users to “pin” visual content found on the web, and in turn, those pins can be “re-pinned” and distributed by an exponentially growing number of users. Which can be problematic for photographers and artists who depend upon their images for their livelihood (e.g., see our earlier posts here and here). It’s likely that most Pinterest users don’t understand that not every artist wants their work distributed on Pinterest. And, notwithstanding Pinterest’s Terms of Service, most of those users probably don’t understand that they may be infringing an artist’s rights by distributing content without the artist’s consent.
So, as you can guess, it’s difficult for photographers and visual artists to protect their work these days. While there’s no easy solution, particularly for photographers and artists with limited budgets, there are a few free tools out there that can help. Today, we’ll explore one of those tools- Google Images.
You may already be familiar with Google Images, but if not, Google Images is one of Google’s specialized search databases. The database allows users to input search words/terms to browse and find images that they want. But if you’re an artist or photographer, you can also use Google Images to search for places where your photograph or artwork appears on the Internet.
Doing a search for your photograph or artwork is incredibly easy. First, navigate to Google Images’ search bar page (link is here). Once you are on the page, the easiest way to search is by dragging a copy of your photograph right into the search bar. Once you do that, the text “Search by Image” will come up as your file downloads. Usually this takes under a minute or so. Next, a list of search results comes up with the online places where your photograph appears. for example, we did a search of our “Beachwood Canyon Staircase” photo:
After we dragged the photo to the search bar, Google Images displayed the results page:
Clicking on the links that are listed will bring you directly to the sites where your work has been posted. You can also search by using your image’s URL. There is even a “search by voice” option that allows you to speak some search terms for the search box (although we were unable to get this option to work for us). And of course, you can also search by using search terms pertinent to your image, although this may bring up a lot of images from other parties that you’ll have to sort through.
After you do a search, your results page will also include “visually similar images” that you can look through.
All in all, Google Images is a pretty amazing search tool.
Currently, we’re exploring whether there’s a way to use Google Alerts together with Google Images or by tagging a photo/image with keywords. In case you’re not familiar with Google Alerts, it works as a notification system of sorts. For example, if you’re interested in getting a notification when articles about the Yukaghir clan system (or on any esoteric topic your heart desires…) are published on the web, you would set up an alert with Google Alert using pertinent keywords. When an article having your keywords publishes, you’ll receive an email with the article’s information/link. We’ll continue to look into this, since a cost-free alert when your photo/image is published somewhere on the web is an even better tool.
Have you ever used Google Images or Google Alerts to find potential infringements of your work? If so, we’d love to hear your story and how you were able to use Google’s databases to help protect your work.
This post is intended to convey general information only and should not be construed as a legal opinion or legal advice. Any opinions expressed are our own. Readers should not take any action, or refrain from taking any action, based upon the information contained in our site and posts, but should consult with their own attorney concerning their own situation and their specific legal questions. Visiting our website, reading posts and/or posting comments does not establish any form of attorney-client relationship with us.