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Web site helps hunt down pirates

February 19, 1999
Web posted at: 2:22 p.m. EST (1922 GMT)


Should logos and images on the Web be freely available or be treated as intellectual property?

Free Property
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by Kathleen Ohlson

(IDG) -- As the realm of the Internet increases, corporations and individuals are searching for ways to protect their images and logos from being improperly used. A San Francisco company has created a search engine to scan the Internet for images and to help firms and individuals in tracking their intellectual property.

The search engine is now available from ImageLock Inc., and the company has signed up Federal Express Corp. and small individual clients for the service, said Bennett Smith, ImageLock's president.

ImageLock is working with Landor Associates Inc., a San Francisco branding firm, to reach agreement with other firms, but Smith declined to say who they are.

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The Internet currently has 160 million images available, and ImageLock has 100 million images indexed, said Ken Belanger, the company's chief technology officer. The company is expected to have the remaining images indexed in the coming weeks, Belanger said. In the next two to three months, the Internet will have 200 million images, he added.

ImageLock's search engine constantly searches 3 million domain names and newsgroups for images, logos and other items, Belanger said. Searches can be done on exact items or ones that have been modified, he said. Once completed, the search informs how many sites are using the image, where it can be found and contact information for the site, Belanger said.

The search engine can be used for general purposes, as well as to ensure images are being used properly. A large credit company is using the search engine to ensure all its old logos have been removed; that reproductions of the new logo are of good quality and that its logo is being used properly, Belanger said. A jewelry company is using the search engine to ensure other sites aren't posting images, he added.

If a site is using an image without a company's approval, ImageLock sends an E-mail out requesting they ask for permission, Belanger said. ImageLock checks back one week later and if the image hasn't been removed, a second E-mail is sent, he said. By the third time, the company that owns the logo is asked to get involved, Belanger said.

One observer had mixed reactions to the value of an image search engine. It has most applicability to adult sites, according to Paul Hagen, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Boston, because much of the legal wrangling over image copyrights on the Internet has involved adult sites such as Playboy. "The value is marginal with other visual content," Hagen added.

Kathleen Ohlson is an online reporter for Computerworld.

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