Pursuing Infringements

Posted on 3/29/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

When it comes to pursuing copyright infringements the biggest problem for photographers is not finding unauthorized uses, but finding too many. Photographers can do their own searches using Google Images or Tineye.

Once a use is found, the photographer must search his/her records to determine if the image has ever been licensed, and if so, the terms of the license. This can be a very time consuming process, particularly if one or more stock agencies represent the photographer’s work and the photographer isn’t personally licensing every use directly with the customer.

There are a number of companies (see this story) that will perform the Internet searches for free. They will then on behalf of the photographer pursue unauthorized users to recover damages. This is usually done for little, or no, out of pocket costs to the photographer. These companies usually retain 50% of any recovery as their fee for providing the search and recovery service.

However, at least one company, Imagerights charges $348 per year to do regular searches of a collection of up to 1,000 images. Recently a photographer complained to me asking why Imagerights doesn’t offer free search like so many other companies. I asked Joe Naylor, CEO of Imagerights why they charge for discovering unauthorized uses when other companies don’t. The following is his response.

“Our service is geared towards agencies and professional photographers, for whom time is a very limited resource. We have built our own AI to sort, filter and rank sightings as compared to our competitors, many who simply re-frame Google reverse image search results.

“When you consider our accounts may have hundreds of thousands to millions of images, filtering out the up to 90% of sightings that have little to no chance of collections (Chinese and Russian websites, personal blogs and fan sites, etc.) our clients save hours upon hours of time, knowing the sightings that they perform their license checks on are going to be pursuable claims should the use indeed be unauthorized. The saved labor cost alone easily justifies the service fees.

“Here are some additional capabilities our system provides our clients to facilitate and expedite license checks and claim submissions:
  • Sorts sightings into folders based on whether they are likely pursuable for recovery or not.
  • Ranks the sightings based on the potential value of the claim
  • Sightings in Inbox are against known pursuable site, so recovery recommendations can be returned instantly
  • Groups all of a client’s images found on a domain together, not just multiple instances of the same image.
  • Filter sightings by image, image set, photographer name (for agencies), infringer domain, custom tags
  • Automatically merge new sightings into existing cases if a user has an existing claim against that domain
  • Export sightings for agencies to more easily check uses against their sales database
  • Custom domain white lists
  • Custom folders for managing sightings
“We’ve also developed our own web crawlers which are designed and optimized to identify all image usage for copyright enforcement purposes.  Whereas, Google reverse images search results, again results that are scraped by many of our competitors, are driven by Google’s algorithms designed to generate the most revenue for Google.  I’ve attached a few slides (See here) to provide examples of what I am referring to.

“Also, we are the only service that provides an automated registration system with the US Copyright Office. If clients pay for Launch for the full year ($348), then they receive one free registration, which is an $89 value through our system. We’ve also extended the USCO registration capability to Adobe Lightroom, where they can register directly from within the application. (See https://www.imagerights.com/plugins)

“Furthermore, our system injects the USCO registration information into the image file meta data, which enhances our AI’s ability to determine if the image at issue in an infringement claim is registered timely or not.  This expedites the assessment process and ensures that we are recommending the best approach for pursuing a given claim, whether through our internal license compliance team or through a legal partner, and at what potential initial demand.  This is important as some of our competition simply seek nominal fees (for example, the MFM fee schedule published annually in Germany) for a retroactive license.  While this may lead to quick and easy collections, it can often result in leaving money on the table for the agency or photographer and ultimately devalues the photographers' work.”

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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Lech Białasiewicz Posted Apr 3, 2018
    From our (production firm) perspective it appears difficult to determine which one of our images was illegally used.
    I believe illegally used images are mostly those that have already had some sales on microstock agencies.
    I am just looking for some advice here is there a practical way in assessing if an image found on Internet has been purchased legally or not given that it has already been licensed on number of agencies?
    Lech Bialasiewicz

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