Protect Your Images From Unauthorized Use

Posted on 1/26/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

One of the biggest problems in the stock image business is unauthorized use. Many of those making unauthorized uses would be happy to ask permission and compensate the creator, if they could just find them. When they find an image on a website other than the creators there is usually no information about who the creator is or how to locate him/her.

Consider what happens when a company legally licensed the use of an image for its website. That image normally appears without any image creator or source identification. Someone sees it, wants to use it for their own site or other purposes. How do they locate the creator?  

What is needed is an Image Creator Locator.

Organizations with experience in the stock photo business, and image search technology, are interested in building and promoting an ICL. They need some indication of creator community interest before moving ahead.

If you think you might be interested in participating in an ICL, provided there is a working prototype please send your name and email address with the message “Yes to ICL” to wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz. It would also be helpful if you would provide an approximate number of images that you might be prepared to upload. If there is enough interest a prototype can probably be launched in six months.

Once an ICL is launched creators will need to set up individual accounts by supplying the ICL with:
    1 – Your name and contact information.
    2 – If you do not want to handle licensing yourself, or have an agency or representative that would act as a secondary source for licensing, supply contact information for that organization. (Such sources could also be named as primary sources for licensing.)
    3 – Pay an initial fee $20 which allows you to upload up to 1,000 images (about 500px longest side). Each image should have a unique filename. This is a one-time fee and guarantees that the images will be available for searching for 3 years. (More on costs later)
    4 – You will then be supplied with a creators account number that will be used with each image submission. At that point you may begin uploading images in as small quantities as you wish, and as often as you wish, until you reach your maximum allowable number.
No caption or keyword information will be required as the only way to search this database will be by visual search or someone using the image number or creator’s name.

These images will be fingerprinted and placed 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 similar to a Google Image search. If the image is in the ICL collection the searcher will be supplied with your contact information.
In some cases, this might lead to assignments as well as stock image licensing. There is no guarantee that having your images in this collection will lead to anyone searching for your images or actually lead to any licensing.

This does not eliminate the need for copyright registration in the United States if you want to pursue a 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 images they want to use.

Some photographers will point to the fact that images with watermarks often appear on websites. Clearly, these website developers have no compunction about appropriating the work of others without compensation, but it is hoped they are in the minority.

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 they discover an unauthorized use of their image.

Anticipated Prices for collections of 1,000 images and larger.
    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
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 uses.
    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.)
Whenever an image is uploaded the ICL will determine if the image had been uploaded previously by another creator. A protocol will be set up to determine the real copyright holder of the image. Any information provided by a non-copyright holder of that image will be removed.

Initially ICL will be focused on receiving images directly from image creators. In a second stage the ICL will evolve to allow agencies to upload images from creators they represent. If an agency uploads images that have been previously uploaded by an individual creator, the creator will be given the option to choose whether he/she or the agency should be the prime contact in the event that someone wants to license use of the image.

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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff