TUCOWS ARTICLE

Watermarking Digital Images Part 3

Previously, I showed you how to protect your digital images by visually watermarking them using programs like Watermark Factory and Photoshop. Now lets talk a bit about invisible watermarks.
Published: Feb 26, 2006
Author: Stacy Reed

Previously, I showed you how to protect your digital images by visually watermarking them using programs like Watermark Factory and Photoshop. Now lets talk a bit about invisible watermarks.

Invisible watermarks rely on code embedded into the image itself to keep it protected from theft. There are some programs, like Eikonamark that allow you to do this from within their interface without the need to register with a third party.

Digimarc is one such third party; they are currently the leader in digital watermarking technology. In 1997 they introduced a SDK (software development kit) that allows software developers to integrate invisible digital watermarking technology into their applications, providing the ability to embed, detect and read Digimarc watermarks in images.

A Digimarc watermark is a special imperceptible message that is embedded into an image or video which can then be read in order to validate original content. While there are many free applications that allow you to read and embed these watermarks, one must subscribe to Digimarc's services in order to do the embedding.

The service that is most likely to be of interest to digital artists, photographers and Web designers is MyPictureMarc which allows users to create embedded invisible watermarks that can durably withstand image manipulation. The message contains a small amount of digital information, carrying attributes and a set of unique IDs that are easily detected by software and devices. The plan also offers (among other perks) online tracking so users can see where and how their images are being used.

One example of an image optimizing application that incorporates Digimarc's invisible watermarking technology is Image Optimizer from Xat.com. The program automates the embedding process while allowing the user to customize the image quality, message intensity, durability and compression level. One of the pattented features of Digimarc's watermarking technology is that the pattern containing the message is repeated over and over throughout the entire image so that the message still exists even if the image has been altered, rotated, resized or cropped. These embedded messages can even be recognized in images that have been printed once they have been scanned.

Bsides offering a SDK that can be implimented into image editing software applications, Digimarc offers plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, Corel PHOTO-PAINT, Micrografx Picture Publisher and Ulead PhotoImpact.

Using an embedded invisible watermark is a safe and secure way to protect your images when sharing them online but peace of mind comes with a price. Digimarc's subscriptions range in price from $79 to $499 annually. Eikonamark Private Edition costs $199 and the Enterprise Edition sells for $1999.

If you depend on your digital images as a source of income, it's important to take neccessary precautions to ensure your hard work is secure. Even if you don't make a profit from your photos, watermarking is an easy way to claim ownership regardless of whether the message is visible or invisible.


About Stacy Reed

Stacy Reed is Tucows' resident software librarian and editor. She has been reviewing PC and mobile software as well as web services for over a decade. Helping developers improve and promote their products is only one of her areas of expertise. Stacy is also an advocate for Open Source, Creative Commons and freeware, taking special interest in educational resources, social media, cloud sharing, and mobile technology.

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