5 inconvenient facts about the theft of your photos

Have you ever been unlucky enough to have your photo stolen? Here are some important facts that you should know. The mere thought that a photo that belongs to you was stolen by another person or company is frustrating. And if you shoot professionally, the implications of your photos being used by someone else can make things very complicated.

In this article, we will talk about how to proceed if you have stolen photos and if it is worth it. It is important to keep in mind that copyright laws vary from country to country. However, there are some universally applicable points that are similar for most countries. Ideally, you should familiarize yourself with your country’s copyright law or consult a lawyer.

1. photo theft happens every day

Copying and reproducing someone else’s intellectual property, in our case a photograph, has definitely become very easy with technology and social media. Most online photos can be saved with a few taps on a smartphone or a few clicks with the right mouse button. Although some sites try to avoid this by presenting the photos in other formats, the screen capture makes the protection useless. It has become so easy and instantaneous for many people that most don’t even think it is illegal, especially since it is virtually impossible to know if the person just keeps the copy of the photo for themselves. The most realistic thing is to track who actually uses the photos, and there are simple ways to do that.

2. google images is a double-edged sword

A common way that photo thieves find photos is through Google image search. It has become a very useful tool for those who need visual material. However, Google does offer some help in finding the pages where your photos are being used, and this is called “reverse search”.

Upload your photo to Google Images and it will find the pages where copies of your photo are being used. The process also looks for visually similar images, so you can find out if your photos have been cropped or altered.

Another option is to hold down or right-click and select “Search image on Google”. Which is actually a very convenient way to search for copies of that particular image without having to go to your file and upload the photo. There are more advanced ways to track copies of your photos, but they usually require payment.

3. watermark does not fully protect theft

My experience of having photos stolen and used illegally has proven that the watermark does not prevent anyone from stealing your photos. With the simple use of Photoshop’s “healing tool” or just cutting off the area where the watermark name was, many photo thieves think the problem is solved. Please note that, without the watermark, your photo is protected by copyright, even if most of the original photo has been cropped.

An unusual habit is to put two watermarks on each photo. One watermark clearly visible and another very small and almost transparent. It is to assume that for those who want to steal the photo, judge that there is only one watermark on the photo and not identify and remove the hidden one. This habit does not prevent the photo from being stolen, but it basically acts like a smoking hole when you need to prove that the photo was actually stolen.

4. The stupid excuses of photo thieves

The most common form of photo theft is to use a photo for commercial use. And it’s so simple and easy to understand that you can’t steal someone else’s photo to make money, even though thousands of people do. The most common excuse heard is that they did not know that it is illegal to do so.

Most people and even large companies, think that when they find a photo in Google Images search results, it means that it is free to use. Obviously it is not free and if they lost an extra second to read the text in small print, they would find a warning saying that the photo may be protected by copyright.

Outra desculpa muito comum que podes ouvir é algo “isso foi feito pelo estagiário” ou “ele é novo e não sabia que era ilegal”, mas é óbvio que qualquer empresa ou organização prudente sabe que eles são responsáveis por qualquer crime que um subordinado cometa em seu nome.

5. all your photos are automatically protected by copyright

It is not safe to say that in all countries of the world your copyright is automatically protected, but it is safe to say that if your country has adhered to the Berne Copyright Convention, total of 178 countries, then you are protected.

From the moment you create a photo, the whole and any part of it belongs to you as the creator of the image, without the need for any registration or notification, that photo is protected by copyright, unless you revoke those rights. For example, the sale of an image with a subsequent transfer of the specified rights.


Despite the absolute evidence of who is to blame, from experience I stopped publishing my online photographic work on the internet and on social media to prevent it from being used illegally. It is undeniable that the internet and social networks are important marketing tools.

In the meantime, if you share your photos on the internet or social networks, there are several options for increasing your level of protection. Do “reverse search” regularly for your most popular photos. The other option is to use Photoclaim.com. Basically, look for your most popular photos, of which you provide copies, and help you through the process of collecting the infringing entities. They charge only a certain amount for cases won. You basically have nothing to lose!

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