Protecting Intellectual Property

copy protect pdfFor artists, authors and other creative professionals, protecting intellectual property may be necessary to protect one's livelihood.

Copyright can protect anything that you have wholly created and considered to be original such as literary works, artworks, designs, recipes and software. But Copyright is only a deterrent to entities that are worthwhile suing. For example an author publishing a literary work plagiarized from another author will not welcome the bad publicity, and likewise, a company using another's designs without their approval could be sued for millions. But Copyright may not be a deterrent to a market stall holder who downloads and prints artworks from the Internet for sale from his stall. Nor might it be a deterrent to the public downloading and copying videos without contributing to the cost of their production.

For companies with trade secrets, recipes, formulas or financial data that needs to be restricted to in-house use only, Copyright is not going to be a deterrent at all.

So drastic measures may need to be employed to copy protect such media. However there are many techniques that can be used to obtain a copy such as duplicating the file for redistribution, making a visual copy using PrintScreen or screen capture software, or screen recording the whole animated display.

Unfortunately computers were only ever designed to store and display content. Once in memory or the clipboard, data and media can be easily moved around, converted to different file types and distributed by email, file download or on disk. Likewise any media published on the Internet becomes fair game and easily accessible by millions of people who believe that it is their privilege to do whatever they want with it. In fact before copy protect solutions were ever available for digital media, it was proclaimed by those on the technical side of the IT industry that a) it was impossible to copy protect digital media, and b) why would anyone bother to copy protect anything?

Well, having been there at the time and wanting to copy copy protect the works for my fellow artists, the ones that did not want to give away their niches for free, I found this pretty daunting. But I also saw it as a challenge and threw down the gauntlet to every software developer that I could reach, including those at Netscape and beyond.

Nobody knew where to start or even what could be expected of a copy protection solution. As an artist I had ideas and researched and experimented to no end, but found that most programmers lacked the imagination to see where any idea could lead. That is until I met Tonny Espeset who worked with Java and images to create impressive image effects. Consequently we gave birth to the first solution to copy protect images on the Internet and the first image encryption software. That was in 1998 and copy protection has come a long way since then. But so have the means of copying media. While Secure Image encrypted images could not be saved, downloaded or stolen from a server even by your web master, it could be obtained by PrintScreen. And that is when a plethora of software for screen capture appeared.

PrintScreen keyboard buttonThe PrintScreen button has always been on the keyboard, but not many knew that by simply pressing that [PrtScn] key that a copy of the computer screen is saved to the clipboard where it can be retrieved for use in image editing software. In fact as well as the PrintScreen key, a copy can also be obtained by simply using Ctrl-C for copy and Ctrl-V for pasting the copy to anywhere that you desire. At the time even among graphic artists working with images every day, only 1 in 10 knew about PrintScreen. So when screen capture software became available it was most popular. But it was also most laughable because the naive public was paying for software that wasn't needed if one knew about the PrintScreen button.

keyboard buttons for copyingAnyway, to cut a long story short (one that I may revisit one day) copy protection software and screen capture software have both evolved. Copy protect software has become more sophisticated to cater for the different media and to stay on top of new and sophisticated copy methods, while screen capture software has become more sophisticated by smoothing the transition from copy to final placement into a variety of different projects. With every new release of Windows comes new opportunities for copying while at the same limiting what one can do to prevent it. Of the hundreds of brands of screen capture and recording software one will find that they all work. But of the scores of copy protection solutions that claim to be the "best copy protection" not many live up to their claims and some don't even come close.

Author: William Kent
Date: 9th July 2019

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Ken Douglas 2019-07-20
I found one site for copy protection that claimed to have a solution for protecting every type of file imaginable, including options for protecting them on web pages. So I signed up for their trial of web page protection and was offered a password protected file. It seems that is all they have on offer for everything.

iCartoon 2019-07-24
I could not agree more. When I Googled "image protection" I got pages of results for site's blogging about the topic but not offering any better suggestions than watermarking and disabling right-mouse click which is useless. On closer inspection, they all seem to have copied the same information and reworded it. The blogs on the first page were mostly web hosting companies and other sprukers trying to draw attention to themselves. But nowhere did I see any reference to any secure means of image protection such as CopySafe which are fantastic by the way!

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