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.