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Best practices for infringement tracking


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Hi, I know some of you use Pixsy & Copytrack to catch infringements. I just signed up myself. Would appreciate if someone could share your tips on determining whether an image has been used legitimately or not. My images are regularly sold by multiple stock agencies. Some of them have thousands of downloads. How would I go about tracking down the use that doesn't come from these authorized transactions? It is physically impossible for me to know whether a given match shows a legitimate use of my image or not. Any tips would be much appreciated!

 

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12 minutes ago, SvetlanaSF said:

Hi, I know some of you use Pixsy & Copytrack to catch infringements. I just signed up myself. Would appreciate if someone could share your tips on determining whether an image has been used legitimately or not. My images are regularly sold by multiple stock agencies. Some of them have thousands of downloads. How would I go about tracking down the use that doesn't come from these authorized transactions? It is physically impossible for me to know whether a given match shows a legitimate use of my image or not. Any tips would be much appreciated!

 

 

 

I guess the first line is to ask the agency to confirm if there was a licence issued for the image

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3 minutes ago, John Morrison said:

 

You may have answered your own question...

Well, that's not very helpful...

As Pixsy is a service aimed at professional photographers, and many photographers here are using it, I imagine there are ways to use it successfully.

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Just now, meanderingemu said:

 

 

I guess the first line is to ask the agency to confirm if there was a licence issued for the image

I don't think that would scale for hundreds and thousands of images I'm reviewing for legitimacy of use... 

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15 minutes ago, SvetlanaSF said:

I don't think that would scale for hundreds and thousands of images I'm reviewing for legitimacy of use... 

 

i only use them for RM image, so agency has been able to confirm, but i don't get that many hits, especially not from countries that are covered by service

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1 minute ago, meanderingemu said:

 

i only use them for RM image, so agency has been able to confirm, but i don't get that many hits, especially not from countries that are covered by service

Gotcha, that makes sense, thank you. I don't have any RM images myself, so I'm finding it to be much trickier

 

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1 hour ago, SvetlanaSF said:

Gotcha, that makes sense, thank you. I don't have any RM images myself, so I'm finding it to be much trickier

 

If you don’t have a good record of sales and legitimate uses, I think this would be incredibly time consuming and probably not worth it. As I have all my eggs mostly in one basket ie Alamy and almost all images are RM it’s relatively easy to keep track of things. I have a system within Lightroom to record which photos I have sent to a couple of other agencies. I imagine that, unless you start out with some kind of system to track which photos you have sent where, it would be nigh on impossible to use Pixsy or Copytrack. I do use the latter and have had a number of decent payouts from them.

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32 minutes ago, Sally said:

If you don’t have a good record of sales and legitimate uses, I think this would be incredibly time consuming and probably not worth it. As I have all my eggs mostly in one basket ie Alamy and almost all images are RM it’s relatively easy to keep track of things. I have a system within Lightroom to record which photos I have sent to a couple of other agencies. I imagine that, unless you start out with some kind of system to track which photos you have sent where, it would be nigh on impossible to use Pixsy or Copytrack. I do use the latter and have had a number of decent payouts from them.

What I was hoping for was that these services provided some sort of a license checking mechanism. As a contributor, I don't get the details of where a specific photo sold by, say, Shutterstock or Adobe Stock is approved to be used. While I do track my sales and know how many times each image has been sold and for how much, I don't have a way of cross referencing that with the destination those sales went to.

The best I've been able to do is mark the matches on the legitimate stock agencies I'm contributing to directly as Approved. But that's about all I'm finding I'm able to do...

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If your photo is licenced as RF then any purchaser can use it multiple times in many different projects. No agency or copyright owner can contemplate keeping track of the ways a RF image is used after it has been licenced, unless it is a single unique sale. Further, ff the image is available through multiple agencies it multiplies the problem, making tracking legitimate and illegitimate use pretty well impossible. The only realistic way image uses can be tracked is if they are licenced as RM, ideally through a single agency so it can be definitively determined whether an appropriate licence has been issued for any given use. It seems to me you are chasing a lost cause if you hope illegitimate uses can be tracked down for the multi-agency RF sales you describe.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Joseph Clemson said:

If your photo is licenced as RF then any purchaser can use it multiple times in many different projects. No agency or copyright owner can contemplate keeping track of the ways a RF image is used after it has been licenced, unless it is a single unique sale. Further, ff the image is available through multiple agencies it multiplies the problem, making tracking legitimate and illegitimate use pretty well impossible. The only realistic way image uses can be tracked is if they are licenced as RM, ideally through a single agency so it can be definitively determined whether an appropriate licence has been issued for any given use. It seems to me you are chasing a lost cause if you hope illegitimate uses can be tracked down for the multi-agency RF sales you describe.

I understand all that and I'm not asking for why this can't be done.

I'm asking for "best practices" form people who have successfully used these services.

I'd love to hear from those people, if anyone has been able to successfully apply these use cases.

If no one has figured it out, no reply here is also fine

 

Edited by SvetlanaSF
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I am just a beginner with Pixsy (8 months) but I did use copy track about 3 years ago as well.

 

It's difficult I will not paint around that fact. Some small agencies I used in the past have been incredibly helpful digging through their databases to provide me with complete records. Some of the bigger ones have been quite unhelpful and even don't reply to requests. I know we all complain about Alamy not showing the buyers name but their details of RM sales provide you a lot of info to narrow down uses, their records they share are quite good comparatively. 99% of my stuff is RM so the licence info that Alamy provide helps especially for images used in non-editorial usages (99% of my Alamy licences are editorial). A lot of my licenses are books and magazines and do not include web which make life easy as Pixsy just looks for web usages.

 

You end up knowing some are 100% steals, for me they either don't remove watermark, replace watermark or crop in a way I know watermark was purposely cropped out. And you end up getting a feeling for some other uses and take a punt (Ian has mentioned in another thread that Pixsy may charge you (a lot) if you get this wrong).

 

Having used just a handful of agencies (and in the last 5 years only Alamy plus my own gallery) over my stock period has helped me a lot in controlling the fuzziness when reviewing my Pixsy matches.

 

After a while you also get a feeling for a specific usage or crop. e.g Alamy sold a couple of my images to NG, and they recropped and now I can find sites that lifted the image from NG due to the recropped proportions.

 

Using Pixsy is also disheartening in some ways because for every usage I can get a case for, so far) there are 40 which I cannot due to it not being possible or worthwhile for Pixsy to take the case up (i.e. bloggers, forums, geographic legal jurisdiction). Its these cases that really make you realise how much image "theft" goes on. I upgraded my account last week for the more refined (payed for) search and I got 460 hits in 3 days!!

 

IMHO its very worthwhile opening an account (free) just to see how well their tracking works, I originally used it for my tear sheet tracking but have started to put forward reimbursement cases now. I have also used reverse search and some other online tools when researching a usage and found heir records are mainly archival (i.e. usage existed in the past but not anymore) and no one has been as accurate as Pixsy. Copy track are also very accurate but the 3 cases I submitted with them came to nothing after many months (their reason was that the abuser did not reply to their email) so I gave up. 

 

 

Edited by Panthera tigris
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8 minutes ago, Panthera tigris said:

You end up knowing some are 100% steals, for me they either don't remove watermark, replace watermark or crop in a way I know watermark was purposely cropped out

Thanks for this comment, this is probably the best suggestion I've gotten so far - looking at the watermark modifications could be a good indicator of illegal use. 

Also, good note on their fees for wrongful cases. I was actually digging into it and couldn't find anything specific in their T's & C's describing these fees. Sent them an email but haven't heard back yet.

I pushed through 2 cases that I "feel strongly" about, but I guess we'll see!

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Excellent advice above from Panthera. There have been exceptions but in general I avoid pursuing media users - the whole syndication system, also the ecosystem of scraper sites, is too complex. Having said that a UK magazine recently paid me a good fee. They downloaded the image and 'forgot' to pay. 

 

All mine are RM and I keep spreadsheets of all sales through Alamy and elsewhere. The Alamy team have been incredibly helpful as have my contacts at my other agency. But even with careful due diligence mistakes are inevitable. As we know uses don't get reported, people make mistakes. It is going to happen that you start a case and the accused turns out to have a licence.  I recently got charged $200 by Pixsy - but to be fair they did give me a few chances. 

 

I first check my sales spreadsheets, then I email the agencies and ask them to double check. I often use Google Images to see what is around for that image. It could be that the image was used on the  BBC website or in a national newspaper site - then you find that the same image is being used by a small business such as a hotel or tradesman - so that looks like a potential infringement. You get a feel for it. Sometimes the infringer keeps The BBC or newspaper credit so that makes it clear-cut. 

 

Even easier is when the infringer has not removed the original watermark at all. I had one County Council do that in one of their documents that Pixsy found. 

 

I don't think that you have much hope with microstock RF - surely, from the outset, if you decide to go down that route you are accepting volume against rights management?

 

Sometimes it reminds me of playing Cluedo.

 

 

 

Edited by geogphotos
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10 hours ago, SvetlanaSF said:

What I was hoping for was that these services provided some sort of a license checking mechanism. As a contributor, I don't get the details of where a specific photo sold by, say, Shutterstock or Adobe Stock is approved to be used. While I do track my sales and know how many times each image has been sold and for how much, I don't have a way of cross referencing that with the destination those sales went to.

The best I've been able to do is mark the matches on the legitimate stock agencies I'm contributing to directly as Approved. But that's about all I'm finding I'm able to do...

If you submit a case to Copytrack , for example, and it turns out that the user has a legitimate license, neither the user or Copytrack will be happy. So the only way is for you to do the legwork and be confident about uses which are infringements. As others have said, if you spend some time on this, you get better at working it out, but it is very time consuming even when using one main agency and having only RM licenses. I fail to see how you could do it if your licenses are RF except those few cases perhaps where the credit has been given - as others have said articles and photos from newspapers uses get copied - but the vast majority are on obscure scraper websites with no contact details or in Asia and other countries which will not be chased. 

Alamy has been very helpful confirming or not whether a particular use relates to a particular license and I thank them for the time that they have spent on this from my frequent queries. i think the moral of the story is for anyone starting out in stock to give this some thought right from the beginning. 
 

Like Panthera, I find a tracking site very useful for picking up unreported uses which I alert Alamy to. Certain newspapers often use an image multiple times once it’s in their ‘library’ and don’t necessarily report every use. Other publications seem to ‘forget’ to report what they have downloaded. You can also set up an alert on Google to pick up on your name. And I do my own Google search from time to time using my name. Lots of ways to find your images online. You can get PressReader for free through libraries so I check a range of newspapers daily and quite often pick up on print uses that way.

Edited by Sally
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I use Pixsy too, what I tend to do is contact the potential infringer asking them for their license details, if they do not respond I inform them I will be using Pixsy to pursue a claim for damages, I then open a case with Pixsy. if they contact me to apologise then I will offer them a chance to pay for the use.

Good luck and over time you will begin to get a gut instinct for copyright theft.  

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9 minutes ago, Andy G said:

I use Pixsy too, what I tend to do is contact the potential infringer asking them for their license details, if they do not respond I inform them I will be using Pixsy to pursue a claim for damages, I then open a case with Pixsy. if they contact me to apologise then I will offer them a chance to pay for the use.

Good luck and over time you will begin to get a gut instinct for copyright theft.  

 

The trouble is that this is expressly against Pixsy's rules so you need to be careful advertising the fact on a public forum. 

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15 hours ago, SvetlanaSF said:

I understand all that and I'm not asking for why this can't be done.

I'm asking for "best practices" form people who have successfully used these services.

I'd love to hear from those people, if anyone has been able to successfully apply these use cases.

If no one has figured it out, no reply here is also fine

 

 

plenty of people have been giving you their best practice, you just seem to be dismissing these practices by excusing the provider you selected for representing your images claiming they can't provide you who they licence YOUR work to. ask better from your Agents. 

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Probably didn't make myself clear in my last post.

I will ask the infringer for proof of the license they hold, if they get back to me saying they are sorry and they are happy to pay then I have the option to deal with it myself or simply open a case, I don't ask for payment first.

if they do not reply then I take it they don't have a license and I will open a case with Pixsy.

However I have raised the issue with Pixsy regarding proof of a valid license and they have advised I am ok to contact the infringer first to ask for current valid license details before opening a case.

Hope that clears up my last post a little.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, geogphotos said:

Excellent advice above from Panthera. There have been exceptions but in general I avoid pursuing media users - the whole syndication system, also the ecosystem of scraper sites, is too complex. Having said that a UK magazine recently paid me a good fee. They downloaded the image and 'forgot' to pay. 

 

All mine are RM and I keep spreadsheets of all sales through Alamy and elsewhere. The Alamy team have been incredibly helpful as have my contacts at my other agency. But even with careful due diligence mistakes are inevitable. As we know uses don't get reported, people make mistakes. It is going to happen that you start a case and the accused turns out to have a licence.  I recently got charged $200 by Pixsy - but to be fair they did give me a few chances. 

 

I first check my sales spreadsheets, then I email the agencies and ask them to double check. I often use Google Images to see what is around for that image. It could be that the image was used on the  BBC website or in a national newspaper site - then you find that the same image is being used by a small business such as a hotel or tradesman - so that looks like a potential infringement. You get a feel for it. Sometimes the infringer keeps The BBC or newspaper credit so that makes it clear-cut. 

 

Even easier is when the infringer has not removed the original watermark at all. I had one County Council do that in one of their documents that Pixsy found. 

 

I don't think that you have much hope with microstock RF - surely, from the outset, if you decide to go down that route you are accepting volume against rights management?

 

Sometimes it reminds me of playing Cluedo.

 

 

 

That is super helpful, thanks for all the advice, @geogphotos! I did notice a lot of scraper/news aggregator sites in the matches and in fact I submitted a claim for one of them, where they even modified the image. We'll see if that gets kicked back but it's good advice going forward, I'll probably stay away from these.

I also found a few that are distributed on what appears to be either illegitimate or reseller stock sites so for those I did contact the agency where I think the image came from, I hope the agency can help clear that up.

It's great to know that Pixsy would give you a warning before charging for their work on a false positive. That puts me at ease as I was concerned that this wasn't spelled out anywhere that I could find in their T's & C's. Obviously, point taken on doing your own research first.

Agree that this isn't a revenu opportunity for me, I'm not going to be physically able to map every image to a transaction, but these are great tips, I appreciate it!

Edited by SvetlanaSF
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1 hour ago, Andy G said:

Probably didn't make myself clear in my last post.

I will ask the infringer for proof of the license they hold, if they get back to me saying they are sorry and they are happy to pay then I have the option to deal with it myself or simply open a case, I don't ask for payment first.

if they do not reply then I take it they don't have a license and I will open a case with Pixsy.

However I have raised the issue with Pixsy regarding proof of a valid license and they have advised I am ok to contact the infringer first to ask for current valid license details before opening a case.

Hope that clears up my last post a little.

This is really interesting. It would help me avoid the possible charges for false positives. I'll dig into their rules or get that answer in writing from them myself. Might be good. 

I guess this could alert the user to buy a license or take the image down but I imagine having a screenshot would be proof of past use which would still be a valid case. Thanks for the tip, @Andy G!

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7 hours ago, Sally said:

If you submit a case to Copytrack , for example, and it turns out that the user has a legitimate license, neither the user or Copytrack will be happy. So the only way is for you to do the legwork and be confident about uses which are infringements. As others have said, if you spend some time on this, you get better at working it out, but it is very time consuming even when using one main agency and having only RM licenses. I fail to see how you could do it if your licenses are RF except those few cases perhaps where the credit has been given - as others have said articles and photos from newspapers uses get copied - but the vast majority are on obscure scraper websites with no contact details or in Asia and other countries which will not be chased. 

Alamy has been very helpful confirming or not whether a particular use relates to a particular license and I thank them for the time that they have spent on this from my frequent queries. i think the moral of the story is for anyone starting out in stock to give this some thought right from the beginning. 
 

Like Panthera, I find a tracking site very useful for picking up unreported uses which I alert Alamy to. Certain newspapers often use an image multiple times once it’s in their ‘library’ and don’t necessarily report every use. Other publications seem to ‘forget’ to report what they have downloaded. You can also set up an alert on Google to pick up on your name. And I do my own Google search from time to time using my name. Lots of ways to find your images online. You can get PressReader for free through libraries so I check a range of newspapers daily and quite often pick up on print uses that way.

The per-use licensing is a very interesting point indeed! I've found many of my images used repeatedly by the same news site and I was wondering myself whether or not it was worth looking into. Maybe it is. I'll see if I can get any of these tracked to those where I had a small number of sales, to make it easier to validate with the agency. Thanks @Sally

As for the Google alert, what I found interesting was that Pixsy hasn't picked up any of the uses that I have found on Google myself, either manually or through an alert. I thought that was odd! Has that also your been your experience or are you finding overlap between Pixsy & Google?

As for PressReader, I haven't heard about it before, thank you! I'll check it out! 

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My understanding is that if Pixsy find the Match then they do not permit you to contact the user to try and do your own negotiations. 

 

I am surprised that they are prepared to pick up cases where the user has already been contacted - they certainly turned me down when I wanted to hand one over to them when I had found the infringement myself on Google. Pixsy wasn't interested because I had already tried to start negotiations.

Edited by geogphotos
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32 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

My understanding is that if Pixsy find the Match then they do not permit you to contact the user to try and do your own negotiations. 

 

I am surprised that they are prepared to pick up cases where the user has already been contacted - they certainly turned me down when I wanted to hand one over to them when I had found the infringement myself on Google. Pixsy wasn't interested because I had already tried to start negotiations.

All the infringements that I have personally negotiated have been found myself with either Google or Bing, ( Quite a lot with Bing ) but I have used images found with Google or Bing to open a case.

Because I am not Alamy exclusive then infringement cases are more tricky to correctly identify and I have been told in my case simply contact the infringer and ask if they hold a license before I open a case.

I find it's important not to negotiate with the infringer if you are passing the case over to Pixsy, I then include all emails with the infringer to Pixsy so they have a complete and honest record to work with.


 

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18 minutes ago, Andy G said:

All the infringements that I have personally negotiated have been found myself with either Google or Bing, ( Quite a lot with Bing ) but I have used images found with Google or Bing to open a case.

Because I am not Alamy exclusive then infringement cases are more tricky to correctly identify and I have been told in my case simply contact the infringer and ask if they hold a license before I open a case.

I find it's important not to negotiate with the infringer if you are passing the case over to Pixsy, I then include all emails with the infringer to Pixsy so they have a complete and honest record to work with.


 

 

Thanks for that. I am not Alamy exclusive either. 

 

As I said above I started negotiations with a definite infringer and had the evidence from them in emails. I decided not to take them to the Small Claim Court because them being in a nearby village our lives were bound to overlap. I passed this to Pixsy but they wouldn't take it on just on the grounds that I had already made the initial contact - but to be fair I had sent an invoice for the amount I wanted. Perhaps Pixsy didn't like that aspect of it.

 

I can see the attraction of the approach you are asking especially having just been charged $200 by Pixsy for having to cancel cases.

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences. 

Edited by geogphotos
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