Do you use Google's Search by Image? I must be living in a cave, because it's been around for a year & I only just heard about it a couple of weeks ago. I've been using TinEye, which is good, but doesn't find anywhere near the results Google does, & I do prefer Google's user interface too.
In the brief time since discovering this nifty tool & testing it thoroughly, I have found an astounding amount of people using my artwork & blog content without permission. What I find really frustrating & outrageous, is when you contact people who've swiped your work, & instead of owning up, apologising & removing it (as many do), some of them are aggressive & argumentative, or try to make you feel bad for being so "mean" about not wanting to share your work. I like to share, but on my terms, & call me unreasonable, but I prefer to be given a choice rather than have people take my property without permission.
The upside is, I've had really good results contacting web hosts to have my stuff taken down - they have been very quick to respond. For example, one "graphic designer" (using the term loosely) who swiped my artwork, sold it to a client, & had the gall to display it in her portfolio, has now had her website suspended (yay!). Facebook were also very helpful, removing my artwork that people had used as cover photos & profile pics.
One thing I discovered, was that one of my digital artworks found its way onto a BuzzFeed list of 50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos (mine is #25) among genuine vintage images (no one seemed to recognise my artwork as Photoshop trickery) & I got a kick out of reading people's speculations about the mysterious antlered boy. The downside is, that until finding it via Google, I was totally unaware that my artwork went viral, because despite the massive amount of exposure it has received (3.5 million views on BuzzFeed alone, as well as countless shares & reposts) I have not benefited in the slightest from a single view, because BuzzFeed didn't credit me.
My sister showed me this article from Slate Magazine about BuzzFeed's use of other people's intellectual property, which was prompted by this article from The Atlantic. BuzzFeed founder, Jonah Peretti, assures us that "BuzzFeed pays licensing fees to Reuters, AP, and Getty Images for the use of their libraries...[or]...BuzzFeed editors try to track down the creator." Really? I sure haven't made a penny out of all this astronomical exposure, let alone received any acknowledgement, & I'm not that difficult to find - if BuzzFeed's editors had done their homework, a quick Google search would have done the trick.
Independent artists (like me) work their butts off marketing themselves & their work, because success hinges on exposure - building a blog following, subscribers, mailing list - you don't make sales without that vital traffic. When sites like BuzzFeed post your work without crediting you, they're not only robbing you of acknowledgement you deserve for putting your time, effort & talent into making original work, they're impacting on your livelihood. The artwork is obviously interesting enough for inclusion on their site, yet they don't respect artists & photographers enough to seek out the origins of each image & credit the creator. Without that attribution, the door is wide open for people to then take the images & use them however they like, & it is sickening to see your artwork stolen or defaced by clueless people.
Since relaunching my blog last year, I have taken steps to minimise copyright infringement. Along with a strict copyright policy, I no longer upload a single image without putting my url on it - for the inevitable occasions when my pics end up bouncing around the internet without credit. An unfortunate side effect is that I won't be able to reopen my Etsy shop. Because I'll be hosting my own shop on my site, I am not allowed to display my url on my product photos & packaging in my Etsy shop - it's seen as "fee avoidance" - & since there's no way I'm ever uploading images ever again without my url on them (for all the reasons I've just been discussing), it means no Etsy shop, which I'm disappointed about.
As many of you know from personal experience, it's tough work running an independent business, protecting your work, reputation & livelihood, especially when so many people seem to have so little respect & regard for intellectual property. At least we have tools like Google's Search by Image to help us track down offenders, as well as sites & hosts who actually do take copyright seriously & remove offending material when you ask. At least that's something.