I was reading today on Tech Crunch and it's report about the the next version of riya. For those of you who've never heard of riya, think of it as flickr with facial and image recognition. It's pretty sweet (and a little scary), and you can learn more about how it all works straight from the horse's mouth here.
Anyhow, Michael Arrington said… that after speaking with the riya folks, it sounds like their focus has shifted to sifting through world-wide-web of images. This will be different than the typical image search, like Google Images which (presumably) considers the context of an image–what web page it's on, or maybe the file name, but not really the image itself. Applying riya's facial and image recognition to the world of images, and you can do things only thought of in films and back rooms of the NSA. From Tech Crunch:
See a rug on ebay that has a pattern you like? See other rugs from across the web containing similar patterns. …Dating is another (if slightly creepy) use for the new Visual Search engine. See someone's picture on MySpace that you like? Search on their photo to find single people who look similar and who have profiles up on match.com or other dating sites.
Riya's technology overlays quite well to the policy debate on orphan works. Two groups of stake holders, the photographers and illustrators, take issue with orphan works in general. They have a problem already with folks trying to locate the owner of a photograph or illustration, even when they register it. The feel that orphan works legislation exacerbates their problem, as it frees a user of an orphan work from copyright infringe statutory damages, and that their works, because they're difficult to locate owners, will be dubbed orphans. It's a problem, just not one that's created by an orphan works policy. That doesn't mean that the problem can't be helped–which is where riya comes in.
Let us say I'm a documentary film maker and a critical part of the story that I'm conveying is about an important political figure. As it turns out, this person was only ever photographed once, and rather inconveniently, even after a laborious search in the copyright registry's textual records, I cannot track down the owner of that work. Even though I'm willing to pay a reasonable fee for it, without permission from the owner, I can't put the image in my film because it opens me up to liability and no insurance company would incur such risk. So, I'm stuck.
Even if the copyright registry were a visual one (yes, that's right, it's actually just text), digital, and accessible over the web (that makes three strikes?), it would still be very difficult to track down an image, but at least the visual record would be there. If it were crawl-able by a technology like riya's, the long lost owner of my linchpin photograph would surface, assuming he/she registered it. Better yet, if they had a website that cataloged his/her own photos, I could use riya to find the owner that way as well. Even if riya gave me a link to some other site that used the work, that might get me one step closer to finding the owner.
Sounds like the consumer tools are now coming available, now we just need the photographers and illustrators to make their images searchable, so they can be found and paid for their hard work.