by John Henshall
Copies of digital images are easy to make and identical to the originals. There is no duping loss. Big image files can be stored easily and cheaply on today's wide variety of high capacity storage media and can be moved around easily and anonymously. Images can only be seen when the files are opened and viewed, making policing difficult.
When you do discover that an image has been stolen, identifying it as one of yours is much easier if it is digitally 'fingerprinted' using an application such as Signum Technologies' 'SureSign'. Fingerprinting is a technique for adding invisible information to a digital file for the purpose of identifying, tracking or validating that file. It can carry information which identifies the owner of the work, together with an image or transaction number. Although the added information is imperceptible to the naked eye, it can be identified using special detection software - even off the printed page.
But, even then, you may be put off by the cost of taking legal action against the culprits, in effect allowing them to get away with the offence. For, although copyright infringement for profit is a criminal offence, you are likely to be on your own when it comes to hauling the matter through the courts. Until now.
New Mexico Software Limited, in conjunction with CE Heath and the Lloyd's of London Syndicate Beazley, are about to launch CoPs Gold, a new Intellectual Property Insurance which covers legal advice by telephone in respect of copyright and contractual issues. The policy also covers legal expenses for an alleged infringement of the insured's intellectual property. Losses are determined using FotoQuote software, used to determine the lost fees, dependent upon the type of publication and use of the image.
The insured must be able to prove that the intellectual property has been fingerprinted using SureSign, which alerts users of the image file to the fact that it is copyright and is also able to lead users to the copyright owner, via a database on the World Wide Web.
Cost of the policy is related to the photographers' or small photo-library's income. For example, for an income of £20,000 the cost is £299.00 for a year, including Signum SureSign software and a Signum WWW register entry for one year. This provides legal cover for up to £15,000 of claims in the year. The Excess is 10% of the claim, with a minimum of £150 and maximum of £750. Custom policies will be available for larger libraries and corporates.
Cover is worldwide, so if you find an infringement in New Zealand, for example, you telephone the help line and give details. Then the policy comes into force, provided the conditions have been met. How do you police infringements? New Mexico Software now have a web crawler which can browse the internet to find fingerprinted images. It is only a matter of time before they offer a bounty hunting service to trace unauthorised use on the Internet.
CoPs could be exactly what photographers have been waiting for to add some real bite to their threats to take action against digital copyright bandits.
When up and running in March 1998, CoPs informational and purchase can be obtained through www.pixsure.net. In the meantime, telephone enquiries may be directed to Roland Miller at 01992 589579. Signum Technologies Limited (SureSign) may be contacted at 01242 580555 or www.signumtech.com
PLEASE NOTE: The name of this insurance has been changed from Pixsure to CoPs since this article was published in "The Photographer" in February 1998.