Google’s Reverse Image Search

Earlier this summer Google quietly embedded a powerful new tool in their image works: the reverse search.

The concept is simple. Drag an image into the search bar (as above), and Google will return locations where the same image appears on the web. If you’ve not used the reverse search, try it out!

This technology, forgive my cliché, is a game-changer for everyone involved in content-creation. To wit:

  • Web designers and bloggers can avoid common, overused images by checking the current web distribution of an image. Don’t use the same cow as everyone else for your ground-breaking story on bovine beauty!
  • Those interested in hunting down the creator of an image- for obtaining reprint permission, perhaps, or to investigate a story- can much more easily find the source.
  • Artists and photographers can track who uses their images, and where, providing information about potential markets and unleashing the most significant tool to date for enforcing copyright.

This last point is where reverse search most stands to alter the internet’s image landscape, possibly in non-intuitive ways. Infringers will get caught- are getting caught- much more readily now. However, a barrage of copyright cases will pressure hosting services and social media companies in ways that may force a political reconsideration of copyright law itself. As a photographer, I worry about that.

Read more . . .

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