Image Search Engine Fights Copyright Infringement

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES — Copyright holders have another tool in their infringement-fighting arsenal, courtesy of a new image search engine called TinEye — but adult content rights holders need not apply.

According to parent company Idée Inc., TinEye is the first online image search engine to use image identification technology. Its spiders crawl the web daily, indexing additional images while sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms are used to create a unique, compact digital signature or 'fingerprint' for each image before adding it to the index.

The search tool allows users to either upload an image or to specify a corresponding URL; the attributes of the submitted image are analyzed instantly and its fingerprint compared to the fingerprint of every other image in the TinEye search index, providing a detailed list of websites using that image — even if that image has been cropped or otherwise extensively modified.

According to the company, Idée Inc. develops advanced image identification and visual search software and was started by two technology veterans, Leila Boujnane and Paul Bloore, who believe that "advanced image processing research combined with the ability to process billions of images is revolutionizing image and video search."

While the tool will no doubt prove useful to a whole range of rights holders that did not previously have access to such technology, adult operators are out of luck; as the search service's TOS clearly state that the "Submission of pornographic or illegal files is strictly prohibited. Do not submit any file that can be construed as pornography…"

Automated searches are also prohibited, while the company maintains that submitted images are not added to its index.

It's clear that such a tool would be quite useful to adult operators; and while this author knows of adult content companies quietly using similar, in-house solutions, there does not seem to be a readily available "porn-friendly" competitor to TinEye.