Mike Mueller recently showed a comical way of how some people (including me) have messed around with people who have stolen images and used them on the web. It's easy. Just one little right click!
Tin Eye is a new search engine that crawls the web looking for images, and then creates a unique and compact digital signature or "fingerprint' for each image that is added to the index.
The result is when you submit an image to TinEye, its fingerprint is analyzed and compared to the fingerprint of every single image in their database, which is growing. The result is a detailed list of websites that use that image or modifications of that image.
It's not perfect, it's still in BETA, but the point is that the technology IS available to chase down people who blatantly steal images. You can change the color, you can modify it and you will STILL BE FOUND.
You WILL start receiving letters from attorneys and it IS becoming an issue, so my best advice is take your own photos! It's really that simple.
I've been designing real estate websites for almost a decade, and began taking photos about 8 years ago. I ALWAYS have a camera in my car, and have created a 'local real estate library' of literally over 10,000 photographs of everything I 'may' need. Photos in every season. Holiday photos. I have my own collection of photos I TOOK that I can use for my own use and my own websites. It's simple, it creates a more unique look and I know I will NEVER receive a 'cease and desist letter', although I have sent some out myself before!
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