Last Updated on October 8, 2021 by Jeremy
Over the years, I've been forced to start using image monitoring services to check for copyright infringement of my photos online. From fellow bloggers to big brands and even my own city's tourist board, my photos have been used without my permission in just about every manner of outlet you can think of.
But how do you monitor your images online? Thankfully, third-party services exist that allow you to upload your images to their server, and then their proprietary algorithms find and log instances where your images are used outside of your domains and social channels.
Many of these also have a monetization element where they can invoice the infringers on your behalf, and even work with lawyers to take some cases to court in order to ensure you receive fair compensation for the theft.
Two services I've personally used over the years are Copytrack and RYDE, and while you can read more about both at their individual reviews (previous links), in this one I wanted to compare and contrast the two services directly.
Please note: We are affiliates of RYDE and would love it if you mentioned This Week in Blogging if you sign up; however, my views below include balanced pros and cons of both networks.
Copytrack is arguably the most well-known image monitoring service out there, and getting your images into their database is a simple upload (although there are some file size restrictions as well as a maximum file count which can be increased with an annual fee- a feature added in 2021). Once the images are on their server, all you have to do is return to the site and see matches as they come in- generally daily.
One of the biggest pros of Copytrack is that they provide as many matches as possible as they come in, but this also doubles as a con as we have far more false positives than exact matches (frequently greater than 10:1) such that sorting through the images can become a chore.
When you do find an image match, you work through a quick set of questions, apply the value you would like to invoice the image for on a sliding scale, and hit submit. From there, Copytrack takes over and will attempt to send an invoice to the infringer and then subsequently will start the ball rolling later with legal proceedings if necessary.
This service fell flat for us at this point because it would often come back and say they are unable to proceed in countries where they do not have local legal representation. As such, many claims were closed outright. Likewise, when invoices were not paid at the initial request, we were then asked to fill out paperwork and mail them to Germany- something that felt like an extra layer of effort for no guaranteed return.
I did get several payouts from Copytrack overall (mostly invoices that were paid at the first request as opposed to going to court), and I appreciated this service's sliding scale of fees. Likewise, if an invoice is paid outright you get a bigger cut than if it goes to court. But as I struggled with the paperwork to proceed with the latter cases, those were few and far between. Couple in the added fee for hosting larger volumes of images and I am quite hesitant here.
RYDE, formerly known as KodakOne, is virtually identical in setup as Copytrack but with a few key differences. Here, there is no file restriction for max uploads (and a more generous image size range as well). Once the images are on their server, the RYDE team will sort through matches and send you cases that they think they personally have the best shot of winning- generally once a week.
While we still have a few false positives come through on RYDE, for the most part, our hit rate has been over 95% correct image match- something I fully appreciate. On the flip side, as images are filtered by RYDE, you may only find you get a handful of matches in any given week- they truly are spaced apart. So if you are expecting a quick payday on hundreds of images, well, you may have to practice some patience- the most I ever received in a single week was about 20.
While this may be off-putting to some who want a large volume of matches upfront, I appreciated the added filter as it meant my weekly work was minimized. All I had to do every week was go on RYDE (often Monday or Tuesday mornings), check my matches, submit claims on ones I wanted to pursue and would walk away. RYDE handled almost all the legal paperwork upfront, so apart from a class-action lawsuit they moved on to the legal phase all without me having to participate. Saving me time? Sign me up.
And apart from a few concerns about the dashboard being a bit sparse with limited functionality (currently you have to email them to remove a photo from your portfolio, for example), the real trade-off here is that RYDE takes a bigger commission over services like Copytrack. That being said, I'll take a smaller percentage of an actually completed case over a higher percentage, lower win rate, and more weekly work all the same.
Which Image Service is Best? The One You Use
To summarize this one, we want to take a broader approach. Is Copytrack better than RYDE or is RYDE better than Copytrack? Honestly, the answer is a bit immaterial.
While I personally use RYDE, the reason I like it is that I actually use it. I got frustrated by false positives on Copytrack and ended up not using the service at all, despite still getting very real matches in my account over that time.
As such, the best image monitoring service is, in all likelihood, the one you actually use. You cannot monetize illegal image use if you do not check on your images, and really getting motivated to do so on a regular basis is the biggest struggles most bloggers face. As such, the answer here may be a bit more flexible than in other comparisons we've done in the past.
No matter what company you choose, we have one simple request- protect your image copyright the best way you see fit! Letting infringers get away with copyright violations only encourages them to continue the practice overall and hurts everyone in our industry.
Do you have a favorite image monitoring service? Comment below to share!