Picscout Protects Image Copyright, the First Digital Fingerprints for Photography

Defending image copyrights seems like a useless task, particularly if we want to diffuse them online. Up until now, not even signatures and watermarks could protect photographs from undesirable use. With the creation of Picscout, Offir Gutelzon now allows everyone the opportunity to protect their images by giving them an identity, similar to a digital fingerprint.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Offir Gutelzon and I am the CEO and co-founder of PicScout who are based in Israel, with the mission of ensuring that every image gets its credit.

Could you tell us about PicScout?

I co-founded PicScout in 2002 at a time when stock agencies were still searching for their images online, checking to ensure these had been rightfully attributed and trying to determine if licensing had been engaged for the online use of images owned by the stock agency. This proved to be a challenging task, if not an impossible one and together with my partner, we recognised a tremendous market need for an automated system which could track, protect and monetise images on the ever-exploding web.

I assumed the role of taking our vision from an idea to a product operation model, through research and development and into reality, which we knew would require a seamless infrastructure capable of serving millions of rights managed images globally. Through the PicScout proprietary and highly scalable image recognition technology, we created the image copyright protection marketplace, bringing millions of dollars back into the industry with our now widely-used product, ImageTracker. From the outset, we aimed to make image commerce a legitimate internet economy.

At the end of 2009 we launched the PicScout platform with the name ImageIRC, which stands for Index, Registry and Connection. This was the first time the vision and the technology of our long-standing goal ‘every image gets its credit’ became a reality. Together with the platform, we also launched an application called ImageExchange, which for the first time let users connect any image on the web to the original source of the image.

How does the PicScout technology work? And what is its technological role in photography?

Each unique component works as part of a larger operation. Using the analogy of a wheel, while there is only one wheel, it takes all the spokes of that wheel to function and achieve the end goal. As such, each of the components of PicScout’s service is unique and tailored to the requirements of the end solution.

Another key analogy in understanding how PicScout technology works is that of finger printing – each image has unique patterns similar to the unique patterns in human fingers. For photography this technology means that if a particular image is ‘fingerprinted’ and stored within the ImageIRC platform, it will forever be traceable – even if the metadata of the image was stripped or the images was cropped, flipped, coloured or highly distorted

Finally in order to constantly monitor media, such as web content, PicScout uses extensive crawling technology, which essentially searches the web for any misuse of a fingerprinted image.

Will this be the end of watermarks on images to protect against theft?

I think they are complementary and fingerprinting technology and watermarks should be used in conjunction with the other. Watermarks don’t actually protect the image from theft, particularly when you consider that tools like Photoshop can easily remove them; however they do provide a nice credit on the image, which does help to deter people from using the image commercially.

Is it realistic to offer a worldwide base, an index, of identified credits on images, like you do?

Through its ImageIRC platform, PicScout laid a foundation, demonstrating that offering a worldwide base index is possible from both a technology and participation perspective.

The ImageIRC has already populated over 60 million images and has millions more in the pipeline. As you can imagine building such an index was a real combined effort from members of the photography community, from software and content creators to agencies and publishers, and as of now, photographers are invited to upload their images to ImageIRC via www.picscout.com

Do you think that the businesses who will use this kind of technology in the future will rise above the rest, more so than the other businesses? Is this necessary in our current digital world?

Both image buyers, as well as the photographers who use these tools, that not only simplify licensing but also increase distribution and visibility, will find themselves rising above the rest. It’s also important to recognise that these tools are available today.

Interview by RD, translation by LG

Link to Picscout’s Website