If you have a blog, post on photo-sharing sites or upload your videos to YouTube, you've probably wondered when and how your media is being used by other people. Regardless of whether it's free-to-use media or copyrighted material, the process of tracking it down is the same.
Depending on the type of media you're producing, you can track it in different ways. For our purposes, we'll break the search into three types: art and photos; writing; and videos.
Track Where Your Photos and Art Appear Online
Tracking where photos and art appear online is pretty easy if you don't mind doing it manually. The web app TinEye provides a simple reverse image search that will track anywhere your image turns up online. All you need to do is upload your image and TinyEye will search to see if it appears anywhere else online. Google's own Search by Image will do the same thing.
Less helpful but still useful is your image host's built-in stats page. If you're using any of the big image-hosting sites such as Picasa (views), Photobucket (Home > Stats) or Flickr (Your Stats), you'll find a statistics page showing when people link to your images. Provided someone is linking and crediting your image, you'll see where it's coming from.
Track Down Writing Quotes, Links and Everything Else
Tracking down your written words is a bit tricky. The simple and automated method is to create a Google Alert with your name, but that's only going to show up when someone is linking to your writing with your name included. The other easy method is to set up trackbacks on your blog so you can tell when people link to you. If your blog doesn't support trackbacks (or you're not using a blog format) you can use Google's Webmaster Tools for free. Once Webmaster Tools is set up, click Traffic > Links to see who is linking to you.
Of course, not every usage of your writing media is going to link back to you. To find out where your words might also be appearing, you can use a copy search engine like Copyscape. In Copyscape you paste the URL you want to check and Copyscape will pull up any links that are identical. You can also sign up for the automated service Copysentry that does the same thing for $US4.95 a month.
Find Where Your Videos Are Getting Embedded
Tracking where your videos turn up online is remarkably easy and built right into the two major video-sharing platforms, YouTube and Vimeo. You can check where traffic comes from and where the video is embedded.
For YouTube, click your account name in the top right corner, select Video Manager and click the Analytic button. Here you'll find the traffic of all your videos and a breakdown of where that traffic comes from. To find out where the video is embedded, select the video you want to track and then click the Analytics button. Select Playback locations, then click on the "Embedded player on other websites" link. Here you'll find every site that has embedded your video.
For Vimeo you need a paid Plus membership to see where you videos are embedded. Click Me > My Stats > Advanced stats > Embed. Here you'll see where your videos have been embedded.
Whether you're curious as to how your freely available media gets used, or if you're trying to hunt down someone breaking copyright, the above tips should get you on your way. We weren't able to find a good way to track down how music is used save for a Google Alert or a store's built-in statistics tool (the online store Bandcamp, for instance, gives you a breakdown of incoming links), but if you have some ideas (about music or any other media) please share them in the comments.