I will always make a case for image attribution in online publishing as an act of gratitude first, over following rules of some license. And to put this practice into all my works, not just here in the old dog blog.

As an ongoing experiment in “a license is only a minimum statement” a few years ago, I switched all (well I tried, the command was not 100% successful) my photos on flickr from a CC BY (Attribution) license to CC0 (public domain). According to the ways many people like to explain public domain is “you can reuse it and you don’t even need to provide credit or attribution.”

The experiment is to see how often people will go beyond, and it happens a lot- I get a regular stream of thanks via flickr mail and “hey I saw/used your photos” in tweets.

Okay, it feels good. Isn’t that how gratitude works? Its takes not much to do this for others.

Just for my own curation or (maybe ego?) habit, a few years ago I created a flickr album to track where my photos were re-used. It’s up to 155 photos.

Flickr photo album title "Reused Photos - my flickr photos that have been used elsewhere. This makes me happy"

There is no algorithm at work here, it’s just when someone contacts me or let’s me know of seeing a reuse, I find the original photo, and add it to the collection.

But I found a new way, that puts reverse image search to work maybe in a way not intended.

Pixsy is a service meant to help people try and find “theft” of their copyrighted images- the tagline is “Find and fight image theft.” I have no issue with pro photographers trying to make their livelihood, though it perpetuates the idea that distribution of digital media can be controlled.

Three pane image of the same photo with "Original", "Approved Use", and "Unauthorized" the latter with a "Recover Money" button.
Recover Money!

I few months ago an email from flickr mentioned that Pro accounts included a free account on pixsy. I was more curious about what it did, than trying to “recover money” (which I don’t intend, remember the public domain thing?)

It works rather damn well for finding copies of my flickr photos, on web sites all around the world.

The only thing I am using from this service is to find more of my own photos to add to my collection. Thanks pixsy! I will not be clicking any buttons to go after people (what would be really nice is to have a way of sending thanks, but hey stalking copyright is a full time gig).

The information you get lets you compare your photo to the pne they found, as well as a link to the site where it was found.

A match of my photo reported by pixsy

So I can verify my photo was used in a story on an Irish news journal. And I can see there is nicely attributed (link to my main flickr account, not to the image).

How to I find my flickr image? Well, pixsy here falls short. I can use the Go to Image button, but nowhere do I find a link to the flickr source.

But they do have the original title of my image, so I can search my own photos on “Holding on to Shadows” and yup, I found it myself.

This is another one that fell through the cracks when I tried making all my photos CC0. If anyone from flickr can help, please say hi.

Add to my own pleasures reversing the intent of a service meant to chase copyright violations to find open reuse. And that’s okay. The Send Takedown button shall never be clicked.


Pixsy is eager to set lawyers loose, despite the clearly open licenses applied to my photos, so it makes me wonder about the veracity of said lawyers. From Hannah at Pixsy an email (one of two):

We have an excellent Belgium law firm ready to work on your cases.

We have detected some suitable commercial Belgium matches in your account and are confident that our legal partner would be able work on these cases immediately.

Submit your Belgium matches to us, we'll get to work right away. Remember it's no win, no fee - so what have you got to lose?

It’s also stupid. Pass, Hannah.

Image Credit: And a big round of gratitude to Jason Riedy!

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


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