As my month work load seems to have to include some hours spent doing reverse image searching for counterfeiters, thieves and misuse of my artworks, I usually try to curb the flow of damaging misuse with a well sized watermark over the main part of the image. Recently it back clear that some crazy thieves don’t even care for this level of protection.
This is one of my pieces called “Sheep” (found here!), and discovered printed onto a cheap Russian calendar. Now what makes this a terrible discovery is the fact that they have in fact stolen this artwork from a source where I have in fact placed a watermark, for protection. It is clearly evident in the lower part of the sheep on the sofa. So, one day I spent some time researching trackable watermarks. The solution that came up was Digimarc. Digimarc is not too unfamiliar to me, as I have seen it in the filters list inside Photoshop for many years now. I was always worried of the cost so never explored. However, after a new weekend of finding multiple variations of misuse of my images I thought I should find a solution. I read up on Digimarc, and even read many reviews and tutorials. After looking at the site (here); and finding that the annual Professional fee is very reasonable. At $99 it allows you the protection of 2,000 images. But more importantly it gives you tracking results of their usage. I jumped on board.
I have now applied the invisible watermark to over 50 images and replaced them back on my BeHance account (here). It maybe time consuming, but I feel in the long run, it will be worth it. Now, I wanted to test the strength of this watermark, so copied the same process of one of the tutorials. The image above and at the top of the page, are both screenshots of my Jack Nicholson caricature on Behance; with the watermark. Now, I replaced this in Photoshop and attempted to read, both the tight crop and the full screen versions. To my surprise the Digimarc filter read both at 65% clarity. So, even if the thieves don’t download the file and try to circumvent it via screenshots, it is near impossible to avoid seeing the watermark.
Now, this doesn’t make the process of thieving full proof. One good thing though about DigiMarc, in relation to printing, is the filter put a noise on the image. Whether this disrupts the printing integrity will need to be tested. The way this looks is like this.
The image on the right has a very hard to see noise pattern on it, compared to the left. This is the watermark. It can be reduced, compressed, copied, etc and it should retain a degree of integrity in being found on the internet. The only real fault I have found so far, is the fact that on uploading to Facebook, the watermark is compressed out. Apart from that, which I am looking into, the whole process has given me some confidence in the placing of non-open watermarked images on the internet. There will be a follow up post as soon as an alert goes off, and someone copies my image.