Chasing Infringements

Posted on 11/7/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

ImageRights monitors use of the work of more than 8,000 professional photographers and photo agencies worldwide to assist them in ensuring that their intellectual property rights are protected.  Notable clients include Magnum Photos, CPi Syndication, Nunn Syndication Ltd., Playboy Enterprises, and Lickerish Ltd.

ImageRights has developed its own image search and image comparison technologies, which are then integrated with its proprietary cloud-based claim submission and case management system. The software filters, sorts and ranks incoming sightings so that the photographers are directed to review the most likely candidates for recovery first, resulting in photographers and agencies submitting thousands of unauthorized use claims for assessment every month.  These claims are then scored by ImageRights’ AI, which automatically ranks those most likely to settle and at what likely amount. This accelerates the claims assessment process and ensures that the most valuable claims are appropriately prioritized.  

ImageRights then assesses each claim and either pursues it directly or hands it off to the legal partner best suited to handle such a claim.  The photographers receive 50% to 60% of the net amount recovered. ImageRights is projecting $2.5 to 3 million in gross settlements for 2016.

Over a third of the photographers they represent and close to half of the infringement claims they have pursued are from outside of the U.S.  Currently they are seeing about half-a-dozen six-figure settlements a year, with the largest to date being an A$350,000 (US$265,000) in Australia.  

While ImageRights works with close to 50 legal partners in the U.S., throughout Europe and in many countries around the world, they also negotiate settlements directly without the additional expense and complexity of getting a lawyer involved. To date, the largest in-house settlement (without the aid of an outside lawyer) was for $66,000.

ImageRights regularly searches the web for matches to its nearly 5 million client images. They have a second, integrated search system that enables them to run targeted searches in response to requests from their legal partners and clients. They say that to search the entire web for a single image takes about 24 hours. They have algorithms that prioritize which client images to search and can set up custom searches for specified groups of client images.

Since the launch of its current system in 2014, the company has identified about 4.5 million sightings, though many of these uses are in blogs, or small personal uses, that are unlikely to generate any significant revenue and may not be worth the cost of pursuing, or even the image creators time in determining whether the use was licensed or not.  

Over the past two years ImageRights clients have identified more than 30,000 unlicensed uses. Of this number, ImageRights has recommended that about 30% be pursued. At the lower end settlements tend to range in the $1,000 to $2,000 range. When lawyers are involved the settlements tend to be in the $15,000 to $40,000 range.

If ImageRights assessors opt not to take on a case, then the clients can pursue the unauthorized use themselves without any obligation to ImageRights.

Copyright Registration

ImageRights also aids photographers in registering their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Photographers can publish their images from Lightroom to ImageRights and initiate a new registration application with the copyright office directly from within Lightroom. ImageRights then receives the registration certificates from the copyright office and scans a copy into their system, associating the information at the image level in the photographer’s ImageRights account. When there is an unauthorized use in the U.S., the fact that an image is registered timely significantly bumps the average settlement, from around $1,000 to $15,000 – $20,000.  For this reason, photographers are encouraged to register their images.

Many UK photographers have been using ImageRights to register their images with the U.S. Copyright Office. More than half the registrations ImageRights has handled are for agencies and photographers living outside the U.S.  At the very least, if you know from an ImageRights discovery search that certain of your images are being regularly infringed it is important to register them.

Since they launched the automated USCO registration service in July 2015, they have successfully submitted over 1,000 registrations covering about a half million images, with a significant percentage of those being on behalf of agencies and their contributors.

Stock Photographers

The ImageRights system can generate significant revenue for photographers who license some or all of their work directly themselves or through agencies who license exclusive collections.  If the image is being represented by several stock agencies it can often be almost impossible to determine if one of the agents licensed the image to a particular client, or an advertising agency or graphic design firm doing work for that client.

If the image is represented exclusively by a single agency then the process may be easier, but that agency may already be making a claim for the unauthorized uses. Also, for various reasons, the agency may not want to be as aggressive in pursuing the claim as the photographer or Image Rights might like.

One of the biggest challenges for many photographers is reviewing all the sightings ImageRights can locate and determining if the image was licensed legally or not. Even though they have helpful algorithms that sort and rank the sightings based on potential value of the claim, it can still be quite time consuming if you have iconic images or many images that have had significant distribution over a long period of time. Nevertheless, a significant number of photographers are now accepting this as part of their new work flow.

Copyright © 2016 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Charles Cecil Posted Nov 7, 2016
    Jim: How does this differ from the service offered by Pixsy, at ? Chuck

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