Google Algorithm Removes Watermarks: Need you worry?

In this age of sharing and re-sharing images, a watermark is the only visible solution to the problem of copyright violation. Well, that is going to change soon, or so does it appear. Google recently announced the development of an algorithm that can remove watermarks without a trace, making many stock agencies see red. But should you be worried? Here is a glimpse at the world of copyright.

How does the algorithm erase watermarks?

This can be explained in plain language thus. The algorithm first detects the watermark in the image and registers the tonality and other characteristics of the pattern. It then scans the entire image and accurately maps the patterns constituting the watermark. Now it tries to subtract that pattern from the image. Once the pattern has been successfully identified and erased, the process can be done in a much faster way for a second image having the same watermark.

So what can be done?

As we said above, the algorithm keeps a pattern in memory and then applies a set of pre-determined steps to erase the pattern. So the most vulnerable would be stock agencies that apply the same pattern as watermark to all images. Even slight variations to the pattern can fool the algorithm, leaving traces in the image. The trick is to create constantly varying patterns as watermark and apply randomly to the images.

Won’t erasing watermarks nullify my copyright?

This is a common misconception. A watermark only lets the person viewing a copied (call it stolen or pirated) image to understand that the image belongs to another person. A very important fact to be understood is that copyrights are automatically created the moment an image (or any work of art) is created. You do not need a certificate or watermark to claim that it is yours. But you will have to establish that the image is yours by presenting original images, RAW files, possession documents of camera and lens combination and other such proofs.

Another misconception is that copyright has to be registered with the copyright office to be legally valid. This is not true. However, registration makes it easy to prove that you are the rightful owner of the work.

Here is what the Government of India says about copyright:

Is it necessary to register a work to claim copyright?
No. Acquisition of copyright is automatic and it does not require any formality. However, certificate of registration of copyright and the entries made therein serve as prima facie evidence in a court of law with reference to dispute relating to ownership of copyright.

 

Registering copyright is a very expensive affair, especially when you have thousands of images in your portfolio. So for a photographer, the best option would be to keep the RAW file along with any other proof that you are the original photographer.

For more information on copyright laws in India, please visit http://copyright.gov.in/


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