Find Stolen Images with TinEye

TinEye LogoHave you ever wondered if anyone is passing your images off as their own? Or, could someone even be using your images commercially without your permission? Up until now, it has not been easy to find out.

So when I heard about TinEye, I was eager to sign up. Using a sophisticated algorithm TinEye creates a digital fingerprint from the image and searches for a match in its database of pre-indexed images. Currently their database comprises 702 million images, a fraction of all the images on the web, but the database is growing rapidly.

Using TinEye is a breeze. Simply upload an image, paste a url or, using the handy Firefox or Internet Explorer plug-ins, it’s as easy as a right-click on the image and selecting ‘search TinEye’. When a match is found, the results are impressive to say the least. Since matching is based on pattern recognition TinEye is successful in identifying not only exact copies but also images that have been significantly manipulated, including cropping, re-sizing, skewing, adjusting color, superimposing text, to name a few. TinEye is owned by Idée Inc. Their website has some excellent examples showing successful matches of heavily manipulated images.

To facilitate confirming the match a handy ‘compare images’ button allows the user to toggle between the searched and found images helping to spot any differences. This is especially useful for images of common subjects as I realized when I thought I had found another match. Only close examination showed it to be very similar indeed – but not the same image. It’s worth being very sure of your claim if you decide to follow up with anyone about unauthorized use.

TinEye ExampleSelecting some of my own photos, it didn’t take long for me to find several used without my permission. An example is shown to the right (click on the thumbnail to see a larger version). The photo of Bagan is from my recent trip to Myanmar. TinEye returned two hits; one authorized, one not. The first hit is unauthorized but the second one (Crystal Treasure) does have my permission to use the photo.

TinEye found another one of my images on the home page of a highly professional looking UK-based consultancy firm. In testament to how well the Tin Eye software works my image had been cropped and bold text had been superimposed over about one third of the image. Not only that, it was incorporated in a scrolling slide show. Further searches revealed another company with another of my images on their home page, again without permission. This time the subject had been cut out and the entire background removed but TinEye had no problem tracking it down.

Having made many searches, I’m left hoping that some form of batch searching will become available in the future. Currently images have to be searched individually but the ability to search entire folders or web sites would be wonderful. Plugins are available for both Internet Explorer and FireFox that allow you to simply right-click on any image in the browser and select ‘Search Image on TinEye’.

We’ll see how things develop but there’s no doubt in my mind that Idée Inc have come up with a winner with TinEye.

To request a free log-on, go to

About the author: Originally from the UK, Stuart Clyne has been living in Singapore since 1999. He has a keen interest in photographing the culture, festivals and scenery of South East Asia. His photography has appeared in publications such as Asian Geographic and Digital Photo. A gallery of his photos can be found at
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3 thoughts on “Find Stolen Images with TinEye

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