This is a problem I have been searching for a solution on for some time now. The company I am working for, name not needed, has images prior to my hiring that are being used in lesson formats. Their request to me is to take these old images, that have new files names, and determine the license agreement. I find that to be more of a contract thing but before I think so wisely in my new job I wanted to pick everyone's brains first.

How can I take an old image and figure out the legalities for current use? Is there a website I can upload the image and it tells me the copyrights of the image? I could really use the help everyone, thank you for your time.

  • Reverse image search. There's lot of services for this. Google being the last one to use since it will also show you first the site containing the image that has the highest SEO and tons of copy as well. As Dre suggested wisely, you can check the metadata and even check if there's an hidden watermark with Photoshop; sometimes you can find info there. – go-junta Nov 10 '15 at 1:42

That you are in possession of the digital file is no indication that the file was obtained via a purchase with a license, nor is there any indication as to what the specific license may have been.

You could use something like Google Image Search to upload the image and see if Google can find the source, then you can contact the source to see if they have any record of your company having purchased a license.

But, honestly, unless you are an unpaid intern, I think your company would be spending more money wasting your time than they would if they just purchase new images with new licenses (and this time, keep track of them).

  • Depends on how many images you have. But yes going forward that might be a ideal – joojaa Nov 9 '15 at 19:44
  • There are thousands of images that have been neglected overtime. I have no quick solution for them and I agree, I get paid to much to sort these images. I promised I would go through all of the images and sort the ones that we need to find the originator of, but as for others that we can quickly (and respectfully) replicate via CC, is what we should do. I appreciate all the help everyone. I just haven't toyed with the graphic design business for two years now and we all know how much can change. I was hoping for a website that did this quickly for us. I suppose that's the million dollar idea – Wandering Ponderer Nov 9 '15 at 20:14
  • 1
    It might be worth checking the meta data for the image; licensing source information is occasionally stored as IPTC data. It's not a definitive solution by any means -- some sources neglect to add it -- but I would check that first, failing that then reach for Google Images. – Dre Nov 9 '15 at 20:33
  • @Dre yes that is mentioned in my answer. To be honest quite a few images do not have this info. But you the client should add this info for your own convenience. – joojaa Nov 10 '15 at 5:00

Licenses are really hard to prove. Basically you need to have a receipt of purchase and a proof of transfer. If you do not have these you basically wont have a legal standing, unless you can find the original image with a revese search, and it happens to be free or CC. Begin by checking the image metadata first you may luck out.

It is also advisable to use company credit card for the purchase. Because it can be easily traced and the ownership is easier to prove. In future you need to be sure to archive your purtchase info somewhere searchable (also add this info to image metadata). I know 3 persons who have a full time job doing nothing but managing license info.

It is hard to determine licenses after the fact. Base assumption in copyright should allways be you have no rights unless you have been explicitly given permission. In which case you should know it.

  • agreed to everything you have said, and, a lot of it was also helpful. I guess one of the bigger issues that I didn't mention was that the company I am working for purchased these files from another company sometime back. So our company files and contracts legate back to the time of purchase from said other company. This being the case I was hoping that I could use the image to track it back to the original owner some how. the prior company was won off of their contract by ours and assisting each other's businesses has grown thin. I do not see much help from their side of the issues. – Wandering Ponderer Nov 9 '15 at 17:11
  • @WanderingPonderer Its not so clear that the licenses can transfer form a entity to each other as the licenses might have been nontransferable. So unless this merger is from a bankruptcy hearing it may or may not have succeed in transferring the licenses. – joojaa Nov 9 '15 at 19:46
  • Right, the practice is much to dangerous for an audit in the future, let alone the unethical practice of denying a hard working artist their deserved credit. I'm in the process of proposing the movement forward and removing all the old graphics from files and replacing them. Paying me to create graphics and collect CC images is much more productive then backtracking images/graphics. I am very thankful for you help @joojaa – Wandering Ponderer Nov 9 '15 at 20:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.