There is an imminent threat to all artists, art galleries and photographers that have been using watermarks to protect images with a commercial value.
Images have become bigger and increased in importance within the web. The emphasis is on images looking good and helping people navigate the web (if you like this - then how about more like this?)
For all those artists using watermarks to protect their images - you need to be aware that Google has worked out HOW TO REMOVE THEM! It recently presented its findings at the presented at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference. (Why they think they have the legal ability to alter your image without your permission and reproduce it is anybody's guess!)
Below is the video produced to explain the CVPR 2017 paper "On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks". It also explains that they worked out how to remove the vulnerability of images to this sort of watermark removal process.
However the good news is that the guys at Shutterstock are really not at all impressed with having their revenue model upended in one fell swoop (surprise, surprise!). They have now reverse engineered the new algorithm to prevent Google (or anybody else) from removing a watermark that is now unique to every picture which, in turn, makes watermark removal for secure.
What they've done is worked out how to make each watermark unique by marginally changing part of each watermark - for example by including the name of the photographer.
The same issue applies to artists - and what artists need to do is to work out how they can make their own watermarks more robust and incapable of removal using the algorithm so helpfully explained by Google!
My best guess is that this will need to involve doing something along the lines of what Shutterstock have done.
My recommendation is that artists should consider citing the title and their trade name (abbreviated in necessary) within each individual and unique watermark.
I predict this whole watermark thing will become BIG and there will be much scratching of heads by artists using watermarks!
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about art, artists and the art business and has followers all over the world. She also delivers workshops for art organisations and reviews websites and career strategies for artists.
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