How To Find Stolen Photos

stolen header How To Find Stolen Photos

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.

Why?

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

stolen tin eye How To Find Stolen Photos

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 FirefoxChrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer which allows you to right-click on any image and “Search Image on TinEye”.

stolen tin eye results 150x150 How To Find Stolen Photos

TinEye Results

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

stolen google image search How To Find Stolen Photos

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”.

stolen google image search results 150x150 How To Find Stolen Photos

Google Results

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.

Alternatives

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!

14 Responses to How To Find Stolen Photos

  1. Danielle August 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing – I was looking for a way to find any of my images had been stolen online

  2. Rob Desch September 17, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    So I found one of my images being used by a corporation that produces travel literature. What has anyone done in this situation? Sue the company?

    • Chris Martino September 17, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      That certainly is one of your options. You’ll have more leverage if your photo was registered with the US Copyright Office prior to the infringement though, and you’ll need to have it registered if you plan on going to trial. You best bet at this point is to probably contact an attorney. Good luck!

  3. Bill Kutz March 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    I am trying to find pictures of my granddaughter. Her old “boyfriend” took pictures of her that her mother had taken when she was 11 to 15 years old. After they broke up, he used some type of photo-altering program and made her look to be naked or in different acts. I feel like a pervert every time I try to type in “11 year old girls” or something like that. Any ideas or help? Thanks for posting what you do, if you need another pair of eyes out there, I’d be glad to help you too. Since I am disabled, I am spending a lot of time looking at pictures.
    Smiles,
    Bill

    • Chris Martino March 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Bill-

      Man, that really stinks. I wish I had some advice for you, but sadly I don’t. Have you tried talking to an attorney? Maybe they can steer you in the right direction…

      Good luck!

      Chris

  4. mv April 16, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    tineye did not find any pictures i put through its so aggravating!

    • Chris Martino April 16, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      It can take a while for TinEye’s database to update. Sometimes Google Images provides more results, quicker.

      • mv April 16, 2013 at 11:42 am #

        yes google did have TONS of results but didnt give me any matching just simialar! i gave up…

  5. AnonymousArizonan August 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    OkCupid moderators use TinEye to prove when a user account is using stolen images, such as ones of models.

    How do you search for matching images on google? I’ve never seen such an option.

  6. Rosa Santos August 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Thank you for sharing I knew the search of the google bu not Tineye, I had some pictures “stolen” by others and I do not like at all…………..

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