When I first began searching the Internet for unauthorized uses of my photographs, I wasted dozens of hours looking at websites whose owners could not be found, foreign sites, spam and malware sites, and harmless-looking websites that redirect to porn sites. Most are registered in countries like Panama that don’t have any intentions of revealing their clients’ identities or complying with United States copyright law. I estimate that for every copyright infringement I can actually pursue, I find at least twenty time wasters. This chapter of Photo Repo will show you how to recognize time wasters as well as how to log information about the legitimate websites using your photographs. Topics include:
- Identifying Time-Wasting Websites Via the Search Results
- Characteristics of Time-Wasting Website
- The Types of Websites You Will Encounter When Searching for Copyright Violations
- Recording and Organizing the Search Results
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON THE SHORTCOMINGS OF REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH TECHNOLOGY…
Neither Google nor any other reverse image search platform will find every instance of your photographs on the Internet. Of course you might be asking, “If you don’t know where your photos are in the first place, how do you know Google didn’t find them?” I know because oftentimes my own website does not come up in the search. Furthermore, even after doing six major searches over the last three years, I am still finding infringements that occurred before I registered my photographs with the Copyright Office in November 2016. In July 2019, I found six pre-registration infringements. Why is Google finding these just now and not two and a half years ago?
Google also seems to purge indexed photographs. On more than one occasion, after settling a case and allowing the infringer to continue using my photo, when I did my next search a few months later, the photo no longer appeared in the results. I checked the infringer’s website and it was still there. If the photo was never taken down, why did it disappear from the search results? I don’t have the answer to this or the previous question, but it just goes to show that Google does not find every use of a photograph.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON THE CHARACTERISTICS OF TIME-WASTING WEBSITES..
Even after thoroughly analyzing the search results, you are bound to click a link that leads to a website that may be difficult to identify as a time waster at first glance. To avoid spending time trying to figure out if it is legitimate, look for these telltale signs that quickly identify time wasters:
- Time wasters often have no navigation menu at all.
- Time wasters often have no top menu, but instead have a menu in the footer of the page in tiny print.
- Time wasters often have a menu that reads Home | DMCA | Privacy | Disclaimer | Contact. If you aren’t convinced, click a few of the menu items. The Contact page will either be an online form or a sentence with an email address. The DMCA page will never give a physical address, which is required to actually receive Safe Harbor protection under the DMCA. Most of these pages have paragraphs that end mid-sentence or headlines with no text accompanying them. It’s as if the owner purchased a website template and forgot to customize the page.
- Time wasters are often nothing more than a collection of photographs, and the photo content usually has nothing to do with the website title. For example, Best Wedding Dress Ideas may turn out to be a collection of dog photos.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON GIBBERISH WEBSITES…
For every infringing website that I can actually pursue, there are at least 20, and perhaps up to 50, that fall into the category of “gibberish.” Many make no sense at all. None have any type of contact page—some don’t even have a home page—and you can bet the house they are privately registered in some renegade country. They often have a legitimate description in the search results, but when you visit the site you’ll find nothing but a collection of photographs. Wallpaper websites fall into this category, and there are thousands of them. These websites do nothing but collect photographs and offer them as downloads, supposedly to be used as wallpaper (screen backgrounds and savers), but there is no way of knowing how people use the photos. Most wallpaper sites do not charge a fee, and many don’t even have advertising, so I have no idea why anyone would set up such a site.
If you want to track down a gibberish website’s service provider and send a letter requesting that your photo be removed, be my guest, but you aren’t going to get any money out of it. On top of that, if you have a lot of photos on the Internet, you won’t find dozens of such sites, you’ll find hundreds. Face the fact that you can’t have every unauthorized use of your photos taken down and move on to something that will put money in your pocket.