I often get asked how I find my stolen photographs online. I generally use two free tools, TinEye and Google Image Search to find my stolen photos online. In this post I’ll explain a little about each tool, how to go about using these tools and why I use them.
Before I get into how to go about using the tools, let me explain why am I interested in finding out who is using my images: By default all my photographs come with a Creative Commons Noncommercial license. That means that any and all of my images may be used for personal, noncommercial use, all you have to do is link back to me. I use these tools to help me discover any commercial entities that may be using my image in violation of the Creative Commons license.
TinEye first came about in 2008 as a way to search for similar images online. TinEye allows you to upload an individual file, or to enter the URL of an image if the image is already online and publicly visible. Once your file is uploaded or the URL is submitted you get back a list of results. TinEye also has plugins available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer which allows you to right-click on any image and “Search Image on TinEye”.
For each result you will see two links, one that takes you to the page where the image is displayed, and the other is the actual image file that is on the server. If the stolen photograph is stolen again, and then used elsewhere it will show up under the “master” result for that image (if that makes sense). For example, if someone stole your image and gave it rounded edges and then uploaded it to their server, and then a second person came along and stole the image with the rounded corners and posted it to their server, it would all be shown as 1 match, even though it is being used on two different websites.
From the results screen there are also options to compare the stolen image with the image you supplied and to get a permalink to the result to share.
As you can see, TinEye found 10 matches for my most popular stolen photograph on 11 different websites.
Google Image Search
In mid-2011 Google announced a new tool similar to TinEye. They call it “Search by Image” and it allows you to search Google’s massive catalog of images by an uploaded image or a URL. Google also has a plugin available for Firefox and Chrome, which allows you to right-click on any image and “Search Google with this image”.
The Google results look just like any other Google search. You’ll be most interested in the section that says “Pages that include matching images”. Clicking on the thumbnail image to the left will take you to the stolen image as it is stored on a different server. Clicking on the title link to the right of the thumbnail will take you to the web page containing the stolen image. Unlike TinEye, Google does not group similar sets of stolen images together. Instead, it lists every single version as a separate entry.
Google produces many more results than TinEye, however I have found that the results can be wrong from time to time.
Google’s Search by Image was able to find 105 matches for my most stolen photograph.
TinEye and Google Image Search aren’t the only ways of finding your stolen images online. There is at least one pay service that I’m aware of: Digimarc. Digimarc works by embedding an invisible watermark into your photograph. Once the photograph is online you can then search for any images that contain your watermark from their search interface. If there are other alternatives let me know!
Have you had any success using TinEye or Google Image Search? If so, share your results!