Screenshot taken 2.1.2023
By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Marketing, Communications & Blog Coordinator
As if it’s not bad enough that artificial intelligence (AI) apps are often trained using copyright-protected art, or that these apps sometimes use copyrighted art in the images they “create,” or that AI art has won art contests, or that a AI-created children’s books are being offered for sale, or that the ability of companies to use AI to make images they previously would have paid artists to create devalues the actual work of artists like photographers, now comes an AI-powered app that removes watermarks, opening up another can of copyright and ethical questions.
The end of watermarks?
A new app, WatermarkRemover.io is out. It claims to “get rid of watermarks from your images using … powerful AI technology.” The website says that, while artists see watermarks as a way of protecting their copyright on images, regular viewers find the marks distracting, “triggering a hunt for a way to remove them cleanly.” I’m sure (wink, wink, wink) that the people behind this app sincerely believe (cough, cough) that people will only use the app for their own aesthetic enjoyment of art and not for any commercial purpose or in violation of copyright.
If you look deep down in the website, the company says, “we suggest that users should not remove watermarks from the images for commercial use, or remove copyrighted images’ watermarks,” and absolve themselves of any responsibility for what users do.
We recently wrote about the beginnings of a movement to opt one’s images out of AI training and both Getty Images and individual photographers have filed lawsuits against AI companies for using copyrighted images in AI training as well as in the images generated by the AI algorithms. It really is the wild west out there.
And that begs the question: At a time powered by AI, have watermarks become irrelevant? Is there anything artists can do to protect their rights? It looks like we are a long way from an answer.
Thanks to NANPA’s Sean Fitzgerald for passing along information about the watermark removal app. We’ll continue to follow AI issues, particularly relating to copyright protections, as they develop.
Advocacy for photographers’ rights
Meanwhile, NANPA (through its Advocacy Committee) and ASMP fight for the IP rights of nature photographers through and in collaboration with organizations like the Copyright Alliance and Coalition of Visual Artists. Learn more about NANPA’s advocacy work here.
Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He serves as NANPA’s Interim Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages NANPA’s blog. He can be found online at frankgallagherphotography.com or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.