A.I. Protects Digital Rights

Christy Turner was angry that her exotic photo shoot of the volcanic island of St. Helena had appeared on the cover of the island’s tourist magazine without her permission. It wasn’t the first time her work had been pilfered, though. She had used online services Copypants and Pixsy to find the unlicensed use of her creative works on websites around the world. The platforms use a branch of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology called Computer Vision to search out images on the internet and notify picture owners of the whereabouts of unlicensed content.

Turner’s case illustrates the broader issue of copyright protections for digital creations: photographs, digital images of print art, or any visual reference to creative endeavors. A.I.  is helping artists, photographers, and online galleries track down, monitor and even notify users copyright violators.

The Most Popular Image Search Services

A “reverse image search” finds plagiarized images and even altered work. Four of the most popular tools that digital creatives on the market include, among others: ImageRaider, Google Image, TinEye and Berify.


ImageRaider’s most significant advantage is long-term image monitoring. ImageRaider makes it easy for professional photographers and rights-holders to keep track of their work in an image catalog. Users perform ad hoc searches of individual picture or upload a list of images to find.

The platform enables users to scan the internet for images at intervals. A monitoring report offers a thumbnail of the unlicensed image and the page and domain on which it last appeared.

Google Image

Google promotes its image search functionality as being the “most comprehensive image search on the web.” It has indexed hundreds of millions of pictures across the internet. Google Image is easy to use.

Users point at an image with a cursor and right click on their mouse device (in Chrome and Firefox) on the image. Select “Search Google for Image.” In little more than a second Google offers the sizes of the pictures that exist online , a list of sites that include the image, and a list of visually similar images.

Google searches associated website images.google.com takes the web address of an image to search for the image’s occurrence on other websites. Users can also drag-and-drop an image into the search bar.


The free version of TinEye allows 150 searches per week. Users upload or enter an image URL to begin the image search across the internet. However, TinEye does not recognize the people or objects in an picture; instead, it identifies the image its users uploaded in their entirety. Unlike Google, then, TinEye does not show “similar” images.


Berify provides exact and similar matches of pictures it finds on the internet. The portal also offers exact searches and searches for images related to a target picture. Some users find searching for similar images essential in ferreting out pictures that website administrators may have modified. Berify’s computer vision can tag photos so users can more easily organize the photos they upload on to the site. Like ImageRaider, users can schedule Berify to search for images automatically. The product posts alerts if it finds matches to images on the Internet.

A.I. Serves Justice

A.I. is also taking over notification of copyright violators. Copypants and Pixsy – the products photographer Christy Turner uses –  send out bots – small, pre-programmed bits of software – to notify individuals and companies of the illegal use of the photos. The services automatically launch bots to the email addresses of website contacts.

In Turner’s instance, she has used the bots to ask violators to give her credit for her images on their websites. Other bot functionality includes escalating complaints and filing for damages. Unfortunately, in more than 85 percent of the claims, website administrators were unaware they were in violation, according to a FastCompany article. So, Copypants and Pixsy also rely on human lawyers to work with offenders.

Nevertheless, the Internet, Computer Vision, and artistry are offering increased opportunities for artists to earn a living from their work, and for A.I. to learn the difference between the unwitting and the criminal.