And what can you do about it?
One of the most common crimes to be committed on a regular basis is online image theft, and most of the time people don’t even realize they are stealing. Their thoughts are “I found it online so it must be ok to take.” Unfortunately this is just not the case. The majority of professional photographers report having their work stolen hundreds of times, and even 44% of amateur photographers report having their photos stolen online.
Part of the problem is that people don’t realize that just because you can download something doesn’t mean you should. All original work such as photography has an automatic copyright attached to it regardless of whether it is published or unpublished, registered or unregistered. Anything produced after 1978 is the property of the person who produced it for their lifetime plus 70 years, and that person has the sole right to reproduce, show, make money from, and base other work off that property.
Google is fighting back by making it more difficult to download other people’s work, but it’s really up to the individual to not steal online. There are tools you can use if you are a photographer to find your stolen work, like Google’s reverse image search or Berify. Once you find your images used without your permission you can decide which course of action to pursue to remedy the situation. Learn more about the problem of online image theft from this infographic.