I just learned about the library of babel image archives. It works exactly like the version with the books. There are all possible images with that specific size available.

For the copyright part, I found this question here asking the same for the books and the answer, as I understand it, is that it would be unlikely an copyright infringement because it is completely random and you didn't just copy the work of someone else but generate it yourself with that random algorithm.

About that, the site has the function to upload an image and search where this image is in the archives. The image may be shrunk down to match the canvas size but I did still get the original image in an lower resolution.

If I search for an image with copyright, does the found image in the archives still have the original copyright? If not, couldn't I just use every copyrighted image I want, search for it in the archive and just use this image that may have an lower resolution to prevent an copyright infringement?

Also, how are illegal images handled? Can't I just search for an illegal image and tell some authority that image number #143.... displays something illegal?

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    99.9999999% of the images are static, and the claim "all images are in this" is bullshit.
    – Trish
    Feb 27 at 10:07
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    @Trish No this is true. Its just an algorythm that generates an image at a specific place. It's just like generating a random number with code. You can provide the generator with an seed to get a specific number. And pixel in an image are also just number for the red, green, blue values. The "seed" here is the place where this image is in the archives and it's mostly 1.000.000 digits long to get to the exact same "number" that generates all the specific rgb values of the image.
    – sirzento
    Feb 27 at 13:59
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    @Trish Yes, that's normal. 200 is like a sample size of 0 compared to the 10^961755 possible pictures this algorithm can generate. Same is true for the original library of babel that contains every text combination.
    – sirzento
    Feb 27 at 18:51
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    @Trish, I realized that perhaps there are no real stored images. Certainly not "all". But, since every possible image can be "represented by" a (large!) number (specifying, according to some rule...), the game is that we feed The Algorithm" a suitably-sized number, and it shows us what the corresponding combination of pixels looks like. Then ... what happens (in the vanishingly small) possibility that some copyrighted image is (essentially randomly) produced? Feb 27 at 19:03
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    @paulgarrett Yeah thats how it works. The images are not stored but generated. For the copyrighted images: You can use the search image option on the site to search for a specific image.
    – sirzento
    Feb 27 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


How are you searching the archive without copying the copyrighted image?

Let’s say you want to find this before 1 January 2024 when it was still copyrighted:

Steamboat Willie, lobbycard, Mickey Mouse, 1928.LMPC VIA GETTY IMAGES

It’s in there, and given the way it was generated, that image is not a copy of the original and would therefore not be copyright infringement (if the original was still under copyright).

However, to find it, I had to copy the original onto my device and cause a copy to be made on the Babel Images server - both of those actions are copyright infringement. If I were to have used the found image in an infringing way, I could be sued for the copyright violations i committed to find the image.

I could try to convince the court that I didn’t use the search feature, I just typed in really, really long random numbers and just happened to find the 1 in 4096266240 that just happened to match the copyrighted image. Given copyright cases are decided on the preponderance of the evidence, its pretty easy to see that my defence is going to fail.

  • One could imagine an AI feature in the library that searches by description: "A wheel with spokes on the left, a large mouse-like character holding it." But that's unlikely to find the exact reproductions of this scene, just something kind of like it (there will be billions of them).
    – Barmar
    Mar 29 at 17:01

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