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Google Goggles & Getty

The team behind Google Goggles has partnered with the Getty Museum to provide information on paintings from the permanent collection, and the project has the potential to change the museum-going experience and to address the problems of orphan works.

Google Goggles has the ability to provide consumers with information about items they photograph using image recognition technology. By capturing images of museum objects, visitors can gain instant access to knowledge about the works they are seeing. According to <a href="”>the LA Times: “Google Goggles already recognizes some photographs and paintings from other museums—including world-famous artworks the database has picked up by crawling the Internet. But this is the first partnership by which a museum has provided images and prepared content for this specific use. The Getty has supplied information on the artist and artwork for about 300 paintings.”

By instantly matching images of works with their copyright information, this project could also help museums enforce licensing schemes and royalty fees, which can be a major source of revenue. Furthermore, the ability to locate copyright information in this way might have huge ramifications for fair use.

Imagine this scenario. You are writing an article for a publication and you find the perfect image for your story. However, the image isn’t credited. After looking into the matter, you are unable to locate the author. Should you go ahead and use the image without permission? This exemplifies one of the problems with orphan works.

The creation of a digital database of existing works could address this problem by helping users determine what permissions are required for images they want to use. However, any effective image database is still a long way away. The Examiner notes that “Russia’s Hermitage has over 3 million works in its collection and less than ten percent have been digitally archived to date.” Still, the combination of Google Goggle’s image-recognition technology with the Getty’s digital archive is an interesting first step.