Sunday, May 16, 2021

Copyseeker finds online photo pirates


A couple of decades back, on one of the anniversaries of the Woodstock music festival, The New York Times asked readers to submit one of their personal photos taken at the festival. I had one that I always liked and I thought they would too. Apparently they did because the newspaper used it as the lead image for its reader gallery.

After sharing my photo with the Times, I uploaded it to the Wikimedia Commons, an online repository of more than 100 million images and sounds that are available for free use in Wikipedia entries and by its users. Today, Wikimedia lists about 25 Wikipedia articles where the image appears. They are in about a dozen languages and used to illustrate topics such as hippies and fashion as well as the festival itself.

But I wondered who else might be using my photo and that's when I turned to Copyseeker. It's an online website where users insert an image with a link or an upload. Copyseeker then uses reverse image search technology to discover other websites where the image appears. 

Copyseeker was created to help people find instances where their photos -- their intellectual property - are being used without their permission or compensation. Many people wrongly assume that anything posted online can be used without payment or attribution. According to Copyseeker, there are more than 2 billion instances of image theft on the Web.   

Reverse image technology uses sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence to match and identify images anywhere on the Internet, even when a user has cropped, filtered or blurred an image to disguise its origin. 

The service can use an uploaded image or a link to an entry on Instagram where some 100 million images are uploaded every day.  I used Copyseeker's drag-and-drop box to enter my Woodstock photo. Users can also enter a Web page address or select a photo from Instagram. 

After a few minutes, I was presented with a list of about 80 sites where my hippies appeared. The sites included a French blog about transit issues, US sites that write about vintage clothing, a Russian blog post about epic traffic jams (no surprise there) and other sites written in Polish, Dutch, Chinese and other languages. 

A few of sites that used my photo also used the credit line that Wikimedia suggests for giving image owners proper credit as the source. My use of Copyseeker was born out of curiosity. I had posted it in a free-use repository so I wasn't looking to find thieves and scofflaws. If that had been the case, I could use a form that lets users to file a copyright claim.    

Copyseeker is a free service, but it does suggest that you make a small donation and give it a nice review if you like the service. You can see if it works for you at the Copyseeker website


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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