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Get legal with image search

October 29, 2010

Cathy Schulz, my colleague in the OpenCourseware project, works hard to guarantee that materials she publishes online are legal to share. For example, faculty members send her images they use in the classroom, where fair use applies. Before an image can be shared with the world, though, Cathy has to find out who owns it. That can be very tricky when the instructor can’t remember where they got the image – or when the “source” has used someone else’s image without permission.

Cathy has shared with me some of the ways she sleuths out the source of an image. You may have seen the “similar” link in a Google Image search; clicking it will bring up visually related images. There are also websites – like Gazopa – that find similar images.


Google Images

TinEye is a popular “reverse image search” site that actually matches images. It has gone one step further in convenience, providing plugins for all of the major browsers. After installing the plugin, right-click an image on a web page (control-click on a Mac), and choose “Search Image on TinEye.” It will find images that are exactly the same as the one you clicked. Hmm… I wonder if they all had permission to use it,

TinEye plugin

TinEye results

Note: if you are interested in visual image searching, see our earlier article on Google Goggles.

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