Monday, July 9, 2007

Time For A New Watermark System

Recently I have given more thought to the importance of metadata and watermarking for images published on the web. I have always been a little slack in marking my images with the proper metadata. I create so many different versions of each image and save them in so many sizes and formats that I more often than not forget to check that I have included keywording and metadata. Even when I remember to mark an image as a copyrighted piece of original art, complete with keywords and warnings; they somehow end up naked and metadata free when they finally show up on a clients web page. No copyright, no keywords, a completely untraceable image. 20 years from now an image could still be circulating in cyber space and I might not even remember that I created it! It's not that I'm that concerned about unauthorized use or suing somebody for damages when they have inadvertently used an image beyond our agreement. I just think it would be great if every image had a simple reasonably small watermark that could point web surfers in the direction of the original content creator. Maybe something as simple as a 3 number system with letters replacing numbers in different positions when the original 999 numbers have been exhausted.

Example: 000, 001, 002, thru 999 then 00A, 00B, 00C and continuing, letters in the first position A01, A02, A03, and second position 0A1 0A2 etc... should give 8,722 different combinations that would be permanently connected to individual photographers worldwide. Each person having a number for life! We would of course have to reserve the number 666 for 'Celebrity Photographer' Annie leibovitz (Just kidding).

If we take it to the next level and use 3 letters and include case sensitive lettering, the possible combinations go far beyond my ability to calculate. After I sell this idea to Corbis or Bill Gates I don't care what the rest of you do with the number system, I'll be living on an island with my harem, counting my money.

Now, the idea in my head is an elegant, artistic font ( Watermark ) that would be uniquely recognizable as a creator tag, possibly contained in a sphere or rectangle with rounded edges. It would definitely have to be so attractive and hip looking that it would be an interesting yet non distracting inclusion into an image. Something like the signature of the artist in an illustration or painting, which we now expect to see on any piece of artwork. For web images, I can't imagine it would be too hard to implement this system. One organization could be created to establish and manage the assignment of each lifetime code with a one time fee that would grant each individual permanent ownership of the number combination, similar to a Brand burned onto a cattle rancher's inventory. To simplify the point, each image is like a wayward steer who has escaped from the rancher's property. Without a brand ( that can't be removed ) the animal's owner cannot be established. An image with a simple code could be connected to you ( Content Creator ) and your website as quickly as you could look up a word on Wikipedia. Without this simple solution, web viewers are unlikely to connect an image with the 'Photographer' who worked so hard to create it. The available options for hidden watermarking and metadata don't address the simple vanity issue of having your work identified with you, the photographer!

People are already accustomed to Social Bookmarking Buttons, favicons in the URL and similar logo identifiers. Why not create something similar for photographers?

Remember, I came up with the idea first! Send your check or money order to......