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Caveat: in some industries there is plenty of information in the public domain that businesses use to beef up their sites for SEO. For example, an HVAC business may use EPA reports on their site. So sometimes you'll get multiple hits on key phrases and it will look like everybody is ripping everybody else off - check to make sure it really is someone's intellectual property and not in the public domain before you cry foul.
Sorry, don't know how you'd check for theft of images.
I doubt if running your own spider would be practical unless you expected the theft to occur on a specific set of sites.
You could use the major search engines to generate a list of sites based on keywords/topics, then spider them for images. That's a lot of effort, though.
Visibly watermarking your images might be one way to discourage theft if you feel they are highly likely to be stolen.
If searching for key phrases is the best way to do things then isn't there a significant gap in how many web sites you check compared to how many are actually out there?
Also, how would you search for images if the filename, alt tag, and file size have all been modified?
Just some things to consider. Is there a service that can do this leg work for you?
You might be better off not putting the images on the web if theft is such an issue. Image vendors like Getty address the problem by showing visitors only small, heavily watermarked versions of their images. (I've seen website template vendors use this same approach, since showing a full-size, high quality example would allow visitors to copy it.) I think you are focused on the wrong approach by assuming you'll be able to find the thieves after they copy them. If you search Google et al for "image protection" you'll find plenty of possible approaches, none of which is really foolproof.
I understand the images if available will be copied. I understand "image protection". I'm concerned about finding the criminals.
I'm curious as to whether or not there is even a foolproof way to find thieves, not a foolproof way to prevent theft (image or copy).
Come to think of it I might have an idea there ...instantly copyrights idea ...
Gonna have to do some serious programming tonite or timewasting depending on how you look at these things ..: )