Are EMOJI Protected by Copyright?

We all wonder about the legalities of using Emojis in our projects. Attorney David Lizerbram tackled this in his blog, reprinted here with his kind permission.


Emoji. They are universally beloved. In fact, I’m wondering why I’m even bothering to write this blog post with the boring old English alphabet. But, as with any other digital asset, just because everyone uses emoji doesn’t mean there aren’t some rules to follow. Let’s answer some emoji copyright questions.

“Emoji” is a Japanese word (which is, apparently, why the plural is also “emoji,” not “emojis.”) From a useful article on emoji licensing:

The Japanese spelling is 絵文字: 絵 (e) means ‘picture’ and 文字 (moji) means ‘letter.’ Picture letters. Simple.

In the U.S., as in most countries, copyright applies automatically when a copyrightable “work” is created and fixed in some tangible form, including digital formats. Emoji are just graphic works by another name. If you create a drawing of a smiley face, it’s protected by copyright…declaring it an “emoji” doesn’t change that.

So the short answer is that yes, there is such thing as an “emoji copyright.” More accurately, emoji can be and are protected by copyright.

In one sense, a group of emoji are just a fonts: a series of images that, individually or together, communicate some information. Copyright protection for fonts (or typefaces) is a bit of a complex issue that probably merits its own blog post. For now, it will suffice to say that computerized fonts are protected by copyright (as they are, effectively, software.)

Apple and other producers of digital devices either create, buy, or license the fonts included in their software. So the emoji that appear on your iPhone or Android keyboard are used under that set of legal arrangements. This is why emoji may look different on different devices.

You can use those emoji to say or communicate whatever you want. What you can’t necessarily do, however, is reproduce those emoji on a product. For that, you’d need a license.

Let’s say you really love a the emoji of the poop with the eyeballs. Who doesn’t love that one? (Click here to read The Oral History of the Poop Emoji.) Maybe you want to stick that image on a t-shirt and sell it. Well, in order to do that you’d need a license. If you like Apple’s version of this image, you can start by contacting Apple’s legal department.

If Apple isn’t in a big rush to respond to your request, there may be alternatives. Here’s a link to a “completely free and open set of emoji. Good enough, right? Well, maybe not…if you read the fine print in the licensing section, it states “No emoji may be used in commercial printed, tangible or physical material.” Oops.

There are a variety of other emoji sets out there that have different levels of restriction. You may be able to find an image for free that suits your needs, but be sure to carefully read and follow the guidelines.

Alternatively, you can go to a stock photo site and pay to license an image. I’m going to say this again, though—read the rules before you use the image, even if you’ve paid for it. The license still may have some restrictions.

If you have any other emoji copyright questions, feel free to ask David. He promises to answer using regular old letters and not adorable cartoons.

David Lizerbram, Business Law Strategist and host of Products of the Mind, a #1 ranked podcast about the intersection of business + creativity. Now available on iTunes and at
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Education the DMLA Way

The DMLA(Digital Media Licensing Association) has traditionally been seen as a trade organization for picture agencies and distributors. Important to note that for a few years now, their programming and offerings are becoming more and more inclusive of the entire visual communications community. Their annual conference in the fall(specifically from October 22 – 24) has expanded programming that is sure to attract and be useful for anyone working in and around the world of licensing, imagery and copyright.

One does not have to wait for the Autumn however. In the DMLA online library, there is a plethora of archived webinars and legal information videos led by industry experts, all  there for one’s viewing pleasure and edification. And most all, free of charge.

So grab a cuppa and peruse if you will…

A few highlights:

Interested in trends and influencers? Check out the impressive panel of Leslie Hughes, Stephanie Marchesi, Shawn Amos, and Robert Dowling talk about the art of storytelling and story sharing in The Future of Communications

No matter what part of the visual industry one is engaged in, at one time at least, you will have questions about sensitive subject releases. This hour and a bit is worth its weight in gold as legal and industry experts break it down. Sensitive Subject Releases.

Fair Use, Releases, Motions, and a specia presentation on web image search and potential issues everyone needs to be aware of.  There is so much information here for the Art Buyer, Photo Editor, Art Producer, Researcher, Student, Photographer and Instructor.

Look around a little more in the library( for one of the best copyright powerpoint presentations out there. It will make you laugh and definitely school one in some best practices. Curious about Orphan Works and how to search for owners? It iss there too.

Coming up, check out ‘The Movement to Video &Mixed Media Marketing’ on May 17th. Contact Cathy Aron, DMLA Executive Director, to sign up for this webinar. Take a minuet to find out more about the DMLA and how the organization can be an invaluable resource.


70 years of Magnum through the Female Lens

“Glass ceilings.”

“Level playing fields.”

And similar terms, that we’ve all heard many times before, when it comes to describing the push for women to be able to compete, professionally. One might think that Magnum – with its commitment to journalistic truths, its inherent desire to expose the true nature of the world; via more than six decades of realities captured by photographers who sometimes actually died in the process of recording those “truths” –  would be ahead of the curve in acknowledging women as equal arbiters of our stories.

Yet, even though Magnum was admitting women into its ranks two decades before New York Times did so, it’s clear that that in photography – like in life, and politics, and gender, and war – that context is everything.


The Guardian looks at the role women have played in the agency’s history:

“3 of the 9 photographers now going through the process of acquiring membership are women … One of the nominees, Newsha Tavakolian, is the subject of a picture by another of the agency’s photographers, her fellow Iranian Abbas. It shows her at work in a press pack among a bunch of short-sleeved, bare-headed cameramen. Tavakolian is the one obliged to cover her head and arms. It is a reminder that in some places women struggle just to become professional photographers, making the idea of joining Magnum an almost impossible dream.”
There is still work to be done.



A New Generation of Images – Picfair

Daily we hear of customers seeking imagery that is anything but ‘stock’. Picfair took the challenge to heart. Here is their unfolding story.

Tell us about the genesis of Picfair and a bit about the background of the founders.

Picfair was founded by former Guardian & New York Times journalist Benji Lanyado. He was continually frustrated by the homogenous images that streamed onto his desk from all of the usual suspects, while social media and online platforms teemed with fascinating, modern imagery. He quit his job, learned how to code, and built Picfair as an open-to-all licensing marketplace, in the process reversing the traditional revenue split that sees the vast majority of royalties going to middlemen agencies. Almost three years later, Picfair now has over 4.5 million images, uploaded by 24,000 photographers in 130 countries. Having built the library and curation technology, we’re now introducing ourselves to buyers across the globe – The Guardian and various Time Inc titles are among some of the early adopters.

“A Saltador jumping over a huge bull in a ring during Magdalena Festival, Castellón de la Plana, Spain” Credit: Diana Gilbert / (

Uploading and licensing is streamlined so that it’s quite easy to  load images up and available for licensing easily. Tell us about your contributor base.

Broadly speaking, our photographers are 70% non-professional, and 30% professional, although the professionals have contributed just over 60% of the images in our library so far. Perhaps the biggest thing that has surprised us is the exponentially-improving quality of the “amateurs”. These aren’t just happy snappers dumping their holiday pics onto the site – they’ve often used high-end kit, and put hours and hours into composition and editing. The most exciting contributors are those whose day job gives them incredible insight and access – we’ve got art directors shooting incredible images in the slums of Nairobi; airline captains shooting from the cockpit; marine biologists taking their cameras underwater with them; security analysts in Kabul, Icelandic tour guides, diplomatic families travelling the globe … through their incredible images, we learn about their lives.

How do you address model/property release questions from customers?

We’re very clear about releases to all contributors during the upload process, and then add a two-stage moderation process thereafter: one automatic process looking for recognisable faces; and one manual process, in which we eyeball every image. If a recognisable person appears in an image and the photographer doesn’t have model release available on request, it can only be assigned an “Editorial & Personal” license. We’ve worked really hard to make a “mass upload” product that includes as much coverage on releases as possible, but if customers ever have any queries, we’re happy to help them dig deeper.
Photographers set their own licensing fees for a standard licensing agreement that precludes Paid for Advertising (OOH,Print ads, etc.) Should a customer be interested in such a license, how do you handle this?

We’re rolling out a license that covers advertising and merchandising very soon. It will take a little while to make the bulk of our collection available under this license, as we need the photographers themselves to opt their images in, but we should have a sizeable collection available for advertisers within a few months.

Fishing on the Bosphorus Credit: Colby Pan / (

Exciting to see a new offering in the market that brings new imagery to the forefront. What is your strategy to stay in front of and to stand out to the customer in a crowded(and some would say) saturated marketplace.

Our core strategy is to treat our photographers like royalty. We’ve grown from nothing to 4.5 million images through their advocacy (we’ve spent nothing on marketing to photographers) – this is the upside of giving new photographers access to a market they’ve been previously excluded from; and giving professionals photographers the best royalty split in the business. Over the next few years, we want our photographers to help us spread on the buying side of the market – incentivising them to market Picfair to their peer groups and creative circles. Image licensing is a fascinating industry in that both ends of the transaction – photographers and image buyers – are, broadly speaking, “creatives”. We believe a recommendation from a photographer to a buyer is infinitely more powerful than ploughing money into advertising. Watch this space.

A Typhoon fighter jet shot at an airshow at RAF Coningsby Credit: Viv Porteous / (

Fun also to see engagement on Social Media from your contributors when they license an image. Can you share a couple interesting sales stories?

For the “amateurs”, their first sale can feel like a eureka moment – the realization that not only can they take good images, but they can make a little cash from them too! We’ve seen thousands of amazing sales examples – Iraqi photographers selling images to Scandinavian research institutes; a Nepalese IT support worker selling images to Rough Guides; a London-based PA having her images used in an Esquire travel feature … it’s amazing to think that we’ve made those connections. But I think my favourite use case was when a photographer started praising a very well-known global airline on Twitter for licensing a “fair trade image” from her … I don’t think the airline had realized how our royalty split worked, but after being initially perplexed, they went all in, engaging in a dialogue with the photographer about how important “fair trade imagery” was to them.

To check out all Picfair has to offer –

From Across the Pond – Pictaday

by Julian Jackson

Pictaday is a German expo similar to Visual Connections. It takes place every year, alternating between Hamburg and Munich. This year it was at the Panoramadeck on top of the Emporio Tower in Hamburg, with a fine view of the city and harbour on a grey day. I went along to meet the 60 exhibitors – mostly photo agencies with a smattering of software, consulting, legal and other organisations present.

Pictaday (c) Julian Jackson

Firstly let me praise the catering – there was a buffet in each of the three rooms, with what I would say was a fine spread of food. On this evidence the German market is doing well!

The first people I spoke to were on the table of the organisers: the BVPA, which translates as the Federal Association of Professional Image Providers, who are the German equivalent of the DMLA or BAPLA. Interestingly, they have just started providing a course on how to set up and run a photo agency. On successful completion of the program, students receive a qualification, “BVPA Certified Licensor” which they can put on their website. The reasoning behind this was that many people in this digital age find it easy to start a photo agency, but they can quickly get into trouble and fail because they don’t know the basics. This short course, while voluntary, aims to give beginning stock agencies the expertise to succeed.

Overall, the industry picture was similar to the North American and UK markets: stagnating prices make trading difficult. That said, the event was buoyant. Organiser Matthias Jahn told me that with over 500 image professionals registered to visit, this was a good turnout. Pictaday has been so successful that they are considering holding the 2019 event in Berlin as there seem to be enough potential publishers and users there to make it viable.

Picket fence hanging rack (c)Flora Press/Melli Freudenberg

On the Panoramadeck was a full spectrum of German agencies, with a wide variety of subject specialisms, from royalty to cartoons. Some global agencies like Shutterstock, Alamy, Bridgeman and Science Photo Library also had a presence.

epa (european pressphoto agency) was formed in 1985 and is a partnership between nine agencies, with over 350 staff and stringers all over the world, licensing images outside Germany. They normally distribute over 1500 per day but that can double with big events like the soccer World Cup.

Dana Press concentrates on images of royal families, including the Scandinavian, Spanish, and UK royals, as well as other less well-known royals from around the world – they syndicate both text and images. They also have a lifestyle agency which concentrates on that genre of picture.

Mato is a food, travel, and general photography agency. They are also a publisher and produce lovely coffee-table books on food, which had me salivating.

Traditional Lombard Food from Italy – (c)Massimo Ripani/SIME/MATO

Illustration was represented by cartoon specialists catprint media, who are syndicated widely in German magazines and newspapers.

Lifestyle photography included Jump, 123RF, and imageBROKER.

Artothek covers art, mainly classic collections from German museums – which looks like a good source for hard-to-find art. Flora Press is about plants, gardens and agriculture. Vintage Germany does what it says on the tin: a source for historic images of Germany.

There were some other companies and organizations present, which included collections management, archival and exhibition printing, photo research, digital watermarking, copyright infringement, and DAM software. The atmosphere was lively, and friendly, with most people speaking good English. Did I mention the food? – I think I put on several pounds that day. There were plenty of places to hold meetings – either in the main rooms, or for more confidentiality there were a couple of small boardrooms which were available.

My only criticism of the expo would be that the event leaflet just listed each exhibitor and where their table was. Most similar events I have been to have a comprehensive listing with contact details, website and an image or two. This would have been useful as I wasn’t able to talk to every exhibitor: there just wasn’t enough time. Overall, a productive day with lots of new contacts made.



Julian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. Julian also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course. View his portfolio, or connect with him on Linked-in.

Of Porridge and Pictures

Girl on ferry crossing between Ardrossan and Arran. Scotland (c)Robert Perry/ Scottish Viewpoint

Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness – all these places have such an air of romance and beauty. Hard to imagine a lovelier premise for a photo library. Adam Elder saw both a need in the market and an opportunity; thus Scottish Viewpoint.

How did Scottish Viewpoint come about?

I worked as a photographer at a national newspaper in Scotland. Press organizations are always looking to new technology to distribute content as fast as possible and so I saw the onset of digital imaging quite early on – around 1993-ish. At about the same time I became aware of image libraries, rights management etc. And so gradually I put two and two together and laid plans for an image library.
At the time there was only really one bigg-ish library dedicated to Scotland and it was quite set in it’s ways (thousands of slides in cabinets, sending by post, no database etc). I spoke with the owners but they weren’t interested in digital, didn’t feel that the quality was there and probably never would be. So I decided to do it myself. I could really see the writing on the wall with being able to distribute images very quickly and efficiently. I vividly remember the first time I sent an image by mobile phone. At the time it was total black magic! But I completely understood the potential.
I knew of lots of great photographers in Scotland with lots of beautiful images on slides and prints in boxes in the homes and offices really doing nothing. I explained the idea of a digital library to them, explained that I would take on all the scanning and captioning and database etc in return for them giving me their images. And I promised them that if I sold anything we would split the revenue 50/50.
And so I went into partnership with my sister Judith who liked the idea and was looking for a new direction in her professional life. She took on all the business administration and I went out did the client finding and technical stuff. And that was it! We started making money from pretty much day one! Our tagline was that we either had a picture of almost anything in Scotland or we would be able to get one – very quickly. We never said, “No” to a request for an image.

(c)Lee Howell/Scottish Viewpoint

Are your photographers primarily from the region? How do you recruit?

Almost all of our contributors are based in Scotland. We source contributions mostly by word of mouth and also very detailed knowledge of the profession. We have some contributors who specialize in say, wildlife or portraiture, or food or landscape. If we see content gaps in the library appearing we actively seek out new image makers to help fill these.

The Rights Managed business model is perceived as a more exclusive way to license imagery. What made you decide to go this route? Any plans ever to have a Royalty Free collection?

Rights Managed is right for us and so far, right for our clients. We have always placed huge emphasis on personal contact with our clients, getting to know what they like, getting to know how they operate – getting to know their budget! We don’t have any plans to go Royalty Free at present but that doesn’t mean we rule it our entirely. As a former photographer, I personally don’t feel truly comfortable with losing control over images in the way that Royalty Free demands. We speak with our contributors a great deal and that feeling seems to be the same with most of them too.

A cowboy and an Indian enjoy an ice cream at the Millport Country and Western Festival on the Isle of Cumbrae.

How do you see the collection being positioned/growing going forward?

It’s becoming very difficult to compete against the huge volume image libraries whose models rely on selling millions of images at a lower price. To help with that we have gone into partnership with several libraries who have bigger marketing budgets than we do and wider reach than we do. We’d rather have 40% of a sale that they make on our behalf than 0% of a sale that wouldn’t have come our way otherwise.
Going forward we are currently seeking new image makers who are seeing Scotland in new ways. We are very pleased to have recently discovered The Bragdon Brothers, two guys still studying photography at college but who have a singularity of vision that is exceptional and rare. We’re also very excited to have on board Lee Howell who is an image maker with a view of the world that is truly fantastic. Being able to seek out and persuade guys like these to join us differentiates us from the volume libraries and hopefully gives our clients a great reason to keep coming back to us.
And we are always looking at ways to monetize (a horrible word, I know) the collection on behalf of our contributors. That’s essentially our job. So we are working with new merchandising partners on that front – pushing our collection more to the personal consumer as well as the business client.

(c)BragdonBros/Scottish Viewpoint

I see you also cover news and current events – in this vein, how will BREXIT change your business?

Who knows! Any attention from outwith what is a small (but great!) country has to be good for business!

Some of your favorite images and/or licensing stories?

Going back to the answer to your first question (our aim is to have a picture of anything in Scotland)… In our very early days we took a call from the Daily Mail picture desk asking for a photograph of a bowl of porridge. We didn’t have one!!!! A Scottish picture library without a bowl of porridge picture! So off I went to the shop on the street corner and bought a pack of porridge which we cooked up, took a photograph on a small digital camera (probably about 1 megapixel at that time) and sent it in. We got a call back thanking us but did we also have a picture of a bowl of porridge with cream on it? So off I went to the shop again to get the cream. Sent that picture in – got the call back from the desk… thanks but we’re actually doing a feature on how people eat their porridge so have you got one with sugar and one with honey too? A couple more trips to the shop for me! But we made the sale, 4 pictures used, a happy client and money in the bank.

What else do we need to know about Scottish Viewpoint?

Since 1996 we have always striven to do our very best for our clients and our contributors. That will never change.

The footbridge known as The Bridge To Nowhere at high tide, Belhaven Bay near Dunbar, with a view beyond to the Bass Rock, East Lothian. (c)Andy Bennetts / Scottish Viewpoint

Time for The Mega Agency

Interesting to see what happens when industry veterans and technology experts get together to build the next big offering. The Mega Agency’s  CEO, Tom Tramborg, gets us up to speed and excited about what he and his team are building for customer and contributor.

  • Give us the elevator pitch for The Mega Agency

The Mega Agency was founded by Kevin Smith, who previously founded and eventually sold Splash to Corbis. Mega is basically founded on a mantra of being “The photographers friend” rather than just an outlet for images. When we started building the agency we wanted to disrupt the market and therefore we focused more on processes, speed and functionalities that would be attractive and beneficial to photographers and clients, than we did finding a cool-looking office spaces or fancy company cars etc. In essence that means we are offering higher commissions, more transparency and insights – but above anything else faster payments delivered in a real time digital dashboard to the photographers. We are selling direct in 15 territories and with the higher percentage, photographers get a fairer, faster and better deal. That strategy seems to have resonated with photographers, as the number of high quality photographers who have joined Mega in the last couple of months – and are continuing to do so – are overwhelming. Which then again benefit the customers who get better content – and are getting it faster.

The Mega Agency founder Kevin Smith

  • In a saturated market place, when players like Corbis disappear, how will Mega stand out? 

We are a new agency and have only been live for a few months. but when you look at our executive team and staff in general, it is all veterans that brings a wealth of knowledge. We do try to utilize that knowledge to our advantage building a content base that is appealing to customers.  I do see us filling a gap after Corbis. It seems that not only photographers are looking for alternatives to the more established players. I hope we stand out as the new, fresh and disruptive agency that offers breaking news as well general quality content faster than anybody else — and with a unique service.

  • Tell us a bit about your offerings and collections. What makes Mega different from the customer PoV? 

I have often heard that we were conceived as a “boutique” agency. But nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the fact that we have only been operative for a few months, our offering is already more than 30 million images in the “news, sport and entertainment” section, due to our relationships with various media partners. In addition we recently signed a syndication deal with American Media Inc (AMI) and are syndicating their content globally. We are constantly looking for new partnerships that will further grow our content base and bring more diversion to our content mix. Currently we are uploading a daily average of 4000 images and 8000 images when including our media partners — some days are well above 10,000 new images.

  • Once you conquer the celebrity/news stills market, do you see yourself expanding into areas like motion or traditional stock(lifestyle, etc)?

You are saying once? Just joking. We have been very pleased with the interest from both customers and photographers to work with Mega and our ambition is to continue that growth trajectory, which also means that we will continue to expand our content base to eventually grow in to a full scope agency with studio-portrait, reportage photography, stock,  etc. As our nature is disruptive and based on technology, we are very focused on the new types of content that arising these days, like VR Video and 360 images/videos both from an editorial and creative angle, and will be adding those categories to the content mix shortly. Our client base is growing with double digits month over month and I have no reason to think it will slow down in the foreseeable future.

  • Favorite pictures? Scoops?

No, I really do not have a favorite set. We have several scoops that have been published on front covers globally, but I am equally pleased with a photographer delivering a set of images that is only locally relevant – and to be honest with 30 million images in the archive it wouldn’t be fair highlighting one. At the end of the day it is all about delivering quality content that brings value to the customer.

  • What else do we need to know about Mega Agency?

We have recently released our app (trailer), which allows photographers to get their images to market faster than any of their competitors, which again means that Mega will be providing breaking news and entertainment content faster than any our competitors. So if you haven’t already signed up for an account, I think you should. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The Mega Agency’s CEO Tom Tramborg



A bit of relief for Media Professionals

Media professionals are always in great need of innovative material for editorial usage—stills, motion, sound files—and they need it quickly. Often, as we all know (with a sigh) the resources available are beyond our budgets and the available offerings fall short of the creative vision we have.

Increasingly, we are seeing distributors of visual/auditory media introducing Public Domain collections of media. One such new offering is The Public Domain Project over at Pond5.

We took a spin through the collection and found wonderful, eclectic images, clips and music tracks(many with that lovely ‘crack and pop’ of vinyl!), easily searchable. Beware, its a good place to fall down the rabbit hole on a Wednesday morning!

As valuable as the material is for a project, Pond5 has a clear tutorial to lay out guidelines. They cover usage and questions surrounding trademark, releases, copyright. Public Domain, Creative Commons do not always mean free without permissions, attribute and in some cases negotiated usage fees and the onus is on the end user to completely clear rights.

Within the guidelines, much creativity and fun is to be had while telling your story:


Spring 2017 Photo Fever

It’s time to get outside and see the blooms! Check out some of the Photo Workshops and Festivals happening this spring (and a bit beyond). This is just a sampling, drop us a line with your favorite, we would love to add it to the list.

Date stamped on verso: Mar 9 1939.
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress).
Poster for the Sioux City Camera Club’s second annual exhibition of photographs at the Community Federal Art Center, Sioux City, Iowa, showing stylized man at a camera. Public Domain

  • Photography Farm – 27th – 28th of March in Brighton, UK and again on 30th – 31st of March in Glasgow, UK.
  • Smashing Conference – Okay, not EXACTLY Photo based, but very interesting looking. Developers, designers, Front End insights, UX experts. April 4th – 5th, San Francisco, USA.
  • FeatherFest 2017 – Just missed NANPA? Get your nature fix this April 6th – 9th, Galveston Island, USA.
  • Photoshop World  –  No description necessary. April 20th, Orlando, Florida, USA.
  • PEP Asia 2017 event –  April 21st – 24th, in Mumbai, India.
  • Connect 2017 – An established must see photo festival. May 7th – 12th, Palm Springs, USA.
  • Comtemphoto – for your inner academic. May 12th, 13th, Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Santa Fe workshops have some enticing offerings, ranging from Basics of Digital Photography with Rick Allred to a Workshop for Women which combines mediums, words and images.

For your calendar later in the year:

Guess its time to book some travel!


Researching? It is all a buffet!

Pixabay, a Creative Commons CC0 site, just launched this intuitive, fun search tool.

If you know how to use Google Maps, it will be very easy to find a particular Pixabay image with picsbuffet. Try it out – they are looking for feedback on this new type of image search.

In our real environment, we “navigate” visually. In a supermarket, we quickly recognize where certain products are to be found: we first get an overview, go to the appropriate shelf, then search for the desired product and usually find it. We also know this hierarchical search principle from car navigation services. For searching images or products on the Internet however, such approaches so far do not exist. Picsbuffet is a new exploratory image search system to find Pixabay’s images easily.

In order to make this image exploration possible, all images are visually arranged on an “image map” according to their similarities. The currently displayed section of the map can be interactively modified by dragging and zooming with your mouse: more similar images are displayed by zooming in and zooming out provides an overview of thematically related image concepts.

After entering keywords for a search, a region with appropriate results is displayed: The heat map in the upper left corner shows the regions where the corresponding pictures can be found. Clicking on the heat map or on one of the five images below the heat map will jump to the corresponding region. If you click on an image its preview image and a link to the Pixabay page will be shown. Alternatively, you can start a new search for similar images.

Picsbuffet offers two views: in 2D mode – as the following screenshot shows – all images are displayed in square shape, the 3D view, which we already know, offers more overview, by displaying the images in a perspective view.

If you have found a region with images that you like, you can share this view (like these sunsets) by sending the current URL of the website.

The current version of picsbuffet works best with latest desktop browsers, a version for mobile devices is in development. Soon it will also be possible to search for images similar to an example image that you can provide.

Picsbuffet was designed and implemented by the Visual Computing Group at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW Berlin). Using a neural network, all images are automatically analyzed with regard to their content and appearance, which can be described very compactly with only 64 bytes per image. In a second step, these image descriptors then are used to arrange all images according to their similarity on a 2D image map. This is done with a hierarchical Self-Organizing Map (SOM). Further information and other demos, e.g. for automatic tagging of images, can be found on the Visual Computing Group website.

Want to see more? Here is a step by step video showing a search: