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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Author Artistic License

The head honcho at Artistic License that sets the code, follows the users and basically strives for the better justice in art theft on the internet. Any questions, email me.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Chris says:

    This is great. Thanks Rob for sharing. Look forward to hearing how it goes!

  • […] to exploit the anonymity and accessibility. Even with images protected with watermarking (see this article) there are methods and processes to get the most inadequate ones off an image. Some solutions are […]

  • Gary says:

    Great article and you are extremely talented. Any update on your experience with the digimarc. I’m interested in purchasing it now.

    • Hi
      Well, after some discussion with the team, I have found that their script for finding images is not fool proof. They stated that there can be masking scripts that stop their robot finding violations. That said I would recommend that you purchase the $49 version and not the version that does the tracking. It would be good to still implement the digimarc. I would more recommend Pixsy.com for looking for infringements.

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