Creative professionals today are more at risk of becoming victims of copyright infringement today than ever before—with everything interconnected and easily accessible, the ability to provide someone else’s recording for download or snag and repost a photo is now child’s play. (This is why it’s so important to register your copyrights.)
But, conversely, it’s now also a simple matter for you to monitor the Internet for improper use. Where years ago uncovering a source of bootlegged editions might take months, if not years, material uploaded to the Internet is discoverable almost immediately. Here’s how you can stay vigil and cast your net for improper use of your material.
You know that Google Images is a great way to search the Internet for images by keyword, but did you know you can also use it to look for duplicates of a specific image? If you’ve been doing your Google searches in the little corner tab on your browser, but you haven’t been to the homepage lately (since around June of 2011), you may not be aware of this feature—but it’s key to searching the Internet for your material if you’re a painter, photographer, or other visual artist.
Give it a shot—head over to Google’s homepage and look in the search bar: you’ll see a little camera. Click that, upload the picture you’re looking for, and voilà—you’ll know who’s been hosting your material before you can say Click.
Before Google, there was TinEye. This small Canadian company was using image recognition software far before Google implemented it (Google image searches were previously text-based and relied on tags and descriptions), and they have a very small, dedicated team that has been working for years to categorize and make available literally billions of images. Their parent company, Idée Inc, has produced other image recognition software programs that you may find useful on your hunt.
Search in Quotes
And then there’s my personal favorite, useful for locating written material: just go to your favorite search engine and type in the first sentence or two in quotes. The results will show you where the written material has been reprinted. (It’s also a serviceable, if inelegant, way of connecting snippets of lyrics to the songs and bands responsible, I’ve found.)
At the end of the day, it’s important to be aware and engaged. And if you do find that your copyrighted material is being hosted somewhere without your permission, it’s always a good idea to send a friendly cease and desist letter. After all, not everyone is aware that it’s not legal to repost pictures or photographs belonging to someone else; there may be no malice intended, and the person using your work might take it down immediately with apologies. (Or, of course, it’s your right to allow them to keep using the image, provided they attribute it to you and link back to your sight.)
And if you don’t receive a response, there’s one more alternative before jumping into a legal battle: a Cease and Desist letter.
[For more information, check out our April ’11 post, “Cease And Desist Letter: The Affordable Way To Battle Copyright Infringement.”]