Catch the Pirate – Joys of Reverse Image Search

The woes of a photographer can be endless – and very valid. Remember Kris J. Boorman? The jaw-dropping image of Mount Fuji’s triangular silhouette caught from the Volcano’s summit blew away everyone in the fraternity – it became the #1 photograph on Reddit. Why then did he regret posting it?

For one, the image got pirated right on the same thread and there was no stopping it. Moreover, the people using the images did not give him due credit. Photographers often complain that they are not recognized for their work. While Kris, like most creatives, admits that the recognition upon initially sharing the image felt great, it left him feeling victimized eventually. But all is not lost for content creators.

The Silver Lining

Here’s hope. A technique simply called ‘Reverse Image Search’ might just be your next Sherlock Holmes of the Information Age. So what exactly is it? Well, it’s an innovation that can help track your images wherever they are on the Internet. Sifting through fake profiles, identifying unlabeled products, tracking down originals for reference, or even merely keeping a tab on your own piece of art – this search has it all sorted for you.

So where does a wronged person seek solace? The competition is down to three rightful candidates: TinEye , Google Reverse Image Searchand Pixsy.


TinEye uses image identification technology instead of employing metadata or keywords. Free to use for non-commercial purposes, it constantly crawls the Internet for newer images. Registered users can save their searches, and anyone is free to recommend a site to be indexed.

Reverse Image Search Results TinEye

Google Reverse Image Search

Google Reverse Image Search, launched after TinEye, has its own set of loyalists. The search has improved drastically than the last time we did a similar kind of reverse image search. Google not only hunts for your images on the web but even finds out the context of the image you are searching against.

Google Reverse Image Search Results


Another reverse image search tool that makes it much easier to spot the use of your images online is Pixsy. Instead of uploading your images one-by-one like you would with Google Reverse Image Search, you can connect any platform you store your photos on and import a batch of images in a click. They currently import photos from Flickr, 500px,  Tumblr, Dropbox and many more including your computer or your personal website.

Pixsy Reverse Image Search Results

However Pixsy goes further than just searching for matches of your photos — it can also help you get paid for the work that was used without your authorization. They keep 50% of the recovered compensation, but in return the only thing you need to do is click “Submit a case” nearby the match you want to go after. Pixsy will do the rest. They have an in-house team of licensing experts as well as a global network of law firms to take care of your case, from the initial negotiations to the final settlement. Pixsy has a number of limitations: they currently can’t pursue cases in some Asian or Eastern European countries due to the particularities of IP law there and, as a rule, they go after the commercial use of the photos, i.e. they won’t pursue someone using your photo as their personal wallpaper.

Fish out those Scammers!

In our tests with shadow of Mount Fuji image, Google Reverse Image search results were more accurate. They came up with 458 results and each one of them was the exact image that we had uploaded (only differing in sizes). The number of results from Google is definitely more than that of TinEye’s. Google also analyzes the context of the images i.e it conclude, just from the image itself, that it had the shadow od Mount Fuji. Pixsy found 57 matches which was more than TinEye but still less than Google Image Search.

All the tools have different option to filter search results. You can get a list of sites hosting the full-sized version of your image or based on how recently they have posted it. Once you have the list of websites, you will have to further investigate manually if they are actually infringing your copyright. At the end of the day, these tools help to solve only a part of the problem. One should be well informed and be willing to take action in order to protect their intellectual property.

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