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In the course of our work as a copyright protection agency one of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “How did you detect this infringement?”.

The answer to that question is both simple and complicated!

It all starts with the photographer

Generally speaking photographers usually have an outlet for their creative works, this can take the form of a personal or professional blog/website or their Social Media pages and many photographers are also contracted to news outlets, image agencies, or contribute to stock image archives. Influencers and bloggers also produce image content, usually monetising it via their social media channels and not publishing it anywhere else.

However, there are many challenges that rights holders face in protecting their works, not least the sheer volume of work they have to protect. With production rates ranging from a few images a week to thousands of images per day, the challenge for photographers, content creators, and their representatives generally lies in effectively monitoring and protecting their intellectual property to ensure that they are paid when their work is published online.

Furthermore online platforms are constantly evolving, meaning any technology employed to monitor image publication is constantly altering and the platforms where photographer’s works are being published on without their consent change over time. Rights holders have to keep ahead of the curve and stay informed about new platforms and channels where their content might be shared or misused.

Finally, navigating through the complexities of international copyright laws can be daunting for rights holders, especially when addressing infringements that occur across borders. Laws vary country to country, and for a rights holder to understand often complex copyright laws in multiple countries is a big task.

Given these challenges to protecting their rights many rights holders ask themselves “Should I copyright protect my images?”.

The answer is a resounding yes, as there are exponential dangers of neglecting copyright infringements.

Methods Employed by Copyright Protection Agencies to identify infringements of their partner’s works:

This begs the question, How do you protect copyright? This is where copyright protection agencies like Copyright Agent come into the picture. These agencies specialise in copyright law, but approach the problem from what has been described as a revolutionary technical perspective.

There are many contemporary methods employed by copyright protection agencies that they use to monitor where their partner’s content is being published, some of the key methods are described below:

1. Reverse Image Search Technology

So how does reverse image search technology work? Essentially you upload an image and the reverse image search engine identifies distinctive features from the provided image, such as colour distribution, shapes, textures, among many other features using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques.

These features are then compared to a database of images published on public websites, accessible through search engines known as an "Index". Indexes allows users to quickly locate information on the internet and retrieve relevant results including images published on websites and social media sites. Search engines use web indexing to retrieve relevant results. The act of indexing by search engines is not illegal and there are many different indexes out there.

When combined, the power of reverse image search technology fused with internet indexes empower rights holders to be able to scan the internet for publications of their images. However doing so on a large scale usually requires the input of specialist Tech firms like Copyright Agent, who have developed additional proprietary software capable of handling large batches of images and discerning the difference between near matches and actual matches. This specialist software is expensive to develop and maintain but is a critical component in identifying copyright infringements.

2. Watermarking

Watermarking can take many forms, perhaps the one most people are familiar with are visible watermarks applied to photographs.

Rights holders often employ these visible watermarks to add an extra layer of protection. Visual watermarks are markings that are intentionally placed on the surface of the image, often containing the copyright symbol, the creator's name, or a logo. Watermarks are designed to be difficult to remove without compromising the image's quality, serving as a deterrent to potential infringers. Many rights holders will remove watermarks when a customer buys their image leading to unwatermarked images being in circulation, however, watermarks can also be invisible. Imperceptible data can be embedded into the image itself. This hidden information may include details about the rights holder, copyright status, or other unique identifying information.

So watermarks, whether hidden or visible, act as a distinct and unforgeable identifier of the content's origin. It's important to highlight here that the presence or absence of watermarks does not convey copyright status. Even images without visible watermarks retain their copyright protection.

3. Audits

While not a bulk solution, audits can form a part of a system to identify infringements of copyright protected works. This involves actively searching websites, social media platforms, and other online channels where images might be shared looking for specific copyright protected images, combined with keyword searching for images online.

While audits alone may not serve as an all encompassing solution to copyright protection, they can play a crucial role within a wider system that aims to identify infringements of copyright-protected works. This proactive approach involves actively scouring various online platforms, including websites and social media channels, where copyright protected images could potentially be shared without authorization. Additionally, incorporating keyword searches for images online further strengthens the audit process, enabling the identification of potential copyright violations involving images owned by partners.

By integrating audits into your intellectual property protection strategy, a rights holder or their appointed agent can establish a systematic and vigilant means of identifying and addressing instances of unauthorised image use across the digital landscape.

4. Informants

While also not a comprehensive solution, rights holders can establish a network of followers who transition into “informants”. These individuals identifying instances of the rights holders' copyright protected images being published elsewhere, play a pivotal role by promptly notifying the rights holder. This collaborative strategy contributes to the identification and resolution of infringements, aligning with established legal protocols to safeguard intellectual property rights.

In the complex landscape of protecting copyright, the challenges faced by rights holders are multi-faceted, and addressing these challenges requires a strategic and technologically advanced approach. Copyright protection agencies play a crucial role by employing contemporary methods such as Reverse Image Search Technology, Watermarking, Audits and Informants amongst other methods.

In essence, the synergy of these methods empowers rights holders to safeguard their intellectual property and protect their ecosystem of originality. Understanding how copyright infringements are detected is essential, especially if you've received a letter from a rights holder or their designated copyright agent, or you’re a rights holder seeking effective copyright enforcement.

Originality, always.

Copyright Agent -

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