Copytrack keeps photographers in the financial picture

By Leon Gettler >>

COPYTRACK, one of the world’s leading image rights enforcement services, is a service that makes sure photographers get paid for their pictures.

This is a lot more critical now as photos are easier to steal, through the internet. With digital images, the moment they are published, they immediately go world-wide. It’s a completely different proposition to the time when photographers still kept the originals.

Copytrack is a platform for photographers, image agencies, e-commerce companies and publishers. They upload the images and Copytrack will find all the ‘hits’ on them worldwide.

Copyright owners can then look at the ‘hits’ and decide whether it’s legal, or otherwise, and if necessary, take action. The aim is to ensure photographers control their rights and users are not stealing images. 

Speaking from Berlin, Marcus Schmitt, the CEO and founder of Copytrack, said the firm manages this complex challenge through its technology.

“Eighty percent of these hits are (often proved) illegal, so they can click on it and submit a claim to us,” Mr Schmitt told Talking Business.


Copytrack has developed a ‘crawler’ bot that wanders over millions of websites.

“We have a certain technology that allows us to do it very quickly so we don’t have to move big data,” Mr Schmitt said. “We extract certain criteria of an image and compare those. It’s quite smart and a very powerful engine.”

Some of the crawlers look at websites all over the world and other crawlers are directed to certain servers.

“For example, if we have a client who wants to check whether his clients licensed all the images used, then we can point it to certain servers,” he said.

The infringing party is then asked to pay a “very reasonable fee” through a post-licensing process.


The photographer gets 70 percent of the fee, and Copytrack clips the ticket and gets the balance. The post-licensing system works in every country around the world.

“If we have to go further and take some legal steps, then currently they get 50 percent of the revenue,” Mr Schmitt said.

He said Copytrack was constantly taking infringers to court.

“We maintain a network of lawyers worldwide,” Mr Scmitt said. “Depending on the countries, sometimes we are very successful with a pre-court settlement.”

The top countries for copyright infringement are the United States, China and Germany.

Prime examples of copyright theft include Rab Lewin, a photographer who captured iconic images of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and then found they had been stolen; and the case of a hotel chain which took an image and distributed it to all travel agencies to use on their websites.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at  


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