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Finding your photos

HOW can you find instances of your photos being used online without a licence? Here's a very, very condensed guide, with links to much more detailed advice.

It's a work in progress - come back and there may be more.

Searching for captions and pages

The best route is still, probably, to search for web pages that contain your photo. I offer two really, really important tips here:

  • You are not looking for words that describe your image. You are searching for words that will appear in the page that rips it off.
    • If you photograph food, you do not want to search for "recipe" because few pages that are recipes contain the word "recipe"
    • Instead, you want to search for words specific to your image: "Boeuf Wellington" and Knackwurst and the like.
  • To find things fastest, you want to search for the most unusual word or phrase that will get used near your image.
    • "American football" is not good - it'll match shedloads of webpages. It'll also miss pages for readers to whom it's just "football".
    • london blitz football is quite good - specific (apparently) to a particular team

Searching for phrases is much more specific than for separate words. As above, use plain "quote marks" to specify that you're looking for a phrase.

In most search engines you can use a minus sign (the same thing as a hyphen) to specify that you want pages that do not include a word or phrase. For example: london blitz football -bomb -bombed eliminates pages and pictures of Cockneys showing spirit.

Searching for the image itself

In the near future, you will be able to upload a thumbnail of a picture to a service and tell it "go find every instance of this picture on the Web" without bothering about those wordy thingies.

This will entirely change, for example, the argumet about so-called "orphan works".

The big issue then will be the so-called "dark web" - the parts that search engines cannot reach. This may include parts of sites that are behind "paywalls" - though it is in their owners' interest to let search engines alert possible subscribers to what they have on offer.

Here are some interesting links to explore these possibilities. [More notes follow.]


There are up to three answers to this question, and a fourth that may help find the others. Who is:

  1. The person or company responsible for illegally copying your photo to a website;
  2. The person or company that owns the website
  3. The person or company that owns the machine the website's files live on - the host;
  4. The person or company that owns the domain name of the website?

If the answer to (a) is "Times Newspapers Limited then that's almost certainly the answer to (b), (c) and (d) too.

[Paragraphs about dns searching here]

Now what?

Now you've found the photo and the infringer, you have a decision. Do you want to go for cash, or do you want it removed from the web (not least so that others cannot nick it)?

Trying for some cash

In UK law, you are entitled only to claim the actual financial loss you have suffered as a result of an enfringement of your copyright. If you were to go to court, however, defending the case would cost the infringer lots of money. So it would be reasonable to invoice them for twice what you would have charged, had they asked nicely.

Of course, going to court would cost you money. Small Claims Courts in England and Wales do not currently take cases involving copyright.

(In Scotland, the Small Claims track of Sheriff's Courts may take such cases, and have indeed been known to award sensible damages for flagrant infringement.)

The NUJ proposed in 2006 that in the interests of justice there must be a Small Claims procedure that deals with copyright matters. In January 2010 Lord Justice Jackson proposed the same in a government-sponsored review of civil litigation. The NUJ is pressing for this to be implemented promptly.

It is (also of course) even harder if the infringer is outside the UK. The NUJ proposed, and the International Federation of Journalists accepted, that journalists' unions should support each others' members in such claims. NUJ members should contact the Freelance Office to ask whether a journalists' union in the country in question can yet help.

Getting rid of the infringement

[Para on DMCA takedown to follow]

Last modified: 26 Jul 2010 - © 2010 contributors
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