The Importance of Digital Image Watermarking

Digital images

 

Digital image watermarking is one of the foremost popular ways to guard images posted online.

Watermarks are easy to use to pictures of all varieties, and they give the photographer or copyright owner the prospect to market themselves or their brand beyond their existing audience.

But with today’s digital image watermarking, just how secure it is? and the way can those with assets safeguard their work from potential threats?

What are watermarks and how does it work?

The idea behind watermarking is straightforward. By including a semi-transparent line of text, symbol, or logo into a picture, you create it clear that the rights thereto belong to a selected photographer or company, which cannot simply be used without authorization.

Watermarks are usually embedded so they become a part of the image itself. This implies that if the image does get stolen in a way, it’ll remain in situ.

Although this isn’t always the case, the watermark itself often identifies the photographer or copyright holder. The image may, for instance, simply be marked with a copyright symbol, or with a more elaborate design or repeating pattern that produces the use of multiple lines or copyright symbols (or both) to supply greater protection.

However it appears, a good watermark serves a variety of purposes. First, by making the presence of copyright clear, it underlines that the image in question cannot simply be used without the copyright holder’s consent, which, in turn, is a deterrent for would-be thieves.

It also limits the likelihood of it getting used, were it to be stolen. Furthermore, additionally to its marketing purposes, it also makes it far easier to prove an image’s true ownership in the event of any unauthorized use, assuming the watermark itself identifies the photographer or copyright holder.

Where things can get wrong

Depending on many factors is the effectiveness of a watermark. Its visibility, for example; a watermark that’s barely visible is probably going to be a less effective deterrent than one which will be easily seen. A watermark that isn’t too visible may additionally be easier to get rid of than a more prominent one, in this efforts to lift it away are less likely to adversely affect that image underneath it.

Placement is additionally key. A watermark that’s placed during a relatively featureless area is also more easily removed than one that’s placed over more complex details. A thief is more likely to aim to lift a watermark from a picture if they believe they will keep the image itself relatively intact.

 

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The rise of AI-based solutions

Perhaps the best threat to the watermark in recent times has been the increase of sophisticated watermark remover online software algorithms that will be wont to remove watermarks from images.

While we’ve had similar tools incorporated into popular image editing programs a few times, solutions designed specifically to get rid of watermarks also exist within the kind of standalone packages, and lots of of those are available at no cost. Furthermore, as they’re increasingly making use of computer science (AI) to raise detect and take away watermarks, they now typically require less human intervention than they want to.

Such tools have a clear appeal to those looking to lift watermarks from individual images, but it’s perhaps only a matter of your time before more automated tools for batch watermark removal become available.

Titled On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks, the paper released by Google in 2017 detailed a watermark-removing algorithm developed by the researchers, and highlighted the benefit with which this might be accustomed exploit the consistent manner within which watermarks tend to be applied to multiple images.

The team of researchers found that their algorithm continued to figure when the watermark was placed in numerous areas within a series of images, but also noted that it absolutely was less effective when there have been spatial or geometric discrepancies between watermarks.

Changing watermarks between images obviously creates more work for the copyright owner, in this a series of images can not be watermarked in one action. Those taking the hassle to safeguard their work, however, may consider this to be a price worth paying for the extra layer of security.

Google isn’t the sole major company to own work on this kind of tool. In 2018, Nvidia announced that its research had led it to develop an AI algorithm to effectively lift away artifacts from images, like noise and text. Its effectiveness, which you’ll see within the video below, will little question alarm many photographers.

The fact that these tools don’t seem to be publically available – a minimum of not yet – is going to be of some comfort to photographers. That said if we assume that an efficient algorithm is created commercially available in some form within the future, knowing a minimum of a number of its weaknesses is undoubtedly useful for watermarks created today.

While tools exist to assist photographers to find stolen images online, once you consider that watermarked images may possibly be used offline similarly as online, keeping track of them is even tougher.

What options do today’s photographers have?

Photographers worried about increasingly sophisticated watermark-removal technology have a variety of options.

One approach is to easily increase the dimensions and prominence of a watermark. This could conceal more of the image and would – a minimum of in theory – make it tougher to get rid of without severely affecting the image it protects. Such a move divides photographers; some would consider this to be too detrimental to the viewing of the image, while others prioritize security over the presentation and would see it as a worthy approach. Yet, because the tools from Google and Nvidia show, even very prominent watermarks may only provide the most protection.