Copytrack is a free image monitoring service that allows you to track your images online and file copyright violations on commercial entities that are using them without a license.
We've been members of Copytrack's service for well over a year, and now that we've had a few claims paid out, we wanted to walk you through what the experience is like.
So is Copytrack worth your time? We share our thoughts below!
Copytrack is Great for Monitoring
Copytrack's bread and butter is their image monitoring program. All you have to do is upload your photos and the free software does the rest to find comparable photos on the internet (both at the time of upload and as they occur in the future). Upload a batch, wait a few days, and return to see what the algorithm found- it is that simple.
Each day after the initial upload Copytrack will bring back images that are close matches to your images and you are able to sort through them manually with filtering options like legal (for those who have permission), illegal (violations to return to later), whitelist domain (a high level approval used mostly on social media, sites you guest post on, etc), and no match (for images that are picked up that are similar but not your own- this is the most common selection).
One of the things we love about the service is that each hit will show your image side-by-side with the image they found, and you can even do an overlay feature that toggles between the two images so you can really scrutinize the images to be absolutely sure the image is yours.
You'd be surprised the number of images they found that looked remarkably similar to ours but it was only a small detail in the corner that stood out that made it truly different. Having this feature has made things quite easy in finding violations.
In the first year of using Copytrack we uploaded roughly 3,500 photos from our blog and Instagram profiles. The service returned 5,000+ hits over that time, of which about 80 were “legal”, 158 we marked as “illegal”, 1,200 were not matches, and 3,600 were whitelisted from social media profiles, guest post outlets, etc.
Although that is a lot of no-match and whitelist finds, a 4% hit rate on illegal use is still pretty high!
After you move images into the illegal folder, you can either file a claim or use this knowledge to reach out to the host externally to try and get the image removed or proper credit added (we do this with bloggers as Copytrack only goes after commercial entities in the claim process). After sorting through these illegal claims, we filed on about 35 (a solid 1% of images uploaded) but admittedly have several more to work through.
All things considered, it is a fairly easy process to identify stolen images and the only major limitation is the number of files you can upload. However, once you hit your limit you can request a higher upload cap from Copytrack and they are happy to increase your upload limit at no charge as long as you are actively using the service.
My only notable downside on the monitoring aspect is that at this time the photography uploads are manual.
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I'd really like it if the site moved to live monitoring of sites and social channels (even if this meant a small monthly fee), such that you do not have to upload new images every time you put them somewhere on the internet. It is a bit tedious to remember them all, and I'm surely missing out on finding violations by this being a manual component.
This is not Copytrack's fault, I'm just bad at keeping up with it.
Still, what they do have works quite well and for that I can't say nothing but great things- until invoicing comes in to play at least.
Copytrack is Only Decent for Invoicing
The second half of Copytrack's service is to go after copyright violations with their legal team.
When you wish to move forward on an illegally used image, you can put forward a claim for damages upwards of 1,000 Euro with a percentage modifier to the minimum you'd accept. The process to file is simple, and their no risk guarantee made me feel pretty comfortable in hitting the button to proceed.
In theory, we've submitted claims for as high as 1,000 Euro and hope for the best. But in practice we've had Copytrack come back asking to settle for less (in countries where it would make sense financially) or that we're asking too much (since we do not have proof of selling the image for that rate previously).
In other cases the maximum we could ask for is significantly lower, and we have no real understanding of why the cap varies so much from image to image.
So, suffice it to say, putting in a claim on Copytrack is more or less asking for the full amount and getting whatever you can- it likely isn't going to be anywhere near your initial submission unless you have a sales history to back it up.
If Copytrack gets paid for a violation in the initial contact or subsequent follow-ups, you get 70% the settled amount and they take 30% as a service fee. If it proceeds to court (where you must fill out additional paperwork and send it to Germany to move forward), you split the fee in half- a fair enough deal for only requiring a few signatures on paperwork and German postage fees.
The reason I call this only decent is because the service is somewhat lackluster in completing a claim.
The service boasts they will go after claims anywhere, but many of ours were closed because the site was hosted in a country where it would not be cost effective to make a claim or in other countries where Copytrack does not have local representation. We've also had claims closed because Copytrack could not find an address associated with the website and also for the fact that they don't go after non-commercial entities like blogs (this we get).
More than half our claims were closed on these grounds alone and the 35 claims became 14- many of which we are not holding our breath on.
I think the most unfortunate thing about Copytrack is that it takes a long time for claims to turn around, even if the price is settled and does not go to court. Our first two claims that were paid out were submitted in June 2017 and we had cash in hand by June 2018 and July 2018 respectively- more than a year of waiting with very few updates along the way.
Still, for all the effort we've put in to Copytrack to manually upload images, checking back frequently to file claims on new finds, and deal with several images getting closed either outright or months down the road, we have successfully received money for two images used illegally. One from Croatia (where we were asked to settle for less) and one from the USA (which proceeded to court and a 50/50 split).
While the final amount deposited in our bank account was about $600 in total for the two images, a little more than a third of what we had originally submitted on, had we done nothing we'd still be at zero. So as far as Copytrack is concerned, we're already ahead.
Hopefully it won't take another year for the rest of our claims!
Copytrack Has Gone Downhill Recently
In late 2018, my profile on Copytrack began acting weird. I was receiving tons of false hits daily, to the tune of well over a thousand hits a week for about a month. These weren't matches. They weren't even close.
It appeared that something changed within Copytrack's algorithm to be a lot more loose in the tracking, and I was getting innundated with absurdly false hits from Asian sites (in countries Copytrack wouldn't likely pursue even if it was a match).
This is where things really spiraled out of control as Copytrack only allows flagging / deleting images on an individual image or site-by-site basis. I sent in a customer support ticket to note them of the change in performance, and to request a bulk delete feature to assist in clearing up my account, and was told no on both and that I should remove the images individually.
Now, if Copytrack was paying out left and right on my claims, I would be inclined to go through my large quantity of images. But as my total payout relative to claims has been low, I can't see me going out of the way to spend more time using the service.
At this point I'm not holding my breath for improvements, and may look elsewhere to monitor image claims moving forward.
So Do We Recommend Copytrack?
The answer to this one is a bit hard to say. I liked Copytrack for quite some time, and despite a fair bit of time on my part uploading photos, tracking hits, and filing claims, we're still ahead now that we've received a few claims.
But waiting a year and dealing with a lot of closed claims, false hits, and an inability to bulk delete thousands of images along the way is a bit troubling.
Overall, I highly recommend tracking your images either here or at a service that is comparable at a minimum. It is quite valuable to trace down violations online even if you go at them directly for removal or the addition of a backlink. But as far as claims go for payments, don't get your hopes up for results and take whatever happens as a one-off rather than the norm.
I'm hope I am wrong about this with our remaining claims, but this is truly an instance where you can take what you can get, and that puts the bar fairly low to begin with.
Go in with this mindset, and you will not be disappointed.
We were not requested nor compensated to host this update. We just wanted to provide an honest review on a service we use.
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