Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reverse image finders

With so many social networks flouting the copyright conventions and “claiming” anything posted on-line is “free” to share (aka steal) and a few like Pintrest  and Weheartit going even further, directly or indirectly encouraging their users to link to if not post things of interest (aka other peoples work). Ok Pinterest does mention you should credit your sources in their Pin Etiquette page, but a quick look at their site reveals this is a hollow request, my very superficial review suggested most pinned links (when they exist) are more likely to be for self-promotion or to a clearly non-original source.  Sigh!
Creative Commons LicenseThe problem is acknowledgement and linking back to the original Intellectual Property creator/owner, Creative Commons is a nice framework to handle this on the internet but so few social network tools (including google+) even display the creative common licence or the linking tools provide the name/URL of the source (flickr is the one exception I can think of at the moment). I don’t mind is my work if reposted by other I just want some acknowledgement and I don’t want them to make a direct profit by selling my work so I mainly use the CC BY ND licence.  However it is beginning to looking a bit depressing.The current reality is, if you post on a social network, you must expect your work to be taken. Sigh!


How can you findout if your images is being “responsibly” used on-line?

If Google Images is a hand grenade, TinEye is a sniper rifle.
The net is a wide open place these days and there are millions on millions of places to look. So just keeping your eyes open when you surf the net may yield very little success. The better strategy at the moment is to use a reverse image search tools. Luckily there are already two decent free and easy to use ones available. I didn’t bother to investigate the expanding number “ransomware” applications, (ie ones that promise the world, charge you a lot and probably just secretly use one of the options below).
Google Images, has been offering a reverse image search since June last year. Not too many folk realised this. All you have to do is drag an image onto the google image search box or paste the URL of a location you have posted your image and the search works exactly as you expected it present you with a matrix of near matching images. Unfortunately they may not be very exact matches and you might still have to do a fair bit of manual looking around but it is a great start.
TinEye is another free service that specifically addresses finding like images, using its own pixel based fingerprinting techniques to scan through its own databases (which are extensive and growing but way short of complete) of fingerprints obtained by crawling the web for images. This doesn’t guarantee your searches will find dark corners of the web or even well lit (popular) ones but it will find close matches and slightly modified versions (including adding text and overwriting visible watermarks). You can help TinEye to keep a watch on your images by submitting an application (its a XML sitemap of images, so a fair bit of Web tech savvy is required) for TinEye’s robots to crawl your site, but priority is given to legitimate stock photo collections and images carrying a clear creative commons licence.
As the wired post suggests these service are also very useful to locate the original source of an image so it can be correctly reposted with acknowledgement. Thus potentially avoiding a litigious band of lawyers trying to sue the pants off you, sending you nasty and threatening letters when a polite cease and desist was all that was necessary.
I must admit I was a little shocked that one of my images was being used by a hacker’s collective. However they did remove my image when I asked nicely. Another of my images appears in over 300 locations, most that I checked not acknowledging I was the creator. Sigh!
Yet there is a bright side and I wish to pat on the back all those that have contacted me (and I have in most case said yes to republishing my images) and those that correctly linked back to my blogger post or my flickr photostream. Well done you guys.
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