A commercial photographer since 1975, I've expanded my focus in recent years to include forms of digital photography I call Photo Impressionism. This expansion into the digital realm has caused a sharp increase in visitors to my website, as well as the need for protection against the theft or misuse of my images.
Fortunately, I discovered a product from Digimarc called MyPictureMarc a few years back. This product enables me to protect my images from unlicensed use by embedding digital watermarks, which communicate copyright information. The upgrade issued this spring, MyPictureMarc 2005 1.0, added even more protection.
An incident that occurred in the early 1980s serves as a perfect example of why I have made protecting my work a top priority. I had just sold some photos to Minolta for use in their print ads in the U.S. Shortly thereafter, I happened to be working in Paris when I saw the exact photo in a Minolta ad in a French magazine.
My contract with Minolta specifically stated that my work would appear in U.S. print ads only. I brought the magazine back with me to the U.S. and showed Minolta. Of course, they quickly compensated me. But the bottom line is, if I had not seen the publication I would have never known that my photos were being misused.
I started using MyPictureMarc in 2000. It is one of the most effective, convenient, and simple tools I have come across in my 30 years as a photographer. You don't need to be a technology wizard to understand how it works. And as a plug-in for Photoshop and other image-editing tools, access is easy.
Digital watermarking is now a regular part of my creative workflow. All I have to do is:
- Make all necessary modifications to an image.
- Embed the digital watermark.
- Save the new image.
- Read the digital watermark.
- Publish the image.
Contrary to the notion that when you embed digital watermarks into images, it compromises the visual integrity of the image, digital watermarks can be imperceptible to the human eye, depending on the watermark strength chosen. Those bold watermarks you see sometimes are applied by photographers to alert potential image thieves that the images are protected.
MyPictureMarc digital watermarks carry several pieces of relevant data: a Digimarc ID, transaction/image ID or copyright year, as well as optional flags to alert viewers of Restricted Use or Copyrighted material. The watermark can communicate your copyright information, let viewers link back to you for licensing or questions, and enables you to track your online collection.
Tracking Online Images
One of the best features with the newest release of MyPictureMarc is the MarcSpider tracking tool that monitors and tracks image usage across the Internet. MarcSpider reviews 120 million publicly available Web pages every month and detects how digitally watermarked images are being used. MarcSpider also generates reports that provide a listing of all instances of a watermarked image. Tracking provides me with thousands of extra eyes watching out for my images online.
To date, I have slightly more than 2,000 images watermarked. MarcSpider has tracked down 150 of my images and all are being used legitimately. This is an incredibly valuable tool.
Peace of Mind
If someone really wants to take a digital image that belongs to you, no amount of technology will prevent it. Everyday, thousands of images are taken—sometimes in complete innocence—and used for all kinds of purposes. As a professional photographer, my images are my biggest investment, and I don't want people misusing them.
MyPictureMarc gives me the ability to provide copyright notification, along with my contact data, in every image I make available on the Web. It communicates, "This is a copyrighted image, it belongs to me, and if you'd like to license it, here is my contact information." This gives me a sense of security and peace of mind, while conveying professionalism and legitimacy.
In addition to copyright communications and image tracking and monitoring, the latest version of MyPictureMarc offers online photo backup, sharing services, and free visual watermarking. MyPictureMarc also offers several layers of protection that work together to defend against a variety of vulnerabilities, from photo sharing to the loss of a memory card containing your day's shoot.
If you want to better manage and protect your online image collection, take a look at Digimarc MyPictureMarc.
Paul Elson (www.elson.cc) has worked with scores of Fortune 500 clients worldwide and had hundreds of images published in travel, food, and leisure magazines and print ads. His Photo Impressionismm images have been published by Graphique de France and exhibited in Australia, Taiwan, and New York's SoHo District.