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JPEG Could Soon Be DRM Protected

By Kishore Sawh on October 18th 2015


So word on the street is, and by that I mean the mean alleys of the web, is that DRM is headed for JPEG, possibly. Digital Right Management is currently in use in an effort to protect copyrights of music, movies, and books, and the suggestion now is it could very well shortly make its way to ‘protecting’ the most common image type in the world.

So what will this mean? Well, it could be just assuring correct appropriation as embedded in the EFIX and metadata, but also possibly limit the ability to copy, distribute, and even open or screen capture some JPEGs. Of course, the last one would require third party alignment from the software used to screen cap, but that’s not necessarily that difficult to do. Already, if you were to try, for example, to scan the Jefferson’s in your pocket in Photoshop, you wouldn’t be able to do it because the software is picking up particular pieces of information from it and refuse to go any further.



It’s also worthwhile to note that JPEG 2000 has some of this ability already there in the form of a DRM extension called JPSEC, but we all know JPEG 2000 never really caught on. It does serve, though, as a reminder the technology is there. Here’s the suggestion from the Electronic Frontier Association:

We encourage the JPEG committee to continue work on an open standards based Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) architecture for JPEG images that could meet some of the legitimate use cases for improved privacy and security, in an open, backwards-compatible way. However, we warn against any attempt to use the file format itself to enforce the privacy or security restrictions that its metadata describes, by locking up the image or limiting the operations that can be performed on it.


This, no doubt, will cause a great divide between the community and we’re curious what side you’re on.

If you’re of the species of photographer that insists on slapping a watermark for protection purposes on all from the good to the crap photos, then this will likely be right up your alley, but what about the rest of us? And what does this make for even the fair use of images, because I would imagine social media on a whole would suffer to no end should this be implemented.

I would also, however, usher anyone who is entirely against it to remember that photographs aren’t just the reserve of those who take them for enjoyment, but had medical, security, and many other purposes too, and it’s not hard to see that some areas could really benefit from this.

What say you on the matter?

Source: EFF

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Branko Sreckovic

    Imagine future or even present time, ideal world. Insurance company willing to take you some money so you can be repay in the case of your stolen “artistic work”.
    First question from them
    Did you take all measures to prevent it?
    Oh yes I have even applied for DRM protection.
    Question No2
    Great, but did you put it on the Web?
    Answer No2
    End of application at Insurance company
    Sorry…you haven’t read all (printed in small letters)…
    I can imagine this.

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  2. Nolan Akin

    I like the idea. One more way to protect art.

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  3. Jim Johnson

    I have no problem with DRM in the sense that it will make sure the meta data (the author, copyright, etc) has a better chance of staying attached to the image. Which would be great if social media sites set it up to automatically tag that data and give credit.

    And it will help with legitimate court cases.

    However, our relationship to media has changed. We are all part of “share” world, and we need to get used to it. It won’t stop that mentality.

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  4. Daniel Thullen

    Now, if I could just stop having people show me screen captures of my shots (watermarks
    included) on their smart phones.

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  5. Branko Sreckovic

    ‘how is all this enforceable?’
    My people has an old saying: ‘If there is a will there will be path…’
    Wish for allmighty control is present all the time. But i highlight again: remember CDs.

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  6. robert garfinkle

    the web – its ability to function, delivering content to your eyes, has to infringe upon rights in order to do so; as a browser caches all content to your device / machine. Once the content is localized ( cached ) it is displayed. You can then traverse your device and re-copy it to another folder. By rights infringement, technically I mean, your device / machine electronically, by your command / instruction ( clicking / typing the URL, transmits content from a server to YOU…

    So, is that not copyright infringement? where the person serving the content never gave you permission to take it off of “computer ‘A'” ( their machine ) to “computer ‘B'” ( your machine ), regardless if the person serving the site made it public.

    As screwed up and silly as that sounds, I am really sure a lawyer “technically” could make a case for it sonewhere… trust me, the most rediculous defenses have been built on less than that.

    and would we all be at risk of suit, just by virtue of using the web???

    I will repeat, what I just said is silly, right, BUT, could someone not make a case for it if they really tried…

    point is: how do you really enforce DRM anyway; where / how do you set boundaries… maybe that’s an even sillier question / statement. But, when / where / how was the boundary set by the “owner” / “creator” to say to the user, here is limited / full use term of my product / intellectual information / data etc…

    and it’s a world of double standards, as even the NSA, by virtue of some laws on the books claim that agency has rights over my permissive grant, my copyright-ability, to which they claim the right to store information without my permission – can I not sue them over that alone… again, is this silliness I speak of. or could I do a full court press and get our own government on stealing, 4th amendment rights, and really pressing, 1st amendment rights violations.

    Or is it that some individuals use our content, knowingly, wilflully for their gain. is that the whole point of DRM.

    as an author of writing and image production, no, I would not like nor give permission for anyone to do with what they want with my images etc.

    at any rate.

    would GIF, PNG, and other file formats have to go under scrrutiny or line-up to have DRM applied / considered???

    how is all this enforceable?

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  7. Branko Sreckovic

    I see this becoming a big at least bigger thing. Sure if you can see it you can steel it. Nobody really needs DRM to prove through court that somebody took over credits for their shots.
    But I see this become bigger thing because this world is driven by ‘GBB’ Greed n Big Brother. I am sure somebody has been calculating what kind of control this can make. On the other side I can see somebody is calculating how much he or she can gain if they would use stolen JPEG.
    Furthermore I can forecast the next step in so called ‘protection of author’s rights’ revert again on wet darkroom and chemical photography. Remember CDs and vinyl records?
    What is unknown is the time when it will happen. For me that is mere BS. People just don’t want to accept the risque of being exposed on the Internet. Forgive my tongue but being on the ‘Net’ is like being in the biker’s bar or brothel ‘armed’ with very unrelieable condom.
    And regarding those scans of Jefferson or Franklin?
    According to Ken Rockwell blog, Photoshop 6 or maybe Photoshop 7 was the last of photo editors which will allow you to scan Jefferson or Franklin without automatic sending all your data and mailboxes to Secret service or whichever Agency is dealing wit that. Crime or DRM doesn’t pay off.

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  8. Ben Perrin

    Meh, if you can view it you can steal it. Maybe this will help with some court cases but surely having the originals will be better proof anyway. I don’t see this becoming a big thing.

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  9. Rob LaRosa

    “scan the Jefferson’s in your pocket” – Strange phrase to use since it infers people are attempting to scan $2 bills which are rare and not commonly in one’s pocket or they’re scanning nickels which would be…. Weird.

    Although, if one did have a $2 bill I guess one would want to scan it just to prove they actually exist.

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