Find An Image On Bing: What Use Allowed?

Posted on 3/1/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Anyone who reads the comments on Selling Stock knows that travel photographer Bill Bachmann is a strong advocate of Rights Managed licensing and adamantly opposed to ever making any of his images available as Royalty Free.

Imagine his surprise when he recently discovered one of his images on Modelmayhem runs a daily contest. A photo that Bill had taken in Iceland of a Willis vehicle had been used as a background. A nude model was super imposed on the photo by a photographer calling himself “Color_Wheel_Photo.”  Under the photo the photographer described how he created the images by saying:

 “Bing Royalty Free background with model added.”

The problem of course is that no use of the background photo was authorized, the photo has never been made available as Royalty Free and even if it was RF doesn’t mean Totally Free.

If you go to and search for “Iceland Willis” you’ll find the picture. Mouse over it and under the image is the URL where the search engine found the image. It is not easy to copy and paste the URL information, but if the potential user had been diligent he could have gone to Bill’s site at Once there he would have quickly recognized that the images were the work of a professional photographer. At the bottom of Bill's site is the following notice: “These images are protected under United States and International Copyright Laws. These photographs may not be used, reproduced, stored, manipulated or copied in any way without the written permission of Bill Bachmann.”

But the information supplied by Bing doesn't make it clear what rights, if any, a viewer has to use an image found by Bing. The site listed may be the photographer’s site, a stock agent's site, the site of a customer that has legitimately licensed the image, or the site of someone who has stolen the image from somewhere else. There is no indication as to which, if any, of the images need to be licensed in order to legally use them, which might be legitimately in the public domain or which might be available for free.

The average consumer assumes that if Bing (or Google) can find an image on the Internet then it is available for free use. There is no notice whatsoever on Bing that would indicate that some of the images might need to be licensed. Most professional users understand that if they find an image on the Internet they need to determine if it needs to be licensed before using it. However, professionals are a small percent of total users. And even professionals don't always observe the rules.

Papua New Guinea

After finding the Iceland image Bill started searching for other of his images. He searched Bing for “Papua New Guinea Yellow” and found the image on the left that has always been licensed as Rights Managed. In one case it was used in a national advertising campaign. According to Bing this image was found on, where customers can purchase fine art prints for as little as $19.99 for a 9” x 12” print. There does not seem that there is a way license individual uses of images from this site, but just because no licensing mechanism is provided doesn't mean that it is OK to go ahead and use the image.

Looking further on Bing Bill found two copies of another of his Rights Managed images. This one was of a Huli Wigman in Papua New Guinea. One was represented by his agent Danita Delimont Stock Photography and the other by Superstock, another agent that also represents his images. The file provided by Superstock is watermarked and was larger than the unwatermarked file provided by Danita Delimont.

In this case the agents want the image to be found on Bing in hopes that some commercial customers will see it, contact the agency and license the image properly. More and more commercial customers are looking for images on Bing and Google in hopes they will find something different from what they find on the commercial sites they regularly use. Thus, sales may increases somewhat if images can be found in this manner. But the degree of unauthorized uses is horrendous.

Can Anything Be Done?

Ideally Bing and Google would place a notice under their image search box saying:

    Warning: Images found here may need to be licensed before they can be legally copied, pasted or pinned to any other web page or used in any other manner. For information on how to locate the legal owner click here.
While that would be a partial solution, and a way to begin educating consumers, pigs will fly first.

Images created by those who want to control the use of their images, or license rights for such uses tend to be found on photographer web sites, sites of agents representing a group of photographers, image databases like Flickr or sites of customers that have legitimately licensed the use of an image from a photographer or his representative. In this last case there is not much that can be done to make it easy to find the image owner.

However, in the other three cases it would be easy for the search engines to create a universal searchable database where individual creators could register and supply their own contact information or the contact information of a representative that would handle licensing for them. Then when customers see the URL under an image it would be easy for them to search the database to determine what they need to do to license the image. 

Another option would be for the search engine to check the IPTC header for licensing information and display it whenever a “preview” image is displayed. Technologically that would not be difficult, but the IPTC standards committee would have to designate a field where image licensing information could be found. Coming to an agreement on where that should be and what should be included could take years.

Another part of the problem is that many sites routinely strip data from the IPTC header. Consequently, most creators and creator organizations don’t bother to put much information into the IPTC header.

I would like to see camera manufacturers develop a system that would enable a camera owner to store their name, and maybe a web address where more contact information could be found, within each camera. That information would be automatically attached to the IPTC of every image created by that camera. Camera owners would have the option of using this facility or leaving it blank. If cameras can attach the GPS of every image shot to the image field they could certainly easily store this type of information.

While there are potential solutions the organizations that could implement the solutions have no incentive to do so.

Copyright © 2013 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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Mar 4, 2013
    Thank you Jim for bringing this to your readers. You & I searched together for about 1/2 hour to do this research.

    Ideally, Google and Bing (and others) will get word of this and add SOMETHING to the top of searches page that says ..."Hey, these images are NOT FREE!!"

    I hope you will stay on it and I hope to hear from other photographers in this forum that they too will work on educating these search engines. As you said, I never sell my still work for RF or Microstock..... here it looks free to anyone who searches.

    As a footnote, I had a long talk with the photographer who used that image with the nude and he was a nice guy. He apologized and took it down etc. The problem is not him --- it is the conception of so many that if it is on the www it is "easy pickins" free. If a client did that for a big campaign, they would get a letter from my attorney with Copyright Infringement (since I send all my images into Copyright( on the top and a LARGE fee.

    I would love to see more people respond on this issue here.


  • Paula Lumbard Posted Mar 11, 2013
    Thank you Bill for all the work you do to protect rights managed stills and clips. The monetary value of these creative works is being challenged on many fronts. It will not be until the creators and their reps or agents take a stand against devaluing "RM" imagery that we can begin to restore our marketplace.

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