Google’s New “Reverse Image Search” Helps You See Who’s Stealing Your Artwork


Google recently launched a new service called Reverse Image Search which should be of tremendous value to artists. Among other things it allows you to quickly and easily find unauthorized uses of your artwork from all over the web. Simply go to the Google Image Search page, drag an image into the search box, and Google will show you just about everywhere on the internet where that image appears. This is an amazing new tool for fighting copyright infringement.

Last night I started poking around with Reverse Image Search and to my surprise I found well over 100 instances of my artwork being used without my permission. Most were rather benign, such as a personal blog or a Facebook profile pic, but there were a few sites that were offering them as “free clip art” or as wallpapers. I also found a couple of small businesses who were using my art on their websites. Fortunately I haven’t yet found anyone directly profiting from my work by claiming it as their own (although that has happened in the past), building a brand around one of my characters, or selling the art outright. But I do know of at least one graphic designer who has found over a dozen infringements on a logo he designed. And I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The internet has made copyright infringement easier than ever. Most of it is fairly innocent — the average person doesn’t realize that when they post an image on their blog or website without permission, in most instances they are breaking the law. They are well-meaning and simply ignorant of how copyright works. They assume (incorrectly) that if an image is available online it must be free to use.

Then there are the many people who aren’t so ignorant and are blatantly stealing the creative work of others to make a few extra bucks. (You may have heard about the recent firestorm that erupted around a company called LogoGarden who was selling dozens of logos that turned out to be blatant rip-offs).

Of course nothing will stop copyright infringement entirely — it’s far too widespread. But Reverse Image Search will give artists a powerful new tool in the fight to protect their work.

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5 thoughts on “Google’s New “Reverse Image Search” Helps You See Who’s Stealing Your Artwork

  1. Would it be impolite if someone stole your artwork, posted it up, and then made a ‘review’ about it in their blog and talked about the artwork and stuff, and THEN emailed you about putting your picture there? Or is that not a good thing to do in the first place? If you’re anal enough, wouldn’t that also protect you from any sort of negative review or any honest talk you don’t want read by others too? (which might be nice that your reputation is super duper positive but doesn’t allow for honest feedback either) I mean, this idea is really kick ass (I love it), but what I’m mentioning here…I don’t want to get in trouble for writing something about an image and posting an example piece up to explain about it.

    • There are certain exceptions to copyright law known as “Fair Use”. One of those exceptions is for critique and comment. If a movie critic, for example, wants to write a review in the newspaper he is allowed to publish a still from the movie he is discussing without permission. Whether it’s “rude” or not is another matter, but a genuine review or critique is legal provided the writer is discussing the work shown. It’s one of a few legitimate exceptions allowed for in US copyright law. Other examples of “fair use” include educational use in schools, making personal copies of a music CD you purchased, etc. However, most uses of artwork on the internet don’t qualify for the “fair use” exception.

      More info on Fair Use here: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

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  3. Hi Cedric.
    I love your site and all your work is amazing. Are you trained as an animator?

    I was wanting to know is the google search facility you talk about above available only in the States? As I follow yours and Googles directions and still can’t find a camera icon? I am in Australia. Keep up the fantastic work.
    Cheers

    Phil

    • Thanks Phil. Nope, no formal training as an animator – all self-taught.

      I don’t know if the Google search is only available in the states. Could be. If I remember correctly the instructional video embedded above and/or the Google website shows other ways to do the search as well. If none of those methods work, then yeah it might be a USA-only thing.

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