‘Most of the offending sites were based outside the UK…’ amateur photographer Graham Stephen, 49, told AP.

‘But I reached out with generous offers of settlement to 40 sites based in, or targeted at, the UK.’

Stephen, a software developer who lives in North Wales, said the copyright breakers – which included companies as well as individuals – would typically respond by incorrectly stating that ‘copyright of an image only exists if there is a visible watermark’; and ‘images found via Google searches are free to republish on the internet’.

In 20 cases, added Stephen, the matter has been ‘amicably resolved’.

But of the remaining 20 UK sites from which he demanded compensation, ‘10% did nothing at all – all communications were ignored and the breach has continued’.

Almost half (45%) removed the infringing image from their website ‘but failed to provide any compensation for their breach’, said the photographer who believes there is a low appreciation of intellectual property rights and that copyright abuse is ‘widespread’.

More than a third (35%) removed the photo but failed to reply to any communication regarding the photographer’s plea for compensation.