First Copy Protection Software for Images on the Internet

January 1998
First Image Protection Released.

When images used in news and advertising are copied or captured in some way, it is not normally an issue. However, it is quite different for artists and photographers and their creative and unique works should always be protected from capture. Unfortunately, this illegal capture has become a real problem for many of them.

While many web artists are flattered that their images may be sought, others who are more dependent on preserving creative concepts would opt to die before they put their work on display and risk getting them copied. The computer with the internet is such that can only be considered a "copy machine". For artists and galleries to present their wares on the web, some form of image protection or restriction needs to be introduced.

For artists to exhibit safely and thus share the new medium, ArtistScope began to develop an interest in finding solutions for image protection. 

Early experiments turned up a couple of useful methods that offered protection of the image from mouse saves but were not developed further, as they needed version 4 browsers. At the time, nearly everyone was still using v3. Still looking, ArtistScope eventually explored all the computer languages, looking for a denominator. When they got to Java, the developers found out that an applet could offer protection of the image from direct mouse saving. Using development kits that were licensed from Sun, they decided to look further.

Unfortunately, posting the news to the site’s art mailing list, which had, by then, grown to 1600 members, invited more than what was expected. Their website was being hacked almost every day. When the company’s ISP had no idea of what was going on, they set up their own traps and then found that they were also being probed from within. The proprietor of the ISP was also looking at ArtistScope’s system without consent!

The site was off-line so often that they had to relocate, and at the worst time. The 1998 International Art Contest, which ArtistScope was hosting, had to be relocated as well. After learning that a provincial ISP can be one’s worst nightmare, they eventually opted to use Australia's largest and went for a much more sophisticated service. They have only just finished the contest scripts when they had to be completely rewritten for NT.

It wasn't until the end of that year that they finally got around to packaging the program. After the contest results were published with great success, they set about packaging their system. As a means of supporting the contest as an ongoing event, Secure Image Protection was released for sale to the public.

Secure Image was the first image protection system that offered real protection from all the common avenues of copying. The images are safe on the server and cannot be retrieved by direct linking nor can they be taken from the Temporary Internet Folder.

Secure Image represents the first image protection system that provides security of the image once downloaded. Its inception and the introduction of image encryption for the Internet stand as a landmark in Internet technology.