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What I Learned when I Paid CopyPants to Find My Images on the Internet

Adam Rubinstein - Pyragraph
Photo by Andrew Malone.

As a budding semi-pro photographer, I hope my images are found all over the internet.

That’s easy. Insert photo, return 12 hours later. The trick is also getting paid for it.

When I started, I made a lot of verbal agreements, thinking my work wasn’t strong enough yet to merit a written contract. On the surface, that was silly. Given that I’ve worked with written contracts for the better part of a decade, it was also stupid.

They make it incredibly easy to track your intellectual property.

Most of us act like the internet is an ocean of free things. I certainly do. We stream unlimited music and TV shows, pilfer images for blog posts, and have collectively turned Tumblr into a free porn machine. So when I became a maker of photographs, I was terrified when I realized how far my work could travel without my knowledge or my consent.

As a photographer, I have significant expenses. My camera gear was a huge investment, and maintenance ain’t cheap. While I don’t expect a small site to pay a hefty licensing fee, I do ask for credit and a link. I think credit is common decency, and a link isn’t much more to ask. That’s so interested parties can find and hire me, and I can continue to dent my debt. Large sites with editorial budgets have no excuse not to pay me as well.

Since it’s laughable to look for my images on the web, licensing my work just made me sigh and try not to grow an ulcer.

Enter CopyPants.

CopyPants is your personal algorithm-based photographic gumshoe. You tell them (on a stack of bibles) what you’ve shot, and they scour the internet for them. You sift through the results, marking each “Okay to Use,” “Contact for Credit/Payment,” or “Not My Image.”

I gave them access to my Instagram, and learned within a few hours that a few Atlanta web-mags had been using some of poet portraits. In a few clicks, I requested credit from both sites. One gave it within the week. The other hasn’t responded. I haven’t escalated my case, though that’s an option CopyPants provides, too.

They also found a lot of images that weren’t mine—mostly a photograph of some street art in Denver, taken from the same location, though they also matched the generic Gravitar icon on about 100 sites. I wrote them about feature requests, and they responded quickly.

I’ve learned a few things in my first month with CopyPants:

1. I’m not that big a deal.
2. People steal images from even not-big-a-deal photographers.
3. A polite request will get you pretty far.

This list also shows exactly why CopyPants is amazing: If you produce images for a living, or for part of your living, they make it incredibly easy to track your intellectual property, and ask for the renumeration you want. So that maybe, if your images do track across the Ocean of Free Things, someone will find your work and say, “I must work with or license images from this photographer. I don’t care what the cost.” And then, the magic: You can pay your bills.

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  1. I’m glad the tech seems to work, the product looks good, but the founder of Copypants has an interesting story…
    Before he registered the domain, he flew down to Cape Town and pretended to be interested in investing in Myows (an investment we desperately needed) and mined us for information, business plans, features, marketing strategies, etc.. He even got access to our client-base.
    Then he went ahead with our concept without giving us a penny !
    For a company that aims to protect the small guy’s IP, the irony is too much to handle !

    1. That’s awful! I’m so sorry to hear that. Yes, the irony is debilitating.

      It seems like your two companies are targeting different markets? Myows appears to offer protection for a handful of specific artworks, such as paintings; is that right? Where CopyPants is oriented toward photographers, with large bodies of work.

      1. Thanks Adam,

        I’d be happy to discuss this privately, you can message me on Twitter or Facebook ( @myows ) or send me an email.

        To answer your question, unfortunately, we are targeting the same market (I was mainly a photographer when I started Myows in 2009 – see the interview here : http://matthill.co/articles/interview-myows-founder-max-guedy ), and the investment we were seeking was to be able to offer social media integration (Instagram) and proper image detection search and alerts (or as I put it back in 2013 :
        “We have a basic detection feature that works on images and text, (and are seeking investment to make it more fully-fledged, so if you know anyone, send them our way)”
        http://www.imoddigital.com/seo/who-is-stealing-your-content ).

        Pretty much where copypants is going, and I’ve congratulated them for making my vision come to fruition. Because, you know, I believe in Karma…

        We’ve had many success stories amongst photographers, such as this one :
        http://myows.com/blog/copyright-protection-photographer/ and Petapixel says we’re the best way for photographers to protect their copyright ( http://petapixel.com/2015/06/17/10-helpful-websites-for-protecting-your-photography-copyrights/ )

        I’m also happy to say that it looks like we’ve finally found a legit investor, so big changes could happen before the end of the year !

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