TinEye's logo

Those who have seen my deviantART account may have noticed I can get pretty obsessed with copyright infringements. If I think something is stolen I will track down the original as best I can.

But I can’t succeed without help.

TinEye.com is one of the most useful tools I have ever come across online. In a nutshell, you give it an image and it will show you where else that image appears on the Internet. It has been around for over a year now and yet it seems people have still not heard of it.

What is it useful for?

I think TinEye can be used for many things, including:

  1. Looking for use of your own images. I use TinEye to regularly search for any sites that are using my artwork without permission.

  2. Checking an image source is the original. There are a lot of people on the Internet who will take other people’s images and offer them as stock or some other resource. A TinEye search could save you trouble, because generally if an image is stolen once it will be stolen a lot and so get a lot of hits onTinEye . Even if it gets only a few hits, you can check those websites to get a feel for where they got the image or you may even find the original if it was stolen.

  3. Helping other people. If I think someone is using an image they don’t have permission to, or worse they are claiming it’s theirs, I will often useTinEye to try to confirm my suspicions and hopefully find the original artist so I can contact them. One site I tend to do this on is photobucket, or, as I like to call it, ripbucket . If you do manage to contact the copyright holder, they are usually incredibly grateful. If you are an artist this can really help with networking.

  4. Research. If you are looking for sites with information about a certain image, using traditional text search engines can be tricky, especially if the image has a title that is a common phrase. Doing aTinEye search could help you find sites that contain the image and hopefully some information about it.

How it is used

Using TinEye is simple. You can either upload an image from your hard drive or provide it with the URL of an image on the Internet.

Screenshot of TinEye's search options

Its flaws

Everything has flaws when it starts out. I’ve been using TinEye since back in May 2008 and I have seen it improve greatly. The one flaw I can think of is something they continuously work on, and that is the number of sites they have indexed. I would love for them to have a bigger database so search results are closer to how many times the image really appears online.

Of course, indexing every single site online would be insane. You can in fact submit a site for them to consider for indexing, which is a great move on their part.

I would also like to see more options for ordering search results. One way I would like to order them is by date where a date is available on the site. I don’t think that’s likely to happen though, especially as many sites indexed do not post dates. But I can dream.

Bonus for Firefox and IE users

There is a plugin that Firefox and Internet Explorer users can install to their browser. It allows you to perform a search without needing to open the TinEye site first. It adds a search option to the right click menu when you right click either an image or an element with a background image. I find this incredibly useful and it saves a lot of time.


If you do plan on trying TinEye, I recommend that you create a free account with them. If you do not register your searches expire after 72 hours so they can’t be shared somewhere people may click after that time frame. Another reason is thatTinEye say they are planning on adding features that are only for registers users. All the benefits are listed on the registration page.

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