14FingerprintSearch for your photos online More
15TrackEmbed a secret ID and monitor online More

14. Fingerprint

Reverse Image Search

Like face-recognition and music-recognition software, algorithm attributes numerical attributes. Automatic, you don’t have to do anything. Reverse image search.

Reverse image search websites:

TinEye, CopyScape, MyOws, DepotCode, Picuous

15. Track

Digital Watermark
(Invisible Tracking Code, like Digimarc)

WHATA secret embedded code tracked online
HOWA service such as Digimarc
PRODetect unauthorized use.
CONExpensive, often with an annual fee

If you want to track your images online, the best way to do it is with a secret tracking code embedded within the image itself. You can use “digital watermark” software to hide inside image pixels, and a “spider” (image crawler) website to monitor any appearances on the Internet. If a copy of your image is detected, you are alerted. Of course, such a service comes with a price.

“Imperceptible to the human senses yet easily recognized by special software detectors, a watermark remains constant even through recording, manipulation and editing, compression and decompression, encryption, decryption and broadcast — without affecting the quality of the content.”
— >Digital Watermarking Alliance

The watermark remains detectable after JPEG compression, scaling and cropping, and even screen-copy-and-past. watermarks can stay with images as they are manipulated, copied and transformed from one file format to another and allow for images to be searched and found across the Internet.

Digital Watermark vs. Metadata

A watermark is similar to metadata but, instead of being stored in a header file attached to the image, a watermark is embedded within the image data itself.

Metadata is standard text appended to the image file, which can be publicly viewed, and easily removed. A watermark is a secret tracking identification code hidden within parts of the image. Since no one knows it’s there, no one knows to remove it.

“The experience of Corbis, a leading stock photography agency, is that claims of ownership based on watermarking consistently stand up in court. In addition to Corbis, Microsoft, Time/LIFE, Paramount, and many others protect their image assets with watermarking.”
— >Digital Watermarking Alliance, in Managing Valuable Image Assets


Photoshop comes with a watermark service called Digimarc built in as a plugin. The software places a watermark in the chrominance component of a color image. The tracking service costs $49 to $499 per year.

“If somebody steals an image from your website, we’ll help you find it. With a watermark embedded via a qualifying subscription, you can track usage online. .. After an image isly watermarked, it becomes a virtual beacon, traceable as it moves across the Web. Image owners can use the Digimarc Search Service to scan the Internet and determine exactly where watermarked images are being used.”

Digital watermarking services

Tracking services

  • Copyscape
  • ImageSpan’s LicenseStream Creator and Content Tracker uses Digimarc
  • PicScout owned by Getty Images

Drawbacks of Watermarking

Tracking websites can only see photos that are displayed on basic, static HTML pages. Their spiders can’t crawl behind password-protected sites, firewall-protected sites, Flash-based galleries, and database-driven websites. This includes popular photo-sharing portals such as Picasa, Flickr and SmugMug, as well as social networking sites such as Facebook.

Digital watermarking vs. fingerprinting

“An embedded watermark is a ‘proactive’ solution that begins tracking your content from the moment you’ve watermarked it and made it accessible on the Web. Embedded watermarking communicates ownership from day one in a way that is persistent and stays with the image through copying, manipulation, editing, cropping, compression and decompression, encryption and decryption — all without affecting the quality of the image — or the enjoyment of consumers. A fingerprint is a ‘reactive’ solution that analyzes and then creates a unique ID of your images. It can then track your content across the Web based on that unique ID. It does not proactively communicate your ownership rather it locates content across the Web. Both solutions can complement one another to effectively protect and track your content.”
LicenseStream FAQ

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