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Image Watermarking With ‘pamcomp’

Web: My Dad runs a couple of websites — his architectural photography business, and Andalucia Photo Gallery, a side project selling some lovely photos from the Andalusia region of Spain.

Needless to say, as the family geek, guess who coded all that up? Using WebMake, naturally ;) This was the main reason I wrote the ‘thumbnail_tag’ plugin.

You’ll note, however, that the image to right is watermarked, quite small, and encoded with a low quality setting. It turned out after a couple of years of operation, that the images were being downloaded and used in print all over the place — from both sites!

It seems photo piracy is rampant. Even with terms of use clearly linked on the sites, it’s still commonplace for print publications to swipe the images — and not just the little guys, either — some big commercial names have apparently used the images without asking (or paying licensing fees).

The Andalucia gallery site was a favourite; being a good hit for ‘travel photos spain’ meant lots of images being used for holiday pages in magazines, newspapers, and so on.

Needless to say, digital watermarking software doesn’t work — it’s trivial to load an image into Photoshop, resize or crop, and resave, apparently. Even if PS did respect the watermarks, netpbm doesn’t, and a watermarked image isn’t identifiable as such once it appears in print anyway! So we went for the blunt-tool approach, adding visible watermarks to the images.

It’s pretty easy — pamcomp allows you to overlay one image on top of another, using a third as an ‘alpha mask’ to control transparency. The results are pretty nice and not too intrusive.

It’s a shame it has to be done, though… :(