Fingerprint Your Images

Posted on 5/20/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Image fingerprinting could be a solution for many of the problems photographers face in trying to protect their images. The technology for providing, in camera, a unique fingerprint of every image a photographer creates is already available. All that has to happen is for the camera manufacturers to build this technology into the next models of their professional equipment.

Manufacturers are considering this option. Photographers need to let them know this is something they want and desperately need.

If fingerprinta were available then photographers could deliver then to a central database immediately after creating an image or anytime they upload images online. PicScout is one such database, but there will likely be many others if the technology becomes readily available. Others in the early stages of development are: PhotoPatrol (, Gruppo24ORE (, PixTrakk ( and Corrigan ( Consider how this might help.

These databases would be capable of searching the web and print publications for uses of the photographer’s images. If unauthorized uses were discovered the photographer could pursue collection. If the technology were widely available to all photographers the general population would quickly become aware that they could not grab images off the web and use them without fear of being discovered. Image fingerprints are as unique to each image as human fingerprints are to individuals. It has been shown that image fingerprints can find uses of a particular image even if in the use of the image has been flipped, cropped, distorted, or the background changed.

Customers who find an image they want to use will no longer have an excuse for not being able to locate the copyright holder. All they would have to do upload the image to one of the owners a fingerprint database. That owner would fingerprint the image and compare it to others in his and other databases. If the image is listed with anyone contact information will be supplied.

Another advantage for photographers of creating the fingerprint at the moment the image is produced is that the photographer’s name and contact information would be attached to the fingerprint. This assumes it is the photographer and not his agent who delivers the fingerprint to whatever company is managing the fingerprint database. Currently, most images being fingerprinted (and there are over 60 million of them), are being supplied to the fingerprint firms by stock agencies or distributors. When a use is discovered it is the agency that is notified. If the photographer’s name is connected to the fingerprint then the photographer is the one who will be notified. Of course the photographer could easily assign the job of following up to his agent, but the photographer has the ability to retain more control and be more aware of what is happening with his work.

American photographers might also benefit if the U.S. Copyright Office would accept fingerprints instead of thumbnail images as proof of registration. This would require new legislation, but it would provide a more accurate method or knowing whether or not an image is registered and probably save the Copyright Office time and money. The Copyright Office could also make its database available for easy searching by anyone interested in knowing if an image had been registered, and by whom.

This will not solve the problems of tracking older images that have not been digitized or registered, but it would be a major step in the right direction and eventually provide a way of tracking most images that are being used and identifying their creators.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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