Image Creator Locator Update

Posted on 10/26/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The following is an update of information I have supplied previously about the Image Creator Locator concept. The previous stories can be found here, here, here and here.

Image Creator Locator

What is needed is a single, worldwide, universal database of all the images and illustrations that have been created by individuals who want to enforce their copyright and where permission to use and/or license may be required. It needs to be easy for any individual with an Internet connection to visually search this database using technology like Google Image Search.  Creating such a database is not as hard as it might sound initially. I call the technology the Image Creator Locator (ICL).

It should be noted that this system will work for still images and illustrations. Identifying video clips and music may require a completely different system.

Features of an ICL

The ICL should be a database of images files (approximately 500k to 750k in size) available on the Internet. It should be possible to visually search this database using technology similar to Google Image Search.

Any still image creator, anywhere in the world will be able to easily upload one, or multiple images to be included in this database once they have completed a simple registration procedure. The upload procedure will be similar to that used by the stock photo agency Shutterstock which currently accepts 1.1 million new images a week (in much larger file sizes). The images will be required to meet certain technical standards.  (With an automatic technological review it should be possible to determine if a given image meets the standard.). Images will not be rejected for any other reason.

The only way to search this database will be to have a digital file of an image that can be used for visual reference. This digital file can be a copy of any image found on the Internet or a digital scan of any image found in print. The sole purpose of this database is to determine if permission is required to make any additional use of an image the searcher has already found. There will be no keyword of caption search for images that contain particular subject matter.

Registration Procedure - Establishing An Account

In order to supply images to the ICL the copyright holder, or the copyright holder’s representative, must first establish an individual account. Any image submitted to the ICL must have an authorized ICL account number attached.

To receive an ICL account number the Copyright Holder must:
    1 – Provide his or her name and contact information including and email contact. The copyright holder’s contact information will be available to any individual looking for more information about one of the copyright holder’s images.

    2 – If the copyright holder does not want to handle licensing directly the copyright holder may have an agency or representative act on his/her behalf.

    3  - The copyright holder may also name one or more secondary sources for licensing. Contact information for each of these secondary sources should also be provided.

    4 – The copyright holder will pay an initial $20 fee to establish an account. This fee allows the copyright holder to upload up to 1,000 images. This is a one-time fee and guarantees that the images will be available for searching for at least 3 years. (More on costs later)?5 – The account number supplied will be used with each submission and will be linked to each image uploaded.
At that point the copyright holder may begin uploading images in as small a quantity, and as often as he/she wishes, until the maximum allowable upload number is reached.

Representatives, not a Copyright Holder, Submitting Images
    1 – The copyright holders name must be attached to each image as well as the Representatives (Stock Agency) ICL account number. The copyright holders direct contact information does not have to be attached.

    2 – The agency must also indicate whether they are the actual copyright owner or a Representative. There may be multiple supplementary sources of licensing for any given images. All sources will be shown to any searcher interested in licensing use of the image.

    3 – If at a later point the copyright holder uploads the same image the agency and the copyright holder will be notified. The copyright holder may choose to designate either him/herself as primary contact for licensing, or the Agency. If there are multiple Agencies acting as supplementary sources (which may often be the case) the copyright holder may designate one as the Primary Supplementary source. That Agency will be listed first in any list provided to an interested searcher for that particular image.

    4 – When Multiple licensors represent the same image only one copy of a given image will be in the ICL and the names of all representatives will be attached it.

    5 – The copyright holder will be able to rescind and remove from the list of representatives any individual or organization at any time. (A copyright holder may decide to do this for various reasons. The copyright holder may decide that he/she wants to deal directly with those who find his/her images on the ICL. However, he/she may continue to allow the representative to continue to represent the work to those customers who come to the licensor’s website directly.)

    6 – Because the copyright holder is notified whenever someone wants to be a representative of one of his/her images the copyright holder will be able to easily block any scammer.
Uploading Images
    1 - Each image should have a unique filename and the ICL account number attached. It is advised that the filename be linked to the individual creators own library so a larger file can easily be supplied, if necessary.

    2 – Image files submitted would not need to be large. A file size of 500k to 750k is sufficient to do a visual search. All the ICL is designed to do is inform the searcher as to whether permission is required to use a particular image. The searcher who needs a larger file will need to contact the creator or the creator’s representative.

    3 – Supply some type of information about what licensing might cost. The same information could be automatically applied to all images attached to the photographers account so it would not be necessary to physically attach this information to each image file. The image creator might say something as simple as “all uses must be negotiated.” Or the creator might say, “Personal uses are permitted as long as the individual using the images receives no revenue or compensation from the use of the image. All other uses must be negotiated.”
The creator may also stipulate a minimum price for unauthorized use. Or the creator or his/her representative may want to include a complex pricing schedule with varying prices for certain types of uses. The creator will have the ability to adjust and change all the licensing information attached to his/her account at any time.

Thus, within minutes of running a check of the ICL the customer can determine if they want to make use of the image, or look elsewhere for another image and what the charges are likely to be if the customer decides to use the image without paying before publication.

Anticipated Prices for collections larger than 1,000 images.
    Up to 1,000 images         $20
    Up to 5,000 images          additional $30
    Up to 10,000 images        additional $50
    Up to 30,000 images        additional $100
Possible Future Costs

Obviously, there will be a small continued costs to keep the site operating beyond 3 years. It may be necessary to charge each participant an additional fee to keep their images searchable after the first three years. This will depend on a number of factors:
    1 – How much traffic the site gets from image users.

    2 – Whether, at some point, it will be possible to charge images user a small fee to view the contact information after it has been confirmed that the image being searched is in the collection. (It will always be free for potential users to do a search in order to determine if the image is one that needs to be licensed.)

    3 – The number of new contributors who continue to add more images to the collection. (New contributor fees may cover all the costs.)
Once Images Are Submitted

Once images are submitted they will be “fingerprinted” so they can be easily found in the ICL database. Anyone who has found an image they would like to use will be able to conduct a visual search of the ICL database. If the image is in the ICL collection the searcher will be supplied with the copyright holder contact information.

In some cases, this might lead to assignments as well as stock image licensing. There is no guarantee that having images in this collection will lead to anyone searching for, or finding any of the images or actually lead to any licensing.

In the United States this does not eliminate the need for copyright registration if creator intends to pursue legal action, but the hope is that many of the people who might have infringed before the ICL was available will use the site and properly license the images they want to use.

The very fact that an ICL exists, and that a user could have easily determined where to go to properly license use of an image places the creator whose images can be found on the ICL in a much better legal and negotiating position in the event an unauthorized use is discovered.

Protecting Against Scammers

One of the concerns about with this type of database is that scammers finding an image on the Internet that is not in the ICL may decide that they want to claim copyright ownership to that image. The scammer could simply make a copy of this image and upload it to the ICL claiming to be the copyright owner.

If the real copyright owner never checks the ICL or tries to upload the image to the ICL the scammer may be able to get away with this scam.

But, if at some later date the real copyright owner uploads his/her version of the image the following will happen.
    1 – Whenever a second individual claiming to be a copyright owner uploads an image to the ICL both images are immediately taken down and emails are sent both owners saying there is a conflict and both parties have 30 days to resolve the conflict. The image will not be uploaded to the site again until the conflict is resolved.

    2 – The easiest way for the creator to prove ownership is to produce 5 to 10 similar images from the same shoot. In virtually all case the real copyright holder will have in his/her files many other images that were taken at about the same time and in the same location. It is highly unlikely a scammer will have in his/her possession anything other than the image grabbed from the Internet. In some cases, written, sworn testimony from individuals in the images or from others who can verify that the individual actually created the image may be required. If the actual creator actually transferred ownership of the images to a relative, or to someone else, then a written document to that effect may be required.

    3 – The ICL will have some staff to resolve such conflicts. There will be a fee for conflict resolution, but the person who is determined not to be the real copyright owner will be responsible to pay the entire fee.

    4 – Legal action will be possible and additional penalties and lawyer fees may be added to the normal conflict resolution fee, if the offending party does not promptly pay the original bill.

    5 – If someone is discovered to be a serial scammer (placing more than one image not his/her own in the ICL) then all images registered under that copyright owner may be removed from the ICL. The person with that ICL account number will not be allowed to resubmit images.

    6 – A record will be kept at the ICL of all images that have been removed because of a scam. If the scammer tries to re-submit the same image under a different name and creator ID number, the image will be visually checked against all rejected images. If the image has been rejected before it will not be added to the ICL collection.
One of the problems with establishing an ICL is that individuals who search the ICL may conclude that if an image isn’t in the ICL then it’s OK to go ahead and use it. That could lead to a lot of unauthorized use. Obviously, if such a database is established it will take some time before a majority of creators upload their images.

We all know how few creators bother to register their copyrights, but that is mostly because it is so difficult to enforce a copyright once an infringement has been discovered. The ICL is designed to help honest users easily avoid infringing, and to properly compensate those who are trying to earn a portion of their living producing new work.

If Getty Images, Shutterstock, AdobeStock, iStock, Alamy, Dreamstime, Deposit Photos, 123RF,, PhotoShelter, Zuma, EyeEm, and Visual China Group could be convinced to participate on the ICL that would seed the database with a significant percent of all the professional images that are being regularly licensed and used. There could also be an initial period of collecting images before the database is made available for public searching, or is promoted as a reliable public resource.

Discovering Unauthorized Uses

There are many organizations tracking unauthorized uses. If there were an ICL it would be easy to determine if a use has been properly licensed or not. Much of the work would be automatic. A web search finds an image. The information on the website is likely to provide some information as to the date it was posted. If the image was on the ICL before that date, and there is no information in the photographer’s of agency’s database to indicate that a license fee has been paid, then it is clearly an unauthorized use.

The evidence is as clear as a traffic citation from a traffic camera. The user is sent a copy of the image, the date it was found on the user’s website and the date the image was available to be found on the ICL along with the fee quoted on the ICL for such a use. The user either shows evidence that they did, in fact, pay for the use, or they pay the bill, or they prepare for legal action and take the risk of a much more serious penalty.

Technically, if there is an ICL the whole concept of “copyright troll” could cease to exist because now anyone who discovers an image on the Internet would be able to easily determine who it belongs to and how to contact that person.

Jim Pickerell
Bethesda, Maryland
Phone: 301-251-0720
Cell: 301-461-7627

Copyright © 2018 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:  


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