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How to find out if people are putting your work on the internet without your permission...

… and why all the fuss about Pinning? If you don’t know what I’m referring to, see here

Ummm. Well, I put together a Word Document with screenshots in it to demonstrate my instructions, and although I’ve now managed to get it in here (thanks to picatso – thank you!), it’s a bit small, so hopefully you’ll still get the gist of it.

So. How to find out how many people are happily using your photos in ways you didn’t give them permission to!!

Step 1: Go to http://jarred.github.com/src-img/
(Thanks, @jarred and @hydnhntr!!!) This little questionmarky-squiggle thingy isn’t the only way to search, but it is the best I’ve found by far.

Step 2: As per the instructions, drag the squiggle link into your bookmarks. The ACTUAL LINK – not the source page! If you can’t drag it into your bookmarks, try right-clicking on the link and select “Add to Bookmarks”

Step 3: Open up a page of images you want to search for The best page to start with is probably your Most Popular photos – which should be something like http://www.redbubble.com/ people/ your username /portfolio/ popular (without the spaces) DON’T try to do it on your photo description page (the one with the comments) as that has a clear “shield” over it which Google Images can’t penetrate (thank goodness!) – best way is go to your profile page, click portfolio, then click “Most Popular”.

Step 4: Open your bookmarks and click on the squiggle link/questionmark thing you just bookmarked. If you bookmarked it correctly, questionmarks will appear on your photos.

Step 5: Click on an image you want to search for. If you’re lucky, you’ll just get your RedBubble website :)

If you’re not, you’ll get a list of all the places Google has found your image.

At the top, you’ll see a thumbnail of your photo and underneath is a link that says “All images sizes”. It’s worth having a look at this but don’t get distracted from the main job at hand…

For the photo I chose so that I could show you what I was talking about, there was a list of four people on Pinterest who had pinned my work. I clicked on these links, and waded through the hundreds of photos these people had pinned, and found that more than fifty people had pinned this photo… and none of them had my name attached to them, because the first dude that put it on Pinterest didn’t bother to put my name in the description, so everyone else who pinned it after that didn’t have my name on it either. It did, however, link to my own photo, so if someone was really keen (unlikely, but possible), they’d be able to click through to find me and my original photo.

Moving on…

So at the bottom of the search page, you’ll see six “Visually Similar Images” – usually not very similar to yours. Which is terrific. But if someone’s cropped the bottom of your photo off so that you’re signature’s not there any more, it will probably show up here (speaking from experience).

And here’s the important bit… check whether there are any numbers under this collection of random photos. If there are, these are PAGE NUMBERS. Make sure you check them all!!! For the photo I did the screenshots for, there were five pages of links.

Step 6: Go chasing the people who have done the wrong thing. To do that, you need to know a bit about how to look when you get somewhere like Pinterest (or Tumblr or WeHeartIt or Indulgy or any number of other pinning sites).
Basically, people put images in collections (much like our collections here, only their collections are of stuff they don’t own the copyright for… ie. they’ve just ‘collected’ them from here, there and everywhere). To find your photo, you actually have to go into their collections and look. You have to guess which of their collections they’d be likely to put your photo in, then you actually have to wade through their stole…ehem … collected images to find yours. When you find yours, click on it. It will get big. At the top of it (if you’re looking at Pinterest… different for each site though!), you’ll see the name of the person who pinned your work. AND THEN YOU’LL SEE WHO PINNED IT BEFORE THEY DID.

Can you where this is going???

Yep! You have to go on a Treasure Hunt! If you don’t want your images on Pinterest and they’re already on there, you can fill out their DMCA Notice but you have to find all the places where your work has been pinned. So you actually have to go through thousands and thousands of images, find yours, find the url (which looks like this – http://pinterest.com/pin/16044142393408783/) and copy each one into their DMCA form. To save yourself some tears, I suggest you copy and paste them into a Word doc first. That way if you accidentally close the tab with the DMCA notice, you don’t lose three hours’ work (and all your sanity)! (Again, unfortunately, speaking from experience)

So, will “opting out” of Pinning (in your RB account settings) stop this from happening? Nope!! People will find ways to pin your work anyway. The best you can hope for is that it actually links to your website… I originally thought that I would be happy with people at least pinning my work properly (via RB), but I’ve just changed my mind. I don’t want to have to search any longer than I have to in order to find the instances where my photos aren’t linked/credited. But there are reasons for and against allowing RB to facilitate the pinning process.

What it all boils down to though is that it makes me really upset to see my work on other people’s websites without credit and without any link to me as the artist :(

In the process of writing my document and getting screenshots to show you, I also found my photo (without credit) on someone’s blog, I also found it with my name but without a link on another website, on someone’s Facebook page (as theirs), on a Russian Facebook-like site called “VK” which (from experience) absolutely point-blank refuses to remove my work EVEN THOUGH I HAVE MY SIGNATURE ON IT!!! and on three other Pinning sites.

It’s a nightmare.

But it’s the price we pay for being on the Internet. So be vigilant, but don’t spend your whole life chasing down people who have ‘stolen’ your work. It’s not worth it.

Anyway, I’m grumpy now coz it’s almost 2am and I’ve wasted way too much time on this… but I just figured that it might be worth writing a journal about…

Hope it helps someone, somehow!!!


Footnote: here’s the basic proforma layout of a DMCA Notice if you want to contact someone who’s infringed your copyright -

DMCA Notice to Host

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you to avail myself of my rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512© of the U.S. Copyright Law. I wish to report an instance of what I feel in good faith is an instance or Copyright Infringement. The infringing material appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent.

1. The material which I contend belongs to me, and appears illegally on the Service is the following:

2. The material appears at the website address:

3. The material appears on my Web site at these address(es):

4. My contact information is as follows:

5. I have a good faith belief that the use of the material that appears on the service is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or by operation of law.

6. The information in this notice is accurate, and I am copyright owner.

I declare under National and International perjury laws that this notification is true and correct.

Signed: <<YOUR NAME>>

Journal Comments

  • A.M. Ruttle
  • Cynthia Broomfield
  • Laurie Search
  • StuartChapman
  • Mike Shell
  • Guendalyn
  • Puggs
  • Mieke Boynton
  • Cindy Schnackel
  • Mieke Boynton
  • Peter Hammer
  • KBritt