Businesses like Adobe Stock use large, visible watermarks to deter copyright infringement; a new paper presented by Google Researchers to the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition shows that these watermarks can be reliably detected and undetectably erased by software.
The researcher recommend several countermeasures: "very subtle warping," and randomizing placement.
The vulnerability of current watermarking techniques lies in the consistency in watermarks across image collections. Therefore, to counter it, we need to introduce inconsistencies when embedding the watermark in each image. In our paper we looked at several types of inconsistencies and how they affect the techniques described above. We found for example that simply changing the watermark's position randomly per image does not prevent removing the watermark, nor do small random changes in the watermark's opacity. But we found that introducing random geometric perturbations to the watermark — warping it when embedding it in each image — improves its robustness. Interestingly, very subtle warping is already enough to generate watermarks that this technique cannot fully defeat.
Making Visible Watermarks More Effective
[Tali Dekel and Michael Rubinstein/Google Research]
Google researchers made an algorithm to delete watermarks from photos
[Khari Johnson/Venture Beat]