Photo of fellow travelers approaching the famous pyramid for the first time

Search Engines Should Reward Original Works

That search engines such as Google should reward original work is a thought that I’ve had in mind for awhile now. I’ve even brought it up to friends and on various discussion boards several times. But I never quite got around to blogging about it until today.

Today the idea came back to the top of my mind. I had a message from a friend. Not only had she run across one of my Egypt photos that was not credited to me. She had found it with the watermark of another person altogether! I guess I can somewhat happily say that’s a first.

Photo of fellow travelers approaching the famous pyramid for the first time
The Photo In Question

Now, I’ve had my share of photos wander off willy-nilly with no connection left to me. That was why I recently moved to placing borders with my name on them. I’m not fond of actual watermarks. Personally, when I look at a photo with a watermark, it’s pretty much all I see, and the only watermark that would stop theft would pretty much be in size 40 font across the entire image. Anything else can be cropped or digitally removed.

That was the reasoning behind my border. It’s simply a calling card. I know it can easily be removed, but anyone who would willfully go to that effort was never going to behave honorably in the first place. While I’m well aware that those individuals saving and posting copies of my work without prior permission are breaking copyright law, I can’t spend my every waking moment chasing after them. It’s the very act of swimming upstream against the current.

What I find reprehensible about our search engines is how often these copies rank more highly in the search results. Today I did an image search for the photo in question. I was sure if someone had gone to the effort to put their own watermark on my work I’d likely find it somewhere else. Sure enough, I found a small list of places to send DMCA notices. What I couldn’t help noticing as I worked my way through the results, my photo hosted on my site was the dead last that Google showed in its results. Perhaps it’s based on the age of the work? I don’t think it’s down to the infringing individuals having done a superior job of describing the image as a few had virtually no descriptions whatsoever and they were still ahead of me.

This was what brought back my suggestion to mind. Any search engine should reward the original source of content, be it image, text, audio, etc. I don’t see how this would be hard to implement, particularly for Google, the king of the search engine jungle du jour. Google can already look at an image and recognize that it’s the same photo found on multiple sites. Well, I would suspect nine times out of ten, that first iteration, the first place it turned up online, belongs to the content creator.

This would cover a host of concerns I’ve encountered of late with scraper sites. Multiple blogs I follow for instances have moved to only providing truncated RSS feeds because scraper sites were copying their content via their RSS feeds. Now, I think their solution is only a stop-gap. I’m sure a determined scraper will or already has found a way around that. But it wouldn’t be a concern if Google et al respected the original source of the content. I’m sure there would still be indignant creators if the copied content was there, but at least the scrapers would always fall behind the original.

And it would ameliorate the cause for concern for a great many visual artists who feel they have to police the internet because of sites like Pinterest and the many clones that have sprung up over night. There’s no white washing for theft, particularly theft for profit, but at least those other copies shouldn’t dilute the brand of the content creator.

That’s my two cents on the matter. I wish I had an inside track to make these suggestions more formally, but I don’t. If you agree, maybe it would help if you shared the concept on either by sharing a link her or posting your own variation of this idea?

What do you think?


    1. David – I don’t pretend to be in the know for what Google is up to search engine wise. I actually avoid their search engine as much as possible for a host of reasons. I had heard they were punishing duplicate content. My concern is that it’s not always in favor of the content creator. On multiple occasions, both for my own work and others, when I’ve tried to find further examples of the same content, the original content has always been amongst the last results. It’s almost as if Google says Site B even though it came later will rank higher. I don’t know if it’s considered fresher content or if it’s down to the rank of the site in question. Either way, my ideal world would be that the original content would win out. I know that won’t work all the time, but the chances of finding a solution that always works is probably nil point nil.

  1. Mark ..We have been discussing this at length in two threads in particular concerning scrapers, and also relating to Google’s new feature “carousel”, where Google is using pictures which it “finds” on the net, even if they are taken without permission from their creators.. Your page here was linked to by a member ( helleborine ) ..your input would be very welcome there by some of us.. 🙂

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