All posts tagged digimarc

Sooo… in about a month and a half it’s about a year ago I wrote a re-revisited on the Digimarc topic. I was reminded about it, because I got a mail from them that my subscription was going to end. Read that re-revisited for the details on that. Before that I wrote already two other pieces about it.
In that re-revisited I wrote that I would probably do another blog post with the results on the reporting. Well… You haven’t heard from me before, because… there was nothing to report.
I was told that indexing would be done maybe once every 3-6 months on websites where there wasn’t much traffic, and I already expressed my concern in regards to the usability of this reporting service for the photographer hosting his own images on his own site as opposed to on websites with a massive amount of traffic like Getty Images, iStock, or the likes.
I must honestly admit that I haven’t checked the report frequently, but there was no need for it. I was set up with the free pro account to test it out on July 21st 2010, and now, June 3rd 2011, so ten months later, there has been no activity in my account’s report. No images found / indexed. Not a single one. Not even on my own website.
So… Conclusion…
No disrespect towards the great people there, with their excellent customer service and an otherwise good (but not spectacular) product: would I invest in Digimarc Digital Watermarking? No. I wouldn’t.
The one thing that makes this product interesting is exactly the reporting of how and where my images appear. But if the only way to have that reporting working is to get a massive amount of traffic (because those are the websites they primarily target), it doesn’t make any sense to get this as a photographer who doesn’t get x1000 visitors on my website daily (or even weekly). The digital watermarking isn’t as invisible as is portrayed, especially not if you don’t have the high-resolution image available. And personally if I can’t trace back the image with the digital watermark I prefer to have a visible watermark on the image so people don’t steal the images in the first place.
Also the limitation of 2,000 or 5,000 images which you could digitally watermark per year seems to be a bit odd. As a photographer, especially stock and travel photographers, you probably shoot well over that amount of images. You’d have to sign up for the most expensive package for an unlimited amount of images you could watermark.

But anyway… the decision is yours.
I think this topic is closed for all I care 😉

This has been standing in my draft queue for quite some time now. It wasn’t quite done yet, and there were a couple of things I needed to check first, but here we go then (a couple of days mentioned below isn’t quite accurate anymore, that’s a month and a half or so ago by now 😉 )

Wow… I’m getting the feeling I’m being watched 😉

A couple of days ago I revisited my Digimarc experience and I wrote how I was contacted by Ms Gina Giachetti, representing Digimarc, and asked if I wanted to blog about the new Digimarc.
I wasn’t too keen at first to write about it, since my first experience with Digimarc wasn’t all that spectacular, but Ms Giachetti promised to put me in touch with a product manager to “talk things over”. For some reason that went all south because of a miscommunication, as it now appears: holidays from both sides (I had no idea Digimarc was located in Oregon, otherwise I could’ve stopped by the office in March when I was in Oregon!), busy time schedules, etc. etc.

Anyway… I posted the revisited the 28th in the morning, and that same day in the evening there’s a mail from Ms Giachetti waiting in my inbox. Yep, things had gone all south, and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So we gave it a second try and last Wednesday she set me up in a telephone conversation with Digimarc’s product manager Ben Bounketh. Very agreeable guy, I must say (I’m also not getting paid to say this, dang! 😀 ). We had a really interesting conversation in which he told me a bit more about Digimarc in general and more specifically about the watermarking process and product. I’m not going to repeat that all here, so you’ll have to head on to the Digimarc website. And -I already mentioned in my first post about Digimarc that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their customer service- he set me up with a free Pro account for a year for me to test the new product. Wow! 🙂

Mr Bounketh presented me with a little video on how the new Digimarc Watermarking would be really imperceptible. And no matter how nice he sounded, my first reaction was “Sure, that’s a generic picture, the OLD watermarking would even work on that. You’re not getting off that easily with me!” So… You all probably remember the jellyfish picture I put my test on? That was the OLD method. Ghastly… Autch!

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So I thought, let’s see how Mr Bounketh’s statement will hold up in this image.

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

And well… Kudos, Mr Bounketh. Kudos to you and Digimarc. Compared to the old version this is a world of difference. Where you could see the obvious difference in the first example, even without the need to view full, in the second example I had to enlarge the areas to show the difference, and even then you can’t see it without looking at the full view.
When looking at a 4000+ pixels image at 100% you can see some slight noise in these even areas, but the quality of the images with watermark has improved so much that you can’t even really make a decent comparison anymore.
I’d still be a bit reluctant uploading images with an even background like this in full resolution to for example a stock agency, but for the “normal” images, with a more diverse and detailed background it will be no problem whatsoever, and for web images it will be perfect.

The watermark itself is pretty solid in terms of durability. I put the watermark in a 4000+ pixels image, downscaled in stages and in one go to 300pixels and only at that point was the watermark not found anymore. Upscaling and cropping the same story.
However… as with all editing with images you ARE supposed to do it in the hi-res version, and when I tested adding the watermark to a lower res version it came out with the same ghastly result. So added in a 4000 pixel image and then scaled down to 800 pixels is perfectly acceptable, but adding the watermark straight to the 800 pixels picture is a big no-no (still). When presenting this issue to Mr Bounketh, he did give a plausible explanation. In short and super-simplified something along the lines of the watermark having to be hidden in less available pixels).

Jellyfish comparison

Left the image in which the watermark was added at 800 pixels, right the image where it was added at 4000 pixels and then downscaled to 800 pixels (click to enlarge).

I can’t say anything on the reporting and scouting/tracking of images, yet. That will take some time, but I’m going to upload a batch of generic images with Digimarc watermark to my website and see if they are picked up and where they end up. Mr Bounketh did explain a little on how the searching and “tracking” works. He also noted that, because of the time and costs involved, at this point only larger sites with a lot of traffic will be scanned/indexed on a regular basis.  I’m not really sure if it will be super useful for (starting) artists who don’t have much traffic to their website, since those websites would be scanned/indexed only like once per 3-6 months. But since the price has gone down and the scouting/tracking is included in that price, there’s little to do about it anyway.
I’m happily testing away now, and I’ll probably do a re-re-revisited in a year or so, or if/when I get some data in on the scouting/tracking.

A year and a half or so ago I wrote a piece about Digimarc Digital Watermarking. Back then I had tried the service and wasn’t all that happy with the results, especially not with the price tag that came with it. I never looked back, and I still think that the best way to protect your images is with a big fat watermark dead center.
Occasionally I look at the stats for of my blog and on structural basis I see people having searched for Digimarc ending up here.

The surprise was when in mid February of this year I received a mail from a lady called Gina Giachetti, sent from a gmail address, who apparently is responsible for the pr stuff at Digimarc. In the mail she addresses me with my first name. I don’t find that a real problem in itself, and I don’t require anyone to call me Sir, but for courtesy’s sake she could’ve at least introduced herself and not pretend like she’s known me for 10 years already (and save me the trouble of Googling her to find out who on earth SHE was).
Anyway… She writes me that Digimarc has released 3 new editions of their products and that the prices have gone down. Furthermore she hopes that, as a blogger that reaches the photography and digital imaging community, I will share this information with my readers.

So my blog has been getting an daily average of a whopping 20-30 unique visitors, with some rare peeks if I write something really funny or stupid, so I had my doubts if the reason of her contacting me was truly just her hope of me sharing that new information about Digimarc. What I actually believe is that she found out that if you search for “Digimarc watermarking” in Google the fifth search result on the first page is my blog post, and that’s not really the best marketing / sales post you could imagine.

So I wrote her back that I’ve had previous experience with Digimarc Watermarking and that I wasn’t really all that happy with the service and it’s quite against my principles to promote and support products that I don’t support myself. But that of course I’m happy to talk to an executive or representative and if they can prove to me that the service indeed has approved I would gladly share the information.
I promptly receive a reply from Ms Giachetti in which she writes, among others, the following:

If you like, I’d be happy to arrange for you to speak with a Digimarc executive, and provide you with a way to try out the new technology for yourself. Let me know if that interests you and I’ll see what I can do.

So, wow, try the new technology out for myself, eh? That sounds cool! 🙂 So I tell her sure, I wouldn’t mind testing the new technology and see if it got any better. It takes a week for her to reply this time, after which she apologizes for the delay because of busy schedules. But we’re still on for a talk with an executive, she has someone and we only have to arrange a time to talk.

I inform her with my schedule, we compare and come to the conclusion that around this day, around this time, would be the best for both parties. After that I haven’t heard anything anymore, nor seen any sign of life. I wonder…

So at this point I’m not sure what the service really does. I haven’t used the new version, nor seen it in action, so for all I care you still get a non-working service, only they made it $400 cheaper. To which I say: a $99 product which isn’t working, still is too expensive.

Last summer, when I finished the education at Rocky Mountain School of Photography, I decided to sign up with Digimarc. We had endless discussions about how the web is the perfect place to grab images without paying for them and several of our teachers had been in the situation where they -by accident or not- found out that a company had used their images without permission. So we talked about how to prevent those kind of things from happening and which ways were the best ways to go.

Digimarc was one of the ways. Digimarc has created a plug-in for (among others) Photoshop where you can incorporate an invisible digital watermark uniquely registered to you.
I signed up for it.
And with that, I also signed up for the tracking report, which supposedly tracks down your images with that unique digital watermark on the internet. It cost me a whopping $499, but hey! If it would get me to chase people who use my images without permission, I might be able to claim that money back from them, right?

So I started using the plug-in and Digimarc them with my own unique invisible digital watermark.
The first thing I noticed was that this Digimarc is everything but flawless.

It’s very sensitive when it comes to certain color combinations in regards to visibility. When used with certain kinds of images, there’s a whole issue about how it changes the pixels. Not that you actually get to see your unique digital watermark, but see below what I mean (you might have to click on the image to check the bigger view in order to see the difference clearly):

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So as long as there’s a busy background with many different structures and colors you don’t really see it (you will if you know where to look, but anyway…). However, if you have an even background the “invisible” digital watermark completely screws up the image.

And then there’s the tracking report function. That’s the thing I paid $499 for.
I have a vague memory of one of our teachers telling he tried it, but it didn’t really work for him.
I figured it couldn’t be that bad, but I guess I should’ve listened.

After two months of being subscribed to the service there was no mention in the tracking report of finding any of my images anywhere. Not even on my own website.
I wrote a mail to helpdesk and asked what the usual time was before images were tracked. They told be to have a bit more patience, that it could take anywhere from 2-6 months.
Fair enough, I thought. The internet is a big place, many websites to crawl through.
So I let time pass. I let six months pass. And according to the report the service still hadn’t found any images. I let seven months pass and still no images were found. I let one more month pass just for good faith, but when the tracking report still came back with zero found images I decided it was time again to ask for some explanation.

“This does seem out of the ordinary that our search engine has not been able to locate any of your images if they are not posted within password-protected sites, web pages behind firewalls, Flash-based galleries or database-driven websites that are not open for spiders to crawl.”

My own website only has a flash opening page, but the portfolio is pure HTML / CSS only. Coded it myself, so I know.
Then they wanted me to send some straight links to my images, so their vendor could do a direct search. So I sent them a stack of links directly to my images, on my own website, on this blog, on Imageshack and on another website still.
And again I let time pass. I let one week pass. Two weeks, three weeks… And when after four weeks the tracking report still hadn’t reported any of my images, at all, not even from the straight links that I sent them, I found it well enough. I found I had been sufficiently patient.

So I wrote a mail to helpdesk again in which I kindly told them I paid $499 for a service which was supposed to track images on the internet where I couldn’t find them and that it couldn’t be the idea of the service that the customer supplied links to where to find the images. That I found my patience had been enough after over nine months of nothing and that I thought a reimbursement of the invested $499 was in place.

And even though the tracking service didn’t function properly (or actually, not at all), the customer service does deserve a compliment, because they made no issue whatsoever out of my reimbursement request and the lady told me she’d arrange things with their finance department.
(Now I just hope that it won’t turn out to be a second Rodale where I have to chase after my money for a year).

But anyway… Conclusions of the story:
1) Digital watermarking sucks, it destroys your images
2) Digimarc’s tracking service needs a lot of work before it actually functions
3) Don’t always second guess your teachers, sometimes they actually CAN be right (sorry David 😉 )
4) Best way to protect your images? Big fat visibly transparent watermark right in the center of the image.