Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Track Your Package? Sure. Track Your On-Line Images? Now You Can!

If you’re a creative type and post pictures of your work, you’ve probably wondered about how to prevent your images from being reproduced on other peoples’ web sites without your permission. If it’s happened to you and you know about it, you’ve probably uttered the “GRRRR” sound, or worse, in response. Most people don’t even know when their images have been reproduced elsewhere as most of the time no one bothers to ask permission, hence no “GRRRR” sound.

Creating a watermark on the image is one way to discourage this type of cyber-theft from happening, and there’s a lot of software out there to help you do this. A guick Google search for “watermark software” will help you find them.  But what if you don’t want a big, fat, not necessarily pretty, watermark smack dab in the middle of that beautiful picture of your work?

There’s an alternative that, in addition to putting a discrete mark on your image, allows you to track where else that image is appearing. It’s called DIGIMARC FOR IMAGES, and does just that. Their web site says, “Digimarc for Images allows you to communicate your ownership and other information about your images with a digital watermark that persists wherever they may travel across the Internet.”

The company has two levels of this type of service, and naturally there’s a price difference. The basic package ($49 per year) communicates ownership info and usage rights, while the more expensive professional package ($99 per year) is the one that allows you to track on-line usage.

How It Works
Digimarc’s software creates digital data that’s embedded into all forms of media (photo, video, music, or other content). For example, with a photo image it’s a plug-in that’s pre-installed in Adobe Photoshop and then is included in jpg and gif image files.

Digimarc's descriptive web site image of how their service works.

Digimarc’s web site includes six helpful video tutorials that walk you through the process from how to digitally watermark your images to how to “beat the villain” and communicate your information.

Reversing the Process
What if you want to find out the information contained in a Digimarc’ed image? Also, what if you want to share more information about your company or product that someone can access from this image?

It’s called “Digimarc Discover™,” and of course, there’s an app for that, both on Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), and Android based devices. The above link will take you to their web site where you will find information about the product and links to the appropriate app store for your device. These apps are free.

Other Information That A Digimarc’ed Image Can Convey
In addition to useful information about the creator of an image, this mark can convey a lot of other information; i.e., more product details than just what an image can say,

Beryn Hammil Designs' QR Code
Some tech people consider this to be another form of QR codes. I’ve written several posts about this technology, and to get up to speed, suggest that you start reading the series of them here: “What’s QR Code And Is It Right For Your Business?”

Digimarc’s FAQ page for the Discover app has lots of answers to commonly asked questions, and might be a good place to start your research.

Full Disclosure
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had difficulties with the Discover app for my iPhone 4S. The FAQ section suggests updating to the latest version of iOS, which of course, I have, but the app still isn’t functional for me while I’ve had no  trouble with QR code reading apps.

Additionally, I read magazines on my iPad, and often will use my iPhone with QR code reader apps to get more information from the ads I see there. The Discover app will not read the icon on an iPad screen. I’ve been in touch with the company to let them know and they say it’s something that they’ll review in upcoming product development meetings.

In Conclusion
There's much happening in the realm of expanded information sharing, and I believe that right now we're experiencing just the tip of the iceberg with both Digimarc's Discover and QR codes, so stay tuned. As more information becomes available I'll be sharing my thoughts and opinions about them. 

The information contained herein is for guideline purposes only, is not intended as an endorsement of any product, and is no guarantee of the results.

Images courtesy of Digimarc and Hot Topic Needs to Stop Stealing Art

Copyright © The B. Hammil Company 2011

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