Protect Your Sites
By Clayton Crooks
If you're a Web designer, you've undoubtedly spent
countless hours designing and perfecting the various
graphical elements of sites on which you work. With
all of the time and hard work you put into a site,
it's certain that you'd do everything you could to
protect the site from easy theft. Copyrighting the
site is the obvious first step to take, as a copyright
protects unique works ranging from books to Web sites.
However, even if you protect your works with a
copyright, they'll continue to be an easy target for
unscrupulous individuals who can download some
elements, or even all of your site, and call the work
their own. If you're serious about protecting your
investment, you should know about new technologies
like digital watermarking that let you enforce your
|ImageBridge and ImageBridge Pro
cost: Contact vendor for pricing.
The best solution available for protecting Web media.
High durability settings can cause visible distortion.
When you think of watermarks, you probably envision
the traditional type that's applied to paper. These
watermarks are mostly transparent and are added to a
document to offer proof of authenticity. Digital
watermarking uses the same basic idea, but it acts on
image files and is accomplished with the use of
software like Digimarc ImageBridge.
Digital watermarking is currently the best protection
available to Web designers. It lets you invisibly sign
works, so you can demonstrate your copyright in
disputed claims. A Digimarc watermark is a message,
like a copyright notice, that's embedded into an
image, navigation bar, button, photo, video, or any
other type of visual content. The ImageBridge software
embeds the messages by making subtle changes to the
brightness of the pixels in an image. Differing from
their printed counterparts, digital watermarks are
usually imperceptible to a casual viewer.
Tracking Images on the Web
Using digital watermarks can let you prove that an
image is owned by you, but how can you possibly track
image theft? After all, there are millions of Web
sitestoo many to be checked manuallyto determine
whether the images on them are owned by the respective
sites. This is where Digimarc MarcSpider comes in
MarcSpider is a service that you can add on to
ImageBridge for an extra cost (licensed through a
partnership with Cobion). It crawls around the most
highly trafficked public areas of the Web looking for
images. When it locates an image, MarcSpider attempts
to determine whether the image has a Digimarc
watermark embedded in it. If so, it records the image
location and details such as the date and file size.
Users of the service have unlimited access to online
reports that contain thumbnails of the images found,
along with links to the pages containing them.
Of course, a service like MarcSpider can't possibly
cover the entire Internet. Its searches are limited in
scope by the major search engines, which, according to
NEC Research Institute (www.wwwmetrics.com), account
for only 15 percent of the sites on the Web.
Standard or Pro?
To use ImageBridge or ImageBridge Pro watermarking,
you must first subscribe to Digimarc
(www.digimarc.com). For basic communication of
copyright ownership that lets you display contact
information, you'll probably need only the standard
ImageBridge services. But if you want to use images
with transaction ID numbers or if you want to include
links to image-specific information on your Web site,
you'll need the Pro version.
Once you've determined the version you need and have
subscribed to the appropriate service, you'll receive
a 2-digit PIN and a 6-digit Digimarc Creator ID with
which to watermark your images. Next, you must
determine which software package you'll use to embed
the watermarks. Some products, like Jasc Paint Shop
Pro and Adobe Photoshop, are Digimarc ImageBridge
enabled, meaning that you can embed the watermarks
directly from these products.
Embedding the Information
Regardless of the software you use, embedding a
digital watermark takes only a few simple steps.
First, you must run the Digimarc plug-in for your
respective software application. For instance, if you
use PhotoShop 6, the Digimarc plug-ins "Embed
Watermark" and "Read Watermark" are found via the
Filters menu under Digimarc. To enter your Digimarc
ID, choose Embed Watermark and a window appears that
lets you personalize your software with your Digimarc
ID and PIN.
Once you've personalized the plug-in, you can use it
to embed information such as copyright date and
restrictions. The plug-in also lets you determine the
visibility at which the information is embedded. The
more visible the watermark is, the more durable it is.
Likewise, as you lower the visibility, you lower your
chances that the image will maintain the watermark if
it's modified. The sole advantage to using the lower
visibility watermark is that it's less intrusive.
Watermarks in Action
Digimarc's digital watermarking works best with either
color or grayscale bitmap images. Vector images can be
watermarked only after they're converted to a raster
or bitmap format. Watermarks can be used by any file
format supported by applications such as TIFF, PICT,
JPEG, and BMP, to name a few. And because the
watermarks are carried by individual pixels, they're
present even when an image has been converted from one
format to another.
To adequately protect the long hours you spend
developing Web content, you should use a combination
of approaches. First, you should take the time to
copyright your materials. Once you've done so, you
should investigate the digital watermarking
technologies available from Digimarc, Signum
Technologies, and FotoNation. These technologies
currently offer your best defense.
Clayton is a freelance writer and independent consultant based in Knoxville, TN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.