I find it VERY helpful to belong to linkedin groups! Members share a lot of information and resources that I may not discover on my own. For instance, illustrator Cedric Hohnstadt in the linkedin* Art of Licensing group shared that Google now has a method called "Reverse Image Search" to search the internet for images. GRIS, an acronym that I am using in this article for "Google Reverse Image Search," was released on June 14 and has received accolades from scads of people who post images on the internet. GRIS is not perfect because it does not find all images but according to persons that have compared GRIS with another image search engine, TinEye.com, GRIS is far superior.
GRIS is very simple to use. All you need to do is drag a small (two to four inch wide) 72 dpi jpeg image from your computer desktop into the GRIS Search Images window. In seconds (most of the time) a list of internet sites that matched the image appears on your monitor IF a match is found. Also shown is a group of visually similar images according to GRIS although I did not think they looked THAT similar to the images I searched for. To learn the four ways to search the internet by image and watch a video explaining GRIS, go to "Google Search by Image." Note: In some of the articles that I read, people had problems with the drag and drop method but found that pasting a URL web address for the image in the search window worked for them.
* For information about linkedin groups, read "Art Licensing Resource: Networking in Linkedin."
GRIS does have some limitations because the algorithms used to identify images are not perfect. GRIS tends to find images on the main page of sites better than if it has to drill down through multiple pages. Also even though Google is constantly trolling the internet it does a better job in identifying images on their sites such as Blogger than other sites because the database is more complete. As a result, GRIS may or may not identify images that you know are on the internet. But as Google continues to improve GRIS, it will do a better job. Note: I tried GRIS on some images that I know is on internet sites. It identified and listed sites for several of them but not all. I also found that the size of the image that you use may make a difference in the success GRIS has in identifying images. Read my comments about this under Reasons to use GRIS / Search for internet sites selling your art / Case History of Nutcracker Image Search.
Articles about GRIS
I got over six million hits when I googled "reverse image search google." Obviously there is a lot of interest in GRIS. Articles discussed the announcing of this new tool in searching for images on the internet, comparing GRIS with other image search methods, and asking questions about using GRIS. Below are links to some articles that I found informative.
• "Google's New 'Reverse Image Search' Helps You See Who's Stealing Your Artwork" discussion by illustrator Cedric Hohnstadt.
• "Google's reverse image search: Indies Restaurant" discussion in using GRIS to find copyright infringements by illustrator Jeff Fisher.
• "Google rolls out reverse image search: RIP Tineye" comparison of GRIS and Tineye by Stephen Chapman.
• "Putting Google's Reverse Image Search to the Test" comparison of GRIS and Tineye by photographer William Beem.
Reasons to use GRIS
The reason why most people use GRIS is to search the internet for sites that use their images without permission. But there are also other reasons to use GRIS. Below are discussions about them.
• Search for Illegal use of art.
Use GRIS to find what websites or blogs are using your art without permission and without giving you credit for the art. Some individuals may be posting your art on their blogs to give content to their articles with the mistaken idea that they are doing you a service by marketing your art on their blog. Others may be "lifting" your art and selling it as their own art or putting it on products that they sell.
It is the consensus on linkedin that no matter why your art is being used without your permission, the person infringing on your copyright should be informed that they are using your images illegally. You may choose to ask them to give you credit for the art, request that they license your art, or demand that they remove your art from their site. People that are infringing on copyrights should be educated that they are not allowed to put images owned by others on their site without permission. With GRIS, artists now have a better tool to find the sites that infringe on their copyrights and can contact the infringers.
• Search for internet sites selling your art.
It is often difficult to find out which retail stores are selling your art on products. Manufacturers track what stores they are selling to but not necessarily if your art is on the products. The cannot keep track because their client list is too large. So if you have friends and relatives ask you where they can purchase your art you will not be able to tell them. However, if the product is sold via the internet you can use GRIS to find them. More and more products are now sold on the internet. Finding out what online shops are selling your art is a good way to track how many and which stores are carrying them. Note: Licensing contracts do not always give artists enough samples or allow them to purchase the products wholesale. I have used a couple of my friendly local retailers to order my licensed art from manufacturers when I want to give them as gifts. And they have also ordered extra to sell and promote because I am a local artist that licensed my work on the products :)
Case History of Nutcracker GRIS Search
The following is my experience when I used GRIS to search the internet for my recently introduced Christmas Candy Cane Nutcracker flag licensed to Evergreen International. I used GRIS with two different sizes of my art. The first time I used a four inch wide, 72dpi, jpeg image. GRIS found three internet stores that are selling my flags. But it did not find the image on Evergreen's website. Probably the reason is because a person needs to drill down five pages to find the art on their site. A person only needs to drill down one or two pages on the internet stores to see the image.
When I used a smaller image (2 inch wide, 72 dpi, jpeg file) to search for the image, GRIS found the initial three internet store sites PLUS two more. The next time I searched GRIS with the same smaller image it found only four sites. Hmm, as been said Googles Reverse Image Search is not perfect.
Below is the nutcracker image data from a GRIS search. I am very thankful that this image has not yet been used illegally.
• Search for Internet sites that is promoting you and your art.
Using GRIS is one way to find out how much exposure you and your art is getting on the internet. Are bloggers posting part of your blog articles on their blogs and linking back to your blog? Are manufacturers posting your art on their websites and listing you as the artist? Are you quoted in an article which includes a photo of yourself? All these are ways that you and your art gain exposure which may help you get licensing deals.
• Use GRIS for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) link building.
Driving customers to the websites of brands has become an integral part in brand building. Large brands (entertainment, food, appliance companies, etc.) often hire SEO consultants to implement SEO projects in marketing and growing their companies. Brand building for artists is different then these kinds of brands and hiring a SEO consultant costs more than most artists can afford. However, it is instructive to read how SEOs drive customers to websites. Maybe artists can use some of SEO consultant strategies to build their own brands. Read "Reverse Image Search Strategy for Outside the Box SEO Link Building" to find out how a SEO company (Zeta Interactive) uses GRIS to drive customers to websites. Note: Not every expert in the art licensing industry believes that an artist can be a brand or that it is necessary to be a brand to be successful.
Using Google Reverse Image Search is an useful tool. Because it is not perfect, it is recommended that other search techniques also be used on the same images such as tineye.com, and googling your name plus the word images (ie "joan beiriger images").
Comments and suggestions on how to use Google Reverse Image Search are welcomed. Please click on comments and write them in the comment window at the bottom of this article.
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