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The hurdles of fighting online image theft

By  Jonathan Appleby, 2018

Chasing up copyright theft online is not easy. There, the secret’s out. We at Copytrack are now use to the constant trials and tribulations of tackling image theft. We want to give you an insight into the life of battling for justice in this digital era!

When photographers submit their claims informing us that the usage of their image was not authorised and could be a copyright abuse, we have to first review the claim. Our team have to check that the usage and make sure Copytrack can start the compensation process to get money for our users. However, some claims can be rejected in this phase, leaving some users a little complexed as to what’s going on.

Well my dear complexed users, read on and learn the nitty gritty behind why you claim could be rejected.

No contact information

This is the big mama of hurdles. You would be surprised how many websites are setup with fake addresses, protected by privacy walls, or just no contact information provided whatsoever.

If the website leaves no trace of getting in contact them, what more can we do? For our post-licencing process, we just need an email, but for our infringement process, which is when we start to wave our legal finger, we need a solid postal address.

This does raise questions about website creators being allowed to be completely anonymous online. Shouldn’t they have to state their name, contact information, and be responsible for what they publish? This is one of the many questions that arise when we think about the development of the internet.

Non-commercial/ Private individuals

To start, Copytrack only chase up on commercial usages. This means that the image was used by someone who makes money from the site where the image was found.

It could be something quite obvious, such as an online shop, but sometimes it’s a little tricky, it might be a blog, but they have good number of adverts, this is also considered a commercial usage.

However, there are also exceptions. If it is a private person who has created this website to promote their freelance work, then this is considered a commercial usage. But if this website is just a portfolio, an online space to host their work, then this is

considered non-commercial. As you can see there are very fine lines, but luckily, we at Copytrack are trained to spot them.

CC licences

CC licences are amazing but have to be used with caution. Once you have put your images under a CC licence it can never be removed- it is irreversible. If you’ve stated “non-commercial usage” then we can fight for your rights, however, if you have allowed your images to be used commercially, then the image user has 100% right to use your image. Pay attention when giving your images a CC licence. Learn more about CC licences in our article breaking the licences down.

The images do not match

Sometimes images can look super, SUPER, similar but are actually different. It still might be your image, but another image in your collection, perhaps the shot afterwards. Luckily, with our overlay tool, these tiny differences can be easily spotted. If this is the case, we ask our users to resubmit the claim with the information provided in the claim as a manual submission. So before accepting a claim, please make sure the images are the exact same!

Pornographic works

We don’t accept cases with pornographic content (including illustrations and drawings) and cases on pornographic websites. One reason for this is that there could be further legal questions about the age of the models. However, not all naked pictures of individuals are considered porn, but if it’s found on a porn website, we will not continue the claim.

User generated content

We find your image. The website is commercial. But who was responsible for the image? On many website users can create accounts, log in, call themselves “DevilPrincess76”, and sometime these Devilprincesse76s upload images that abuse copyright. So, what does Copytrack do? We can’t create a legal claim against the website, unless they state they are responsible for the content published, which is a rarity. We can try and find the details of the individual user… but how many times have you created an account online and added your door number too?

In another claim

Sometimes users submit a claim that we have already started working on. We obviously can’t open a new claim for the same case. So we always ask our users to check before submitting cases!


Okay, this a big one. The images found are linked to the website only by a link. This does not constitute a copyright infringement. Therefore, we are unable to accept this claim. Framing/embedding of images is, by law, legal. Meaning that anyone can embed your images without abusing your copyright- crazy, right? Learn more about this loophole in the law on our blog.

Not the original Image

Let’s say we find the image user has a more original version of the image than the one you submitted for the claim. For example, their image is less cropped. We can’t accept this. How could we use this a valid evidence in court? Please only upload original versions of your work and have a keen eye using the overlay tool to make sure images really match.

A little too risky 

Law is never easy. And tacking legal action is no easier. Sometimes we come across claims where we have to reject them simply because the chances of success are minimal. Copytrack take on both the legal and financial risk for our users, which is great as it allows users to defend their rights without risk, but it also means Copytrack has to be careful about what claims we can chase up. If our trained legal team see an issue with your claim that could hinder the success of the case, such as an issue with the distribution of the image, it could be rejected to avoid risk. This one is hard to pinpoint, but users will always be updated in the portal about the exact reasons for rejection.

Copytrack’s Tip

So, you’ve learnt about some of the barriers that make tackling image theft a challenge! But we at Copytrack are trained workers, that have many tools and resources that help us overcome these hurdles! That’s how we’ve recovered thousands/millions of Euros in compensation for our users, and so many rely on us to help defend their rights! Try out our free portal today, or if you have any questions contact our friendly support team who are ready to answer your questions!

About Copytrack:

Copytrack ( was founded in 2015 by Marcus Schmitt and currently employs around 25 people from legal, IT, customer service and finance. The service supports photographers, publishers, image agencies and e-commerce providers. It includes a risk-free search of the global Internet for image and graphics data uploaded by users at Copytrack are found with a hit accuracy of 98 per cent. The customers define if images are used without a license and even determine the amount of subsequent fees supported by an automatic license calculator on the portal. Copytrack is fully responsible for an out-of-court solution in over 140 countries as well as a legal solution in the areas relevant to copyright law. If the image has been successfully licensed, the rights holder receives up to 70 percent of the agreed sum. The pure search function is free of charge.

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