Image Theft & YOUR Blog
How To Find Stolen Images
There comes a time in every bloggers life when image theft becomes an issue as your graphics are discovered on another website. It’s nothing to laugh about, but I must admit that I did giggle (then slam my fist on my desk) when I noticed my Blogging 101 graphic on over a dozen blogs [so far].
Yes, I am talking about THiS image:
Nearly all graphics and photographs featured on MamaNYC are personally designed exclusively FOR MamaNYC, or photography that I have taken of my child, family, products, etc. I work hard and have spent countless hours creating these images, so imagine my disappointment and anger when I found many of my graphics on multiple websites and other blogs.
How DOES it feel?
Imagine this.. you’ve worked on a graphic for about 20-30 minutes. Actually, I don’t think it would matter the amount of time spent on the image. I have been a graphic designer for well over a decade, so creating an image such as MY Blogging 101 logo might have taken a total of 10-minutes. Regardless of the time, I spent time on creating a unique and personalized image to be used on all of my Blogging 101 tutorials ON MamaNYC.
While browsing the Internet, I discover my image on one, two, three, ten, twenty sites.. and so on. Eventually, I had to call it quits for the night because of the disgust I felt over contacting fellow bloggers requesting the removal of MY images.
The WORST Part….
It’s bad enough to experience image THEFT, but imagine my surprise over how ironic it is for a blogger to STEAL my image and use it on their OWN Blogging 101 tutorial, which specifically provides tips and rules for OTHER bloggers to follow and knowledge that they would provide as a so-called blogger themselves!
Imagine my surprise when I found my Blogging 101 graphic on a website for a "company" that claimed to be graphic and web designers, offering up blog template designs and tips! As I read the blog post on another blog that featured my STOLEN graphic, I began to laugh as I discovered how contradictory their blogging tips actually turned out to be (as someone looking in as the person that had their graphic stolen FROM these "bloggers")–>
… and I quote (or, actually – as I quote and reword, so I am not accused of STEALING anything!):
"The key to blogging is to only use names and images if permission is given."
Wait… WHAAAAT? You are composing a blog post about how bloggers should ONLY use content or images that they do NOT own so long as permission is given from the owner, but you have stolen graphics all throughout your website?
… is this thing on?
There were many more graphics that I discovered stolen, which included…
Oh, and this too… [with the "MamaNYC" covered up by a BLACK box..?]
… and those are only a FEW of the many images stolen right from my blog.
These were not people that didn’t know better. These were website and blog owners that had copyright policies displayed atop of their own navigation bars with multiple reminder for visitors to respect their rights. These were web designers and so-called "blogging pros".
Which brings me to our next topic….
Right-click on any image and you’ll see "Copy Image URL" on the pop-up menu that your browser displays. This URL is the actual direct file location that can be literally typed into your browser to display this image. As if stealing an image is not bad enough, I also found HUNDREDS of websites hotlinking images directly from MamaNYC.
Why is this bad?
Being able to afford a hosting package for MamaNYC.net, which is currently settled on a VPS (Virtual Private Server), is a costly monthly expense. One of the factors included when selecting a process is bandwidth, which is the the amount of traffic that is allowed to occur between your web site and the rest of the internet. Simply put, I am "charged" or marked as having a certain amount of bandwidth used each time one of my images is downloaded onto your computer from mamanyc.net, or one of my many other domains (such as BloggerPR.net).
MamaNYC already uses a great deal of bandwidth, so imagine the level of usage after hundreds (potentially thousands) of other servers are using my image URL’s on their servers (websites)! My level of bandwidth used will increase, which will in turn increase the cost of my hosting package necessary to keep MamaNYC a fast downloading blog for visitors.
I currently have a list of over 150+ websites using my direct URL’s for image theft on their sites. Yes, I am talking about website owners having enough nerve to not only steal my images, but also use MY bandwidth! Oh, which also makes it much easier for me to catch them in the act (so, thank you..?).
There are a lot of ways you can protect your images, but nothing (unfortunately) is foolproof. We can catch people in the act, but can we catch them all? No. However, I do believe they will ALL get caught eventually. Using someone else’s images (without permission, nonetheless!) is quite simply… ridiculous, rude, and a plain old CRIME since it is the website OWNERS property. It is also a contagion we will never be rid of, so the best thing we can do is keep ourselves on high alert.
* NOTICE! Since I have a lot of information to provide in this post regarding how to DISCOVER and locate those stolen images, I am going to continue this Blogging 101 tutorial in a Part Two post, which will follow in just a few short days! Be sure to stop by in a few days, follow MamaNYC on Twitter and Facebook so you can be one of the first to know the post is published! The second post will include all of the ways that you can PROTECT your images. This post discusses how you can find those that have already been swiped and used elsewhere.
Sure, I can watermark every single image that I design for MamaNYC, but I chose (long ago) to avoid that avenue whenever possible. How ugly does the Blogging 101 image look up top with "PROPERTY OF MAMANYC" scrawled across from left to right? Horrific! I could never bring myself to watermark every single image that I create, so I stupidly went on an honor and respect system, which is clearly not working out too well for my blog.
Keep Your Eyes Open:
Make it a habit to conduct a bi-weekly search using Google and TinEye (see below) for your images. You probably have hundreds or thousands of graphics and photography plastered on your blog, so let’s start off with some images you THINK are highly susceptible to theft. I began with my Blogging 101 image because I had that feeling in my gut; I thought the graphic had a high risk of being swiped and used elsewhere, which turned out to be the unfortunate truth. Thereafter, I begin to go through the different categories featured on MamaNYC and basically browse around my blog for images that I feel have a good risk of being stolen. My gut feelings are normally right, unfortunately.
There are a few ways that you can find stolen images. This is NO easy task, so be patient and remember that you are doing this to reclaim rights to YOUR property. Hopefully nothing will turn out stolen, but you really never know. It is TOO easy to steal – and the Internet is filled with millions that will easily snatch up something that they don’t have to bother creating themselves!
 TinEye.com – This method is VERY simple and one of the quickest ways to check if your images have been swiped by another website owner or blogger. TinEye is a reverse image search tool that identifies graphics or photographs around the Internet. You have the choice of uploading your image for identification, or pasting the direct URL for the file into TinEye for verification.
While I have been able to identify image thieves thanks to TinEye, I have also found the tool to be faulty.
Let’s take my Blogging 101 graphic as an example…
TinEye is telling me that there are NO duplicates of this image anywhere on the Internet, but I know this is wrong.
How? Let’s find out below using my second method for identifying stolen images!
 Google Images [various methods!] - These options actually brings me a lot of success, but they are much more tedious than TinEye. It definitely requires patient, time, and a lot of effort on your part. Follow these steps and hopefully you’ll come up with nothing, but at least you can rest easy knowing no one has ripped off your graphics!
GOOGLE IMAGES METHOD #1:
⇒ Head on over to Google Images and use the following search formula by inserting your URL without the WWW. Press the blue microscope to submit and search for results.
[Example: inurl:mamanyc.net -site:mamanyc.net]
⇒ Once the results appear, you will notice a slew of familiar images that are featured on your site. Begin by hovering over each of the images and checking the GREEN URL on the bottom of each pop-up zoomed in view of your image:
Do I recognize this domain?
Did I give this person permission to use THIS image?
Luckily, I am great friends with CaptainFussyBuckets.com and I DID give her permission to use this image during an event that I hosted in late-July.
She’s safe, but what about the other 195 results?
* YOU will need to decide which images are okay versus those that were used without your permission. Domains such as Facebook.com, plus.google.com (Google+ Plus), and other social media sites will popup. Those are okay! Hover over each of the images as you will need to do a little detective work and deciding which one’s were used without your permission. Should you find a stolen image, contact the site owner by whichever means you feel appropriate and ask for the immediate removal of your property.
GOOGLE IMAGES METHOD #2:
The previous method will help you find images that are HOTLINKED (using YOUR image URL), but what about those images that are NOT linked to your site? How will you find those (if TinEye said ZERO results)? Remember, I have not received a foolproof result through TinEye, so double-checking for images is vital through this next step.
This is where things get complicated and tricky, so stay with me!
This method requires a lot of patience as well as trial and error in order to verify that none of your images have been ripped off from your blog. It can get complicated and will require a bit of creativity and thought, so you should feel comfortable enough to use the Google Image’s search options to narrow down your results. I will walk you through how I discovered my Blogging 101 images in order to give you a good idea of how you will need to complete this step (over and over and over and over again!)...
1) Head on over to Google Images and type in a word or phrase to describe your image. You will likely have to repeat this step various times using several different words or phrases. It is very likely that the thief could have renamed your image, or used a different ALT or TITLE tag in their HTML coding. Be aware of changes, but start with the basics as I have in my search:
For starters, I used "blogging 101" as my search term. Later on, I used such phrase as: blog 101, blogger 101, blog tips, blogger tips, etc. in order to discover variations of MY graphic that were used by image thieves around the Internet.
This image search term gave me "about 61,200,000 results"
… which is clearly not very helpful!
2) Narrow your search using the filters on the lefthand side of the Google Images page on your browser.
You have several different options to use in order to narrow down your results. This method is going to take a lot of that patient plus trial and error that I discussed earlier, so be ready to grow a BIT frustrated before you find what you are looking for!
Do you remember WHEN you created the image? Use the popup calendar to input a specific custom range to use for your search. If you can’t exactly remember, but KNOW it was sometime in mid-July, I would select "July 1, 2012" until "present", which will show ALL images stolen from your site from date of creation until today.
If you do not remember the month that your image was created, I would skip this step altogether. If you at least remember it was designed this year, I would suggest at least selection January 1, 2012 to narrow your results as much as possible!
Do you know your image size? I don’t recommend this step, but it is another option. Remember: thieves can resize your image; Google Images might misinterpret the size, etc.
Do you know the primary color of your image? Google Images allows us to select a primary color for our image results. Use this option by selecting the primary color found in your image. If your graphic had LIME GREEN text — use GREEN.
Notice that I selected RED for my "blogging 101" graphic even though the color is more of a dark red/magenta. Google will recognize all shades under the primary color selection.
You might have to try another color if there are multiple colors featured in your image. If there is a tiny amount of tan (flesh color found in my woman avatar!), I would not go that far. Only concern your results with the major components of the image and use a bit of trial and error to see what you can come up with!
What TYPE of image are you looking for? Another great search filter that we can use with Google Images is TYPE. Options available are FACE, PHOTO, CLIP ART, and LINE DRAWING. Once again, I would avoid this filter or make it a last resort if I still need to narrow down my results if they are overwhelming.
Although this filter works very well, I have seen Google Images mistaken clipart images for a line drawing, which is clearly subjective to their system or your own opinion.. I suppose! This can be very helpful, however, if you are looking for a PHOTO or CLIPART. However, I would try to browse my results with and without this filter for best results.
Now that you have completed my Blogging 101 tutorial on how to find stolen images, I hope you will join me for my NEXT Blogging 101 post, which will discuss how to PROTECT your images. The plan was to put both of these issues into one blog post, but as you can see… things got a little carried away and in-depth!
Image theft is immoral, criminal, and unlawful. You may not think it is as serious as it is, but I can be the first person to tell you that it is a VERY serious issue. If your blog or website contains images that you did not create, purchase, or receive permission to use from the owner – let’s all vow to end this year off with a clean slate. Remove these images and replace them with your own work or property.
As a graphic and web designer, I have dealt with this issue many times in the past on my own websites or clients pages that I created. However, I have never had such an immense amount of stolen graphics as I have seen here on MamaNYC. I don’t know why! Maybe my graphics are just bad luck, or maybe I should feel honored that they are being used? (Husband says I should feel ‘proud’ that other people want to use my graphics!)…
* Need an affordable graphic designer? I’d be glad to help! WebLogic Consulting is available for hire! (my company)