Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Graphics Software

Visual Search Engine Tracks Stolen Images 223

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-your-eyes-off-my-graphics dept.
Barence writes "A new visual search engine could help photographers keep track of their photographs whenever, and wherever, they appear on the internet. The TinEye search engine allows users to search by uploading a picture rather than typing in a keyword. It then conducts a pixel-by-pixel search across the internet, flagging all instances of that image even if it's been cropped, merged or digitally altered in some way. It's not just for copyright enforcement though; 'it's being used by researchers who need to find where an image came from to provide attribution, even people who are trying to find out who people are in old photos.' It's currently in beta, but you can try it out."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Visual Search Engine Tracks Stolen Images

Comments Filter:
  • "it's being used by researchers who need to find where an image came from to provide attribution, even people who are trying to find out who people are in old photos."

    This may be nitpicking but I read the FAQ and it does not, in fact, claim to be able to accomplish this unless that exact same 'old photo' is posted elsewhere on the internet:

    Can TinEye find alterations of a query image?

    Yes. As long as they are alterations of the same query image, TinEye can find them and include them in your search results.

    Note that search results are ordered by 'relevance' (i.e. how well the result images match your query image), so image alterations are typically found at the end of your search results.

    How does TinEye work?

    TinEye uses sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms to find your image on the web without the use of metadata or watermarks.

    TinEye instantly analyzes your query image to create a compact digital signature or 'fingerprint' for it. TinEye searches for your image on the web by comparing its fingerprint to the fingerprint of every single other image in the TinEye search index.

    So this example they list of the soldier must rely on the fact that the website contained the same exact image that the people had of the old soldier they were looking for. I can't expect it to take any image of Person A and return every single image (past & present) of that person. That's ridiculous.

    I would expect that to work out very infrequently as I'm not aware of any huge digitized databases of old photos or even newspaper microfiche. Hell, I have postage stamp-sized photos of my grandparents with people who nobody knows who they are. I don't think this tool could help me.

    • by Speare (84249) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:15AM (#24643915) Homepage Journal

      "it's being used by researchers who need to find where an image came from to provide attribution, even people who are trying to find out who people are in old photos."

      I think in this context, it's pretty obvious that the software's not trying to discover who people are, or who shot the photograph. It's the researchers who use this tool. If you have one website without attribution or other names, and you search for other pages, you might find a different page that has the same image along with more information.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by H+FTW (1264808)

        it does work pretty well for example i searched for this:
        http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/BRGPOD-WM/BRGWM-158277_72_48~The-Great-Wave-of-Kanagawa-from-the-Series-36-Views-of-Mt-Fuji-Fugaku-Sanjuokkei-Posters.jpg [allposters.com]

        it did find the actual great wave, to be true after a ton of images that had replaced the poster with other posters from the same site but it did find them which was pretty good and would be useful for research

        eg if you had a section of a photo and you wanted to find the rest etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by clone53421 (1310749)

          Now what would be handy would be if it could somehow sort them chronologically (maybe using the metadata, or maybe if the server will give the date-modified on the picture...). That would reduce the amount of searching if you knew you were going for the oldest known copy, e.g. you wanted to know where it originally came from + whatever info there was about the picture that might not be quoted elsewhere.

        • by slarrg (931336)
          To do a similar search, I went to images.google.com and searched for "japanese painting wave" because I figured that would be the most obvious keywords you could use f you don't know anything about the painting except what you see. The first hit tells the name and the painter without needing to chug through lots of results.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clone53421 (1310749)

      You have to login to read the FAQ. If anybody wants to avoid jumping through the hoops, here's the FAQ as a gif [imageshack.us]. Sorry about the resolution, you'll just have to pick a good zoom level...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:06AM (#24643811)

    that the real purpose for this is to find the rest of sets ;)

  • Embedded Codes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by s31523 (926314)
    Images can also have an embedded code, i.e. steganography [wikipedia.org], which could possibly be used to speed up searching. This would allow the web crawler to know exactly which part of the image to look at to determine if it matches the key the crawler is looking for, rather than a brute force pixel by pixel search.
    • That sounds like a great idea... from here --> forward (for those who start the steganography). Of course, being able to search without embedding extra stuff is more useful... still, more speed is better.
    • Re:Embedded Codes (Score:5, Informative)

      by x2A (858210) on Monday August 18, 2008 @10:10AM (#24644505)

      "rather than a brute force pixel by pixel search"

      They're blatently not pixel by pixel comparisons... look at the tech, don't listen to the woman! If it was pixel based then an image saved using two different implementations of jpeg wouldn't match up. It's probably more likely that a map of lines, shapes, patterns etc in the image is built up, and then they are what's compared. This means images that are different sizes, have different light/colouring (such as a high quality scan vs poor quality) and colour depths, but are of the same thing, can still yield results.

      Err... or is that not what you meant by pixel by pixel search?

    • This would only work if they copied the original completely. Of course it would speed things up, but that's assuming they haven't modified the image. Once they re-save that image, all the extra data you added in there with steganography is no longer there. I guess that's the important part of this project - that an image can be modified from the original and still be detected.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clone53421 (1310749)

      Well, they don't actually do a pixel-by-pixel search... they index them and create digital fingerprints, then it does a pixel-by-pixel on your "search query" image and compares its fingerprint with the fingerprints in the database. Pretty neat.

    • by WWWWolf (2428)

      One small beef though: Most steganography/watermarking I've seen focuses on the artist using the software to add a hidden mark in the image, and then verifying that the hidden mark also exists in an alleged rip-off.

      It says nothing about entity doing metadata cataloguing automatically extracting the marks and putting the decoded marks in an easy-to-query database. You know, making the data searchable. Even if that's data that is supposed to be hidden, you know, to ward against this "watermark tampering" thin

    • by mikael (484)

      There is an image processing technicuq called the Feature vector [wikipedia.org].

      This can be anything from a color histogram to a compressed FFT of the image. MPEG-7 files have texture descriptors [slashdot.org] built in.

      A color histogram may not be of much use if someone alters the overall appearance of the image (color to monochrome or sepia tone). Silhouettes might not work if parts of the image are cropped or composited with another image. Monochrome texture segmentation and classification may be the only method that would work.

  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:12AM (#24643877) Homepage Journal

    The least significant bit of each pixel. Oh, and now it appears that this tool doesn't work. (At least, I would suggest it isn't that good, I could be wrong. The article appears to suggest that it is that good, if you can take a photo on your phone of a painting, and then find an article on that painting...)

    Oh well, I guess people still haven't learnt that the old ways of copyright are only hanging on through inertia.

    Oh, and queue the predictable (and correct) responses about how you can't "steal" digital images. To steal a photo or a picture, you would have to take a physical copy belonging to someone, and deprive someone else of that physical copy, without their permission. (And the word "steal" doesn't appear to appear in the article, added to provoke page views I guess.)

    • by Jack9 (11421)

      Oh well, I guess people still haven't learnt that the old ways of copyright are only hanging on through inertia.

      This.

    • Oh, and queue the predictable (and correct) responses about how you can't "steal" digital images.

      Pedantically, you are correct, but you that's about as far as it goes.

      You can pass off someone else's work as your own. You can deprive them of income, and make income off images that you do not have permission to use. Is that better phrasing?

      • by gfxguy (98788)

        People who violate copyright don't understand the "theft of labor" part, but it doesn't really matter as we know they are hiding behind excuse that simply because they are the greed ones who don't want to pay someone else for their work.

        Oh, sure... we'll get the "try before you buy" types complaining, but how does that apply to a photograph?

        • Theft of labour? No, I can't say I do understand that... you still have your labour, and you still have the product of it. I just have a copy.

          I might have gotten it for "free", but it didn't cost you anything, either. You're exactly the same after I copy it as you were before: you did x amount of work and you have a copyable product as a result.

          • by ScentCone (795499)
            you still have the product of it

            Not if the product of your labor is only valuable when it is consumed during a certain window of time, or put to use in a certain way. Many such labors are like airline seats. Once the opportunity to sell it passes, it's gone. When someone else runs off with your work and distributes it outside of any arrangement with you, they are eroding the value of the work. Your take on things betrays a very disconnected, uninformed understanding of the way that a photograph can carry
            • I'm not talking about irreplaceable commodities (airline seat). I'm talking about easily copied digital media. Way to mis-apply my argument though.

              • by ScentCone (795499)
                I'm not talking about irreplaceable commodities (airline seat). I'm talking about easily copied digital media. Way to mis-apply my argument though.

                No, YOU'RE missing the point. Twice, now. The labor that a photographer puts into certain sorts of work, and the market for it, IS irreplaceable. It passes with time. When you rip off that work and distribute it, you are stealing the opportunity that the photographer has created by performing that labor. The photographer, for example, spends a lot of money and
                • by gfxguy (98788)

                  Well said.

                  So I can go at 4:00 in the morning to a specific spot that I found after days of looking for the best place to take a photo and set up my camera (which cost thousands of dollars for the best results, which was an investment into a business selling art that some people might find enjoyable) so that I get the perfect sunrise shot, and someone wants to copy it because, hey, I still have the original, so it's all good!

                  • So I can go at 4:00 in the morning to a specific spot that I found after days of looking for the best place to take a photo and set up my camera (which cost thousands of dollars for the best results, which was an investment into a business selling art that some people might find enjoyable) so that I get the perfect sunrise shot, and someone wants to copy it because, hey, I still have the original, so it's all good!

                    Yes. And your "fans" who don't care to pay for your work are helping to convince you not to in

    • by 4D6963 (933028) on Monday August 18, 2008 @10:06AM (#24644437)

      The least significant bit of each pixel. Oh, and now it appears that this tool doesn't work.

      Yeah, how about you just watch the video on their website before suggesting that what they do would be as retarded as comparing the values of each pixel. It's surely closer to cross correlation, meaning it's nothing like comparing pixel values but more like correlating the image's space-frequency components.

      By the way, does anyone have any clue what information they store and compare? They obviously don't cross correlate your search image with every image in their index every time you search, so what could they possibly store that would allow them to correlate images?

      • by gardyloo (512791)

        It's surely closer to cross correlation, meaning it's nothing like comparing pixel values but more like correlating the image's space-frequency components.

        It almost certainly just IS cross-correlation, with a little algorithm to find the correlation maximum somewhere near the middle of the picture. This, of course, is simply another way of comparing pixel values. It's probably much, much faster, because so many established FFT algorithms exist for very fast multiplication-and-add operations, but it's essentially just pixel comparison.

        • by 4D6963 (933028)
          Uh huh, right, but how do they avoid cross correlating the search image against their whole database every time?
          • by gardyloo (512791)

            They probably don't avoid it. On the order of 10^5 cross-correlations can be done on medium-res pictures per second with a fast machine, especially one with dedicated video hardware. They might drastically narrow their search space by having a library of perhaps 100 "basis set" or "canonical" pictures (faces, cityscapes, mountainscapes, ocean photos, animals, etc.) with varying colors and features which stand out, and do the first set of correlations with those. Depending on which of the basis set the targe

            • by 4D6963 (933028)
              Interesting. So you would evolve through a tree by cross-correlation? If I can formulate my own guess, I'd say that they probably don't put pictures in groups defined by what they represent but by the result of their own cross correlation. That would make sense.
    • by samkass (174571) on Monday August 18, 2008 @10:07AM (#24644461) Homepage Journal

      Oh, and queue the predictable (and incorrect) responses about how you can't "steal" digital images. To steal a photo or a picture, you would have to take a physical copy belonging to someone, and deprive someone else of that physical copy, without their permission according to SlashDot, but not the English dictionary.

      Pet Peeve of mine: That's not the definition of "steal". It's only the SlashDot conventional wisdom. It's really not that hard to look up words on the internet. Here's a link to a dictionary [m-w.com].

      Steal:
      1 a: to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully

      Appropriate:
        3 : to take or make use of without authority or right

      • The point is, to "steal" something you have to take it, or appropriate it (i.e. make use of it). The original owner no longer has it (or has use of it). Copying isn't stealing.

    • by x2A (858210)

      The linked page doesn't say anything about 'steal/stolen'... neither does the lil intro video clip on the linked page. Looks like slashdot headline that talks about that. Equivalent would be to describe the Google search engine as a tool for tracking people who have stolen text from your website... it's hardly an all round view of what the thing does, is meant for, or is mostly used for (which is obviously porn).

      • by mi (197448)

        The linked page doesn't say anything about 'steal/stolen'...

        All the better — Slashdot's mainstream is finally realizing, that, indeed, copying may be equivalent to stealing, even if no tangible property changes hands.

        • by x2A (858210)

          No! There's a million arguments that completely miss the point that prove otherwise! Doesn't matter if you're "depriving on a permanent bases" the creators rights to control copy/distribution of the creation, as long as they get to keep the original copy of the creation, nothing is removed... *cough*

          Anyway, what have the slashdot masses got to do with the actual article?

    • According to the FAQ, it's still able to identify pictures that have been colour adjusted, cropped, and even sometimes if it has been slightly rotated or had text added (or missing).

    • This impressed me... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by danamania (540950) on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:02PM (#24647389)

      I found quite a different result. I nabbed an old photoshopped pic I did a few years ago, and uploaded it. TinEye came back with two results, being the two source images from the photos. That's impressed the hell out of me.

      Gatesfeld search results [danamania.com]

      For the full size photoshopped version, Gatesfeld [danamania.com] if you want to try the search yourselves.

  • Interesting for the big boys, but not so much for the amateur or even professional freelance photographer.

    What are you going to do if someone ripped your pics from Flickr and claims them? Exactly -- not much.

    • Send them a cease and desist letter, and then sue them, just like the big boys?

      Presumably if your someone who actually cares enough to check and see if someone is copying your photo, your also someone who cared enough to have it documented when / where you took it, or at the very least that you actually took it. Or as applied to art... you have the original copy.

      seems like its not a difficult case to win...

      • I was thinking the same thing. I'd say it's worth the cost of a piece of paper and a postage stamp to do it. You can get a boilerplate cease and desist and just reuse it as necessary. If you're trying to build a portfolio it's good to make sure that your photos are seen only in *your* portfolio.

        I spend a lot of time cruising Flickr for good looking landscapes that I can use for slideshow backgrounds. When you spend a lot of time looking for the same style of image it doesn't take long to find people rippin
    • by x2A (858210)

      Yeah I hadn't thought of it that way before, but you're right, f**k it, lets shut the internet down and stop developing any technologies that can't be used to stop people ripping your pics from flickr. You're so right that there's no one else in the world who's interested in developing image recognition algorithms for anything other than protecting their snaps on flickr.

      gugh

    • by g0dsp33d (849253)
      I thought sort of the same thing. I have a few images up on a amateur photography site where they sell the images for you. I think this would be a neat way to see where they are being used, provided they were bought for online use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jozef Nagy (1082101)

      Interesting for the big boys, but not so much for the amateur or even professional freelance photographer.

      How does this NOT help the small photographers? It's exactly those guys who don't have the resources to find people using their content.

      What are you going to do if someone ripped your pics from Flickr and claims them? Exactly -- not much.

      Are you saying then when someone steals your image you have no recourse available? With this site you can find who's using it. What you do about it is up to you. And content owners do have recourse. They can contact whoever's using their content and let them know they're in trouble, then offer to work out a solution.

      For example, a small food service business asks a pri

  • by sveard (1076275) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:20AM (#24643949) Homepage

    What would be really cool is if you could upload a transparent 1x1 pixel image and it returns every image on the internet

    Yes

  • Logo hunting (Score:5, Informative)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:20AM (#24643951) Homepage

    So to test it out I grabbed a couple of logos (AIG, Slashdot, Bluesquare, Nike swoosh) and found that what it will do is find scaled down images or ones of lower quality but it won't handle significant colour shifts. So AIG for instance have a blue logo but sponsor Manchester United where their logo is displayed on a red background, the Nike swoosh I tested had a white background and all I got was basic black on white swoosh elements.

    Now with photos this is less of an issue as major colour shifts are unusual but it does mean that for commercial and design art its not really as applicable.

    • Hmm, that's actually pretty interesting, I wonder if they could make a colour-insensitive search that worked off the outlines? It would serve a significantly different purpose but still be useful, I think.

      For that matter, I wonder if it would totally miss if someone ripped off a colour image but grayscaled it because it looked neater that way...

    • by phorm (591458)

      Now with photos this is less of an issue as major colour shifts are unusual

      Of course, if you wanted to hide from a tool such as this, you could probably do so by shifting the colors a miniscule amount (say, on an RGB image, adding one point of red, green, and blue), which in most cases would hardly alter the image, but likely make it drop off the radar.

      I'd imagine that you could do the same thing by altering even just a few pixels this way as well.

    • I think it'll still work for for most copyright violations. Web comics in particular could benefit a lot from this. I see unattributed comics floating around on the net all the time. This would be a nice way to allow the owners to at least contact those people and ask to be given credit.
  • by malignant_minded (884324) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:22AM (#24643977)
    I should create a page for movies and mp3s too, a place were directors and producers can upload their content to see if anyone has copied it already!
  • This is a good start and definally has the obvious applications. Hopefully, if this is successful, i.e. people use it, work on more complex systems can be created.

    It would be really neat to find pictures with a certain symbol on them or even my face.

  • does this detect hidden images in images as well?

  • by Alsee (515537) on Monday August 18, 2008 @09:25AM (#24644019) Homepage

    By using Idée's TinEye website you signify your agreement to the following terms and conditions, which may be updated by us from time to time without notice to you.

    Submission of pornographic or illegal files is strictly prohibited. Do not submit any file that can be construed as pornography or is in violation of any law.

    No porn searches?

    ::Blows a raspberry::

    Failure to comply with these terms may result in termination of your TinEye account at any time, without prior notice and at Idée's sole discretion.

    Ahhh.... okay.... don't search for porn, or we might not let you search for more porn from that particular account. Gotchya. Hehe.

    -

    • out of curiosity:

      Why do you want to search for Pr0n you already have?

    • I dare you to upload a picture of a peach.

    • What is pornography? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Valacosa (863657) on Monday August 18, 2008 @10:10AM (#24644515)

      Submission of pornographic or illegal files is strictly prohibited. Do not submit any file that can be construed as pornography or is in violation of any law.

      How the hell am I supposed to know what their company considers pornography? Can I search for The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse? [artquotes.net]

      The company is based in Toronto rather than some ultra-conservative U.S. state; that gives me an epsilon more confidence the company won't take the "nudity = pornography" stance. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if a search equivalent to a risqué ad campaign in Europe would get you banned.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JCSoRocks (1142053)
        That does raise the question though... how are they determining who is searching for it? Is it based on the results? Image Z returned mostly results from sites whose primary keywords were "porn" and "XXX" so this image is probably porn. Do they have a human just randomly check? or check the ones that the aforementioned programmatic filter found? It seems like there'd be a lot of room for error...
      • Can I search for The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse?

        Moot point, you already know who to credit ;)

  • If you're going to track where a photo came from, I'd expect a timestamp to be useful.

  • This brings to mind an interesting question; guys like RMS, and even our own IdontBelieveInImaginaryProperty here at slashdot like to rail about how copyright is basically a scam, a crime against the public because it restricts "sharing".

    Photos are copyrighted too. If this tech were for tracking copyrighted MP3's, there'd be howls of indignation here. It'll be interesting to see the reaction on the copyright side of the argument. If we don't see the standard "this is anti-freedom" arguments, it'll be intere

    • The difference, in my mind, is simple. I have taken plenty of good pictures in the past (a few are here [imageshack.us]). If somebody wants to rip off one of my pictures for their background, I'm totally ok with it... in fact I'm flattered (please do check them out and tell me if you like 'em ... thanks :). If they submitted one to a photo contest claiming it as their own, I'd be rightfully upset. Translating this into the world of MP3s, if somebody wants to download a song and listen to it that should be ok too; it isn't

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      I'm a photographer. I have lots of images on the net. If someone wants to use one as their chat icon (that's happened) or desktop background, I take it as a compliment.

      If someone takes one and claims it as their own and/or tries to sell it, then there's a problem.

      I'm all in favour of going after people who try to sell pirated music or movies.

  • Bye-bye pseudonyms (Score:2, Interesting)

    by giles hogben (1145597)
    Anyone who tries to hide behind a pseudonym but posts photos of themselves is now outed by this thing. The first such tools were used by forensic researchers to catch criminals.
    • i can't wait till they implement a DMCA notice-bot and start shutting down every single *chan, every single image mashup community, deviantart, etc. with false positives, and the identification of those patterns within larger images.

      The "free speech for sale" cover art comes to mind.

    • by Hao Wu (652581)

      Anyone who tries to hide behind a pseudonym but posts photos of themselves is now outed by this thing. The first such tools were used by forensic researchers to catch criminals.

      Someday, Anonymous Cowards may be easily identified by the style and content of their posts. Many trolls who think they are safe now will be outed using methods similar to this picture searching.

  • robots.txt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SysPig (63656) on Monday August 18, 2008 @11:06AM (#24645499)

    My robots.txt excludes access to my huge collection of images.

    So, either one can prevent discovery by this tool in a very simple way, or it ignores robots.txt. Which is it?

  • Maybe I'm still not completely awake, but I can't seem to see anything other than a login form. Do we need to be a registered user to use this search engine? Or is it because of its beta status?

  • No doubt Perfect 10 and their ilk will be huge users of this service.
  • Okay, I'll ask the obvious question. If you just have a shot of a great pair of boobs, can this service find the woman and ask her out for you?
  • My website burns copper [wikipedia.org]

    Tm

I have not yet begun to byte!

Working...