Many designers have found beautiful images through Google that they would just love to use in their designs, but you can’t take any image you want off the web. So how do you find out who owns that gorgeous picture you’ve stumbled across? The answer could lie with PicScout Image Exchange.

Currently in Beta, Image Exchange helps creative professionals locate the origin and copyright information of images found on the web. It is a free application which runs in Firefox and allows you to:

  • Determine who owns an image whenever and wherever you see that perfect image
  • See all licensing options for images you want to use without searching
  • Connect, license and use an image within minutes of seeing it
  • Discover useful or interesting information about images – ownership and distribution

To test it out, after installing the plug-in on Firefox, I did an image search for “airplane.” Below you can see the thumbnails results.


Three of the thumbnails have the small blue “i” icon appearing, indicating that there is ownership information attached to the image. When you click on the “i”, a new window opens up with more information and a link to the website where the image appears.


The Image Exchange extension can recognize photos anywhere on the web, not just in Google Image Search results. If PicScout believes the photo is CC BY-NC licensed and from Flickr, it will point you to the photo’s original page on Flickr. In the example above it recognized that the image was Royalty Free licensed and included a link to the picture’s origin on a micro stock site.

It’s early days yet for Image Exchange and the copyright/ownership information is lacking on many of the thumbnails returned in the image search. The extension pulls the information from millions of online images indexed in the PicScout ImageIRC, the world’s largest index of image fingerprints and metadata from known copyright owners. As this database expands this will become a very useful tool.

If you regularly search the web for new images to use in your design work and would like to be more involved with this project, you can sign up on PicScout’s Image Exchange beta program.

Tags: images, Web Design Tutorials & Articles
Jennifer Farley is a designer, illustrator and design instructor based in Ireland. She writes about design and illustration on her blog at Laughing Lion Design.

Free Guide:

How to Choose the Right Charting Library for Your Application

How do you make sure that the charting library you choose has everything you need? Sign up to receive this detailed guide from FusionCharts, which explores all the factors you need to consider before making the decision.

  • davidcroda

    That is pretty cool. I wonder if they could use it for the reverse too, notifying you if your copyrighted images are being used on another site

    • Jennifer Farley

      Hi David, they have another product that does something like that too. It’s called Image Tracker. – think it might be a paid service.

  • samanime

    This will be a very useful tool indeed. Great post.

  • Scott

    What we really need is a way to scan a website and identify ownership of all found JPG files. This would let people who buy websites figure out if there are copyrighted images being used on the site before they buy it and take over responsibility. Some sites have thousands of images on them!

    • arts-mulitmedia

      I find this the most silly idea on this planet.
      It is peanuts to change header info, so thieves can simply falsify the info and make an industry of collection money with stolen authorship identity.
      Therefore, header information is not to be trusted and cannot be used as a means to identify wh oowns an image.

      If you do not know who’s image it is, don’t use it.
      If you buy a site and the previous owner declares that he paid all dues, then let him pay the costs if suddenly an author claims damages.

Ending Soon
Free SitePoint Premium

Get one free year of unlimited book and course downloads on SitePoint Premium!