Minimal Protection for Images

I’ve already had at least one image of mine pirated for derivative work sold on CafePress. I like sharing my photography with others, but I’d also like to get my fair share when it comes to profits made from my work.

Something that isn’t a whole lot of work turns out to be adding a plaintext comment to a JPEG format image. I’m using the “jhead” utility that is available for many different platforms. (Anybody else remember the king of multi-platform applications, the Kermit terminal and file transfer utility?) In any case, replacing a current comment in a JPEG file with something specified in a command-line string is simple:

jhead -cl ‘Copyright 2009 by Wesley R. Elsberry. All rights reserved.’ picture.jpg

That would set the “picture.jpg” comment field to be the copyright statement in single quotes.

I just wrote a short Perl script that is trundling through the images directory I have for this blog and adding the comment line to all of them. I’ll be adding that to my regular processing workflow on my file server, so in the future every JPEG file going out should have my copyright statement included.

It is pretty easy to strip comments, too, but at least for casual thieves the comment field should give me an opportunity to find my work when it strays.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

4 thoughts on “Minimal Protection for Images

  • 2009/03/10 at 10:25 am

    Not saying I would steal your images, but if you can write a perl script to add that text than I can write one to remove your text. There are only 3 psuedo-solutions to this problem:

    Use images small enough that people wont try to use them for derivative works.

    Use flash to display your images, if you know perl then you could figure out flash, I personally like Slideshow Pro.

    Use photoshop or the like to put a visible watermark on your images.

    Good luck and I do enjoy your blog and photos, though I enjoy them without piracy.

  • 2009/03/10 at 4:34 pm

    I agree that use of the JPEG comment capability is easily sidestepped, but a large class of casual infringers likely don’t even know that such a property exists.

    The images I post here are typically sized to just fit in my theme, and so are 560 pixels on the long dimension. That would be suitable for printing to perhaps 2 or 3 inches on the long side. However, the CafePress infringer simply based a silhouette on such an image, and applied that to the creation of about 70 different products. Much smaller than that size, though, and one is talking about small screen sizes, too.

    I really dislike using proprietary things like Flash for distribution. My preference for web communication aims closer to lowest common denominator.

    ImageMagick provides a means to watermark images, making it easy to script watermarking over 90,000 images.

    Thanks for the comment and ideas. I hope you continue to find things here of interest.

  • 2009/03/15 at 11:24 am

    What’s an authoritative download source for jhead?
    Is it in Perl or does it need compilation?

  • 2009/03/15 at 11:39 am

    You can get “jhead” here.

    There is a source tarball plus pre-built binaries for Windows, Mac, Linux, and FreeBSD.

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