Professional photographers and just about anybody who enjoys taking pictures should know the importance of watermarking their work. It’s a safe and easy way to make sure your pictures aren’t being used carelessly all over the internet. Artists in general prefer to receive payment for their work if someone wants to use it for themselves. Unfortunately, it looks like a team of Google researchers has some bad news for those folks.
It turns out they discovered an algorithm that allows them to automatically erase watermarks from images, including stock photography organizations, according to Gizmodo. They presented their findings at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference recently. Though this can be upsetting for some, it may sound like a golden opportunity for others.
Before this, if you wanted to use an image but had to find a way around the watermark, you had to take it into Photoshop and spend a large amount of time trying to erase it. Either that or you could have just simply paid for it — but we all know how the internet works. If there’s a way to getting it without paying for it, someone will find a way. It’s why programs like Exif were created. But even with the latest versions of Photoshop, erasing a watermark completely is still a real chore.
Google, however, has found its way around this, as long as it can study several sample images that have all been touched with the same watermark or logo. The software scans a very large number of sample images from any given stock picture provider, carefully comparing them until it can find a repeating pattern that shows the watermark being used. Now that it knows what the watermark looks like, this makes it much easier for the software to simply remove it and leave behind a perfectly clean photo, without reducing the quality.
This only works on pictures from a stock photo provider with thousands of watermarked samples that can be analyzed. In addition, Google did create a way to counteract this. Randomly warping the watermark, ever so slightly, for each image will prevent the software from removing it entirely. Google did add that it’s possible someone will figure out a way around this method in the future, however.