Google removes watermarks from stock photos using an algorithm, but Shutterstock fights back
As seen first on The Next Web, researchers from Google have developed an algorithm that completely removes watermarks from images in a matter of seconds – and it works entirely automatically. Stock image companies are about to go ape-shit if this goes open-source.
The Google algorithm will affect independent photographers as they use watermarks before selling their work for a commission. With the removal of these watermarks, pirating stock photos will be even greater.
As quoted by The Next Web, “The method – which has been documented in more detail in a paper titled On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks [PDF] – essentially takes advantage of the fact that watermarks, by design, are applied to photos in the exact same manner.”
Essentially, what this means is that existing stock photos use a watermark generator. This generator uses the same imprint on all photos. By effectively using the imprint and overlaying it over the existing image, we can contrast the watermark thereby making it disappear altogether. Using this same method on all stock photos, we can remove all watermarks using a simple program.
Stock photo companies like ShutterStock have already begun to randomize watermarks to prevent the Google algorithm from removing their imprints. But that doesn’t secure all existing stock photos that have used the old method which means millions of images are now up for ransom on pirating sites.
Piracy is a thing.