Google’s research division today detailed just how easy it is for computer algorithms to bypass standard photo watermarking practices, stripping those images of copyright protection and making them vulnerable to reposting across the internet without credit. The research, presented at a leading computer vision conference in Hawaii back in July, is described in detail in a paper titled, “On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks.”
“As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations,” Tali Dekel and Michael Rubinstein, Google research scientists, explain in a post published on Google’s research blog earlier today.
Dekel and Rubinstein say the core problem with current photo watermarking processes is the high level of consistency in style. “We show that this consistency can be used to invert the watermarking process — that is, estimate the watermark image and its opacity, and recover the original, watermark-free image underneath,” the duo explain. “This can all be done automatically, without any user intervention or prior information about the watermark, and by only observing watermarked image collections publicly available online.”
Source: The Verge