How to Tell When Other People Use Your Photos

By Jacqui Lane

In the Internet age, sharing photos with faraway friends and family is a little easier than it used to be. Instead of stuffing them in an envelope and hoping they don’t get bent or lost on the way to their destination, you can upload them to Facebook, your blog or your photo-sharing account in just a few seconds. Unfortunately, in most cases it’s just as easy for someone to save your pictures and use them elsewhere without your permission. Given the vastness of the Internet, it’s impossible to find every site that has reposted your photos, but you do have a few options for uncovering thieves.

Step 1

Run a reverse image search on Tineye.com. Upload or paste a link to the photo for which you want to search, and click "Search." Click on a possible match (if any were found) and click "Switch" to toggle between your image and the matching image. Tineye displays the URL next to each thumbnail in the list of search results.

Step 2

Perform a reverse image search using Google's "Search by Image" option. Navigate to the Google Images website and click the camera icon in the search bar. Upload or enter the URL for an image, and then click "Search." Results are separated into identical matches and visually similar matches, with thumbnails and links to each site.

Step 3

Use a commercial recovery service. ImageRights is a firm that tracks down unauthorized image use and pursues compensation from the websites that violate your copyright. Fees vary depending on the level of service you require.

Step 4

Check your image or Web host's statistics page. Look for images receiving multiple referrals from a single website; this is an indicator that the site may be hotlinking, or displaying an image from your server on their website. Many Web hosts and blogging platforms offer visitor statistics, and some image-hosting sites, including Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa also offer the ability to view statistical information about people who view your photos.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although it's impossible to completely prevent others from taking your images, there are a few things you can do to make it more difficult. Watermarking your photos -- using a photo-editing program to add text to the image -- may deter others from repurposing your images. If photos are being taken from your website, a JavaScript code that disables right-clicking may prove effective against less tech-savvy thieves; it's easy for those with a little technical know-how to bypass, however.