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Google Images is a cost-free search database that can help you locate the online places where your photos appear

More on using Google’s cost-free alert platform, Google Alerts, to help protect your images.

     Last week’s post explored how you can use Google Images to help protect your photos. Our previous post also posed the question as to whether Google Images can be paired with Google Alerts to provide an even better tool to protect your images and photos. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Alerts, it’s a cost-free alert service that will e-mail you when an article having certain keywords (that you designate) appear on the web.

     Well, we were lucky enough to come across Erik Sacino‘s (of Solar Gravity Studios) article, “How To Protect Your Photos Online,” which explains how to use Google Alerts with your photos. Erik goes over a couple of ways that you can accomplish this and explains that, to protect your photos in general, you want to provide your photos with a “digital tattoo” of sorts.

     Erik’s first suggestion is to add keywords to your image’s metadata. Unless someone takes affirmative steps to remove metadata, it will be part of your image’s file and will go wherever your image goes. The theory is to use some unique combo of keywords in the metadata and then set a Google Alert for that combo. Note that the combination should be placed in quotations to avoid pulling up everything having one of the individual keywords. We plan on giving this strategy a try and will report back once we give Google Alerts time to do its webcrawler thing to locate our keyword combo.

     As Erik’s article notes, you can add metadata right from your camera. For example, our Nikon has this option in its “Setup” sub-menu (the one with the little wrench icon). Within the Setup sub-menu, the “input comment” command (or analogous on non-Nikon cameras) will allow you to enter your keywords. The only caveat is that this method limits the number of characters you can enter (e.g., our Nikon permits 36 characters total). It’s likely that most post-processing software will also allow you to enter metadata.

     Erik’s second suggestion is beautifully elegant because it’s simple yet potentially powerful. With this second method, you would use what Erik terms “keyword triggers” in the name and/or description of your image. This is because, as Erik explains:

The interesting thing that I have found is that most digital thieves will not rename the photo. This works in your favor.

Additionally, I have discovered that when people steal your work they often rip the description directly from your image. This is actually a good thing since you can digitally tattoo your own words.

     So, you can cherry pick some sequential string of words from your image’s description, which ideally creates a unique phrase. Once you have a unique string of words or a phrase, you can set up Google Alerts to send you an e-mail when that phrase/string of words appears on the web.

     In addition to a unique phrase, you can also add a unique alpha-numeric label to your image’s name or description and then set a Google Alert for the label.

If you’ve never used Google Alerts, setting up an alert is very easy. To set up an alert, go to the Google Alert website and enter your keyword(s) in the search box:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 1.02.24 PM

     Once you enter your keywords, Google Alerts will ask for an email address where it can send you your search results as they appear on the web. At this point, you can also set various parameters from the pull down menus that appear. For example, from the pull-down menus, you can set language, region and you can choose to receive your alerts immediately as they appear, or once a day or week. The pull-down menus are shown in the sample run below, which uses a piece of text from one of our earlier posts:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 1.10.21 PM

     Although you’ve just set up the alert at this point, Google Alerts will list recent places where your keyword combo appears on the Internet. For example, our sample search tells us that there aren’t any recent results using our keywords and also identifies an older article that includes the keywords.

     Once you hit the “Create Alert” blue button, Google Alerts will send you an email when your keyword combo appears online. Although Google doesn’t index absolutely everything that appears on the web, Google Alert’s search results should be fairly comprehensive.

In addition to using Google Alerts, Erik offers other good advice to help protect your photos and images:

  1. Use a watermark on your images;
  2. Add a copyright notice to your image’s metadata; and
  3. In general, never upload full resolution versions of your images.

(You can read about these suggestions, and others, in more detail in Erik’s article.)

As always, we love hearing about our reader’s ‘copyright adventures.’ Let us know if you’ve ever used Google Alerts or another platform (e.g. Tineye) to protect your images, or other work, and how it worked out for you.

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.

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