Google Makes Searching For Image Use Easy

Posted on 6/24/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Google has released a new function that allows those who use Chrome or Firefox browsers to search the web for use of specific images.

If you go to to you will see a little camera icon in the search box. Click on that icon and you get a popup that says “Search by Image.” Either paste an image URL or drag an image onto this search box you will get a view and list of the URL’s where that image can be found.
If you then click on “all sizes” you will see all the places where the image has been resized or cropped. Mouse over any one of these images and you get the web address. Click on the thumbnail and you will be taken to the actual page where the image has been used.

This new feature is well worth checking out.

Photobuyers looking for a way to legally license rights to an image they have found on the Internet can use this service to find some of the agencies that represent the image. If they find an image in a printed publication all they have to do is scan it and drag the image scan into the search box to find where to go to license the image. (This assumes the image is in a database that has been indexed by Google. It is believed they have currently indexed more than 10 billion images.)

Photographers and agencies can now easily search the web for uses of their images. For several years photographers have been using TinEye to accomplish this task, but Google seems to have indexed many more images. Several photographers who have tried both say Google produces more comprehensive results.

In a comment to an earlier article Steve Pigeon, President of Mastefile referred to Internet copyright infringement as “a plague.” He added, “At Masterfile alone, we handle about 150 new cases per week! And there is no end in sight. We have 15 employees out of a total staff of 100 who deal with nothing but resolving infringements.”

The principal disadvantage for photographers in using Google to pursue infringers is the time required to do searches one at a time. A high percentage of the uses found are on blogs and personal web pages. These are probably not worth pursuing given the time and costs required. PicScout offers a service that will search for all the images in a photographer’s database and provide a report of just those instances where unauthorized uses are found. By conducting a few Google searches photographers can determine if there are enough uses of their images by larger companies to make working with PicScout worth their time and trouble.

There are two other problems that most photographers face when trying to identify infringing uses. First, in those cases when the image is represented on a non-exclusive basis by multiple distributors the photographer must determine if any of their distributors might have licensed usage rights. Since very few distributors supply their photographers with specifics about who licensed a given usage photographers must contact each of their distributors to determine if the usage found was legally licensed. Distributors representing images non-exclusively have similar problems. They will know whether they licensed rights to use a particular image, but they will not know if any of the other distributors that represent the same image might have licensed it.

Another problem is that it often takes many months from the time an image is actually licensed for use before the photographer is made aware that the image was licensed. Thus, Google might find an image that was licensed legitimately long before any information about the sale is reported to the photographer.


Before making extensive use of this service it would be wise to read through Google’s “Terms of Service.” Some photographers are concerned that by using this service they may be giving away rights to their images.

In Google’s “universal license” which covers all activity on Google paragraph 11.1 says, ”By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

I am not a lawyer but it seems to me this is just giving Google the right to post the image on its web site. They also say, “This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.”

Google’s “universal license” also says, “8.1 You understand that all information (such as data files, written text, computer software, music, audio files or other sounds, photographs, videos or other images) which you may have access to as part of, or through your use of, the Services are the sole responsibility of the person from which such content originated. All such information is referred to below as the “Content”.

Paragraph “8.2 [says] You should be aware that Content presented to you as part of the Services, including but not limited to advertisements in the Services and sponsored Content within the Services may be protected by intellectual property rights which are owned by the sponsors or advertisers who provide that Content to Google (or by other persons or companies on their behalf). You may not modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute or create derivative works based on this Content (either in whole or in part) unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google or by the owners of that Content, in a separate agreement.”

Finally paragraph 9.4 says, “Other than the limited license set forth in Section 11, Google acknowledges and agrees that it obtains no right, title or interest from you (or your licensors) [emphasis mine] under these Terms in or to any Content that you submit, post, transmit or display on, or through, the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in that Content (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). Unless you have agreed otherwise in writing with Google, you agree that you are responsible for protecting and enforcing those rights and that Google has no obligation to do so on your behalf.”

Given the above language of the Terms of Service, it seems to me that there no reason for photographers to fear using Google to search for their images.

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:  


  • Robert Henson Posted Jun 24, 2011
    I'm certainly not an ISP apologist, but their terms of service is modeled on a free exchange of any and all content and prevents any content owner from coming after them for merely displaying content in their search results. Such broad assertions do read as insidious, but the recent Google books settlement has convoluted how they can represent and display any works.

    The growing tension between piracy and ISPs like Google (anyone else?) is rapidly playing itself out. Post more stuff like this, Jim.

  • Gary Elsner Posted Jun 24, 2011

    In the paragraph discussing PicScout's services you incorrectly state that PicScout will "provide a report of just those instances where unauthorized uses are found." PicScout will provide a report for all uses they find. The photographer or agency then needs to determine which - if any are actually licensed legitimately as opposed to being a possible infringement.

    Gary Elsner

  • Offir Gutelzon Posted Jun 25, 2011
    Jim, two comments,
    1. your were right to say that PicScout is giving different level of service, the different is that PicScout will report only those which will be considered Commercial use, we have no way to know if the usage is infringement or not.

    2. Photo Buyers better using also PicScout ImageExchange add-on which will be complementary , ImageExchange can show the source to license the image, and with one click direct it back to the site

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