If the war between AI and "real" photography wasn't heated enough, fuel has been added to the fire as new, free, downloadable AI-powered software has emerged with one specific purpose: to remove watermarks from images.
This is a huge problem. The lack of understanding around AI-generated art and who it belongs to is bad enough, but it is now becoming dangerous to the industry – with no repercussions to those who breach copyright by using the grey area of AI as a get-out for stealing existing image datasets or passing off recycled work as new.
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Not only is it now becoming easier than ever to steal work from creatives using AI generators, but it seems almost like people are being encouraged to do so.
WatermarkRemover.io (opens in new tab) is a free downloadable tool and its purpose is in the name. Easily accessible both online and via the Google Play store, the software is completely free for personal use, but will require a subscription plan for commercial or professional use. How does this benefit the original photographer?
A watermark is essentially an artist's signature that many photographers use to discern their work, and to protect it as a quick and easy layer of additional defense to deter people from stealing their images or claiming photography as their own.
Unfortunately, using a watermark on your digital images just isn't enough any more – and despite copyright laws, image metadata embedded into the files, and an obvious big logo on the image, individuals will still attempt to steal your work and stoop as low as using AI software to do it.
The WatermarkRemover.io software works the same way as most modern editing apps, and can auto-erase sections of an image or background that aren't wanted.(opens in new tab)
It first uses what it refers to as area prediction to establish where the watermark might be, and then segregates the different colors. The AI is smart enough to fill in the gaps and can then reconstruct the empty space to look natural.
As reported by (opens in new tab) CreativeBloq, removing a watermark without consent from the original copyright owner is illegal, at least in the US, but legalities are becoming a little murky when AI gets involved and rules can be difficult to enforce.
What do we make of this AI watermark eraser? Is it handy for photographers who mistakenly deleted the un-marked original image, or is this new AI just another stepping stone towards the eventual downfall of photographers?
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