Who's been using your art?

Dan Olivier-Argyle is lead designer at

I want to tell you about a useful online tool from Google that lets you see where your images are being used.
Unfortunately, art theft is commonplace, and it is likely to happen to you at some stage in your art career, whether your art has been copied in part, or used directly without your permission.

So, to discover where your images have been used, you’ll need to bring up the image search box on Google.
Once loaded, click the little camera icon at the end of the search box.

Google image search - who's used your art online

In the box that appears, either upload an image from your computer, or paste the URL (web address) of an image from your online gallery. Some browsers will also allow you to drag and drop images into the search field. There’s also an extension available for both Google Chrome and Firefox that makes things easier. You can find out more here.

Google will show you a list of places where your image has been found, and can also list images with a similar colour theme, in case an edited version has been posted.
Look closely through the search results to get a thorough idea of where your images are appearing – this isn’t just useful for uncovering possible art theft, it’s a useful tool to get an idea of your reach on the net, and a glimpse at the interests of your audience.

So, what do I do if someone has used my image without my permission?

Well, it all depends on how it’s being used. If your image has been posted on a blog and you have been credited as the artist, the owner is probably doing you a favour by directing traffic to your website. If there’s no mention of your name or website, and you haven’t left any details of your identity on your image, then the first step would be to ask the owner of the website to either take it down, or credit you as the artist (with your name or website). Image theft is against the law, and as the “first owner of copyright”, you hold the right to make copies of the image (digital or otherwise).

Lawsuits are incredibly expensive, and are probably not worth your time, but if you’ve contacted the website owner and nothing has changed, you might want to take legal action. I am not in a position to give further advice on legal issues, but I would recommend that you seek advice from trusted parties online. Alternatively, you could tell your fans about it, and encourage them to message the ‘thief’ and ask them to take the imposing image(s) down.
I hope you found this helpful – don’t forget to check your images every now and then, if only to see which have drawn the most attention.

Note: You don’t need to include a copyright message or watermark on your art to protect it, but it does pay to include a recognisable signature, name or URL so people can find your portfolio on the web.


Alice Ralph
15 Feb 2013 14:13
There's also a really good Chrome plugin called TinEye Reverse Image Search ( which does something very similar although it searches multiple platforms at once. I really really like it.
Ashleigh-Jayne O'Connell
15 Feb 2013 16:06
Thanks for sharing that, Alice!
Gemma Hotchkiss
16 Feb 2013 18:00
Just tested this out and found one of my designs featured on a blog with no credit, it was a nice comment though so might not say anything! Great tip!
Nancy Farmer
22 Feb 2013 17:52
Wow, that's really interesting! Could make a person paranoid, though: just googled one of my images and found a load of them on keyrings, and was a bit alarmed before I remembered that yes, I did give someone permission to do that!
Thanks for sharing this - on my computer google now unaccountably shows all the menu and stuff in arabic, so I would never have found it otherwise....
Alex Wilkie
11 Sep 2013 10:00
I think unfortunately it is on the rise and I will need to give this a go.

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