One of the liabilities of the internet, copyright violation, could be solved by an invention from Japanese boffins.
A Waseda University research group has developed a fast way to search through large numbers of images to find close matches to specific photographs.
The system was developed to help identify copyrighted images being used without permission on the internet. Another spin off is that the technology could be used to search for images that have been altered.
In one test using the new search system, a target photo could be detected from a random collection of 480,000 images in roughly five seconds.
The system uses a two step process to identify images that are similar to an original, and then decide whether they have been copied. In stage one, the colours and line angles of the target photo are used as clues to search through collections of images to find those that are generally similar in appearance. Stage two finds the machine dividing the target photo into five partially overlapping regions on which the search is repeated for each. For every "hit" on each region (of the image) a corroborating set of investigations is then initiated on other parts of the photo to see if the entire image. If they all match, then copyright is likely to have taken been violated.