JPEG Images Could Soon Have DRM Protection Baked In

JPEG Images Could Soon Have DRM Protection Baked In

The same technology to protect movies, music and books could soon be coming to your images. The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) recently announced an initiative that may one day bring digital rights management (DRM) to the most common image format in the world.

While the concept is still in discussion and no actual changes to the JPEG format have been announced, the proposed change could potentially protect EFIX and metadata but also prevent you from copying or even opening images. Imagine not being able to repost images on social media or in blogs on the web. Imagine all the memes we would be without!

The proposed actions have some people quite upset, especially fair use rights supporters. The proposal of DRM on a photo could make it difficult for news organization, education and others to use images.

This caught the attention of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who sent representatives to Brussels where the JPEG meeting was taking place. They argue DRM does not in fact work and would inhibit, again, fair use.

“We warn against any attempt to use the file format itself to enforce the privacy or security restrictions that its metadata describes, by locking up the image or limiting the operations that can be performed on it,” the EFF wrote.

Now is DRM JPEGs a good or bad thing? I'm not a privacy expert so I don't have the answers. But imposing this kind of content management on the world's most popular image format doesn't seem like a good idea. As photographers, we all deal with protecting our images with how easy the Internet has made it to copy and repost work without attribution. The option could be available to a accepted format for sensitive information, but opening up the floodgates to suddenly make anyone with Photoshop a license manager isn't what I had in mind.

Should all JPEGs be copy-protected? Or are there better ways? How are you protecting your images?

[via Electronic Frontier Foundation and JPEG]

Casey Berner's picture

Casey Berner is a photographer and videographer based in Seattle. After living in the Midwest, he followed his passion for the outdoors and took up residence in the Pacific Northwest shooting timelapse and landscapes. He spends weekdays in the office as a video and photo producer and weekends in the mountains exploring with his camera.

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They should be, alternatives, yes, less harsh. I protect mine using watermarks...

Check it out, Screen shot, has nothing to do with your meta data or anything... now to blow it up in alien skin......

such as video capturing applications that are native to your OS, they will probably prevent an image from being copied through a screenshot. Nothing would ever be a 100% safeguard for DRM, but you will have to jump through a few hoops


And there is the flaw ... do you know how many screen capture programs are "Native to my OS"?

I use Open Broadcaster Software for creating video tutorials ... I could use it (but I don't) to copy any protected movie ... Netflix, BlueRay, DVD ... so the DRM on those systems only inconveniences legitimate users.

and thats what we call jumping threw a hoop, . . . . nothing is a 100%

But that jumping through hoops isn't an inconvenience to most thieves ... that's the problem. The only people it really inconveniences are the legit users.

where there is a will, there is way, . . . it will eliminate most copyright abuses, . . . the kind of thievery I like to avoid is the average user taking one of my photos, creating a meme with it, and spreading it everywhere, the kind I don't mind as much is the type of thief that is willing to get an extra application to screen shot a 1500px image @72DPI, and use it for something legit, . . . registered image copyright abuse by someone that makes money from it almost always creates a situation where I get to invoice, and collect what I would charge for use anyway

As the owner of the image I would like the option to lock or unlock it.

Just look at what happened at 500px and the chinese deal! All the pictures became available overseas and 500px took a crap on their own rules! :O

But now this comes back to the stupid laws of is my image i just screen shot a new image, although it portrays another artist image, but mine has ads and text on it, its a work of its own, Its like the Instagram D-bad who sells others post and photos.

DRM doesn't work ... it just doesn't! Don't get me wrong ... I believe in protecting IP but this has huge ramifications with ZERO benefit.

You think the protections offered by Netflix or other similar services are really stopping people from pirating their content? think again.

Use a screen casting system and there you are or simply plug your HDMI cable into a HDMI recorder (as low as 100$).

You think DRM on MP3's or CDs is really stopping thieves from stealing the music? Nope.

Use a sound recording program (Audacity for example) and capture the system audio. Perfect copy done! Or hook up a recorder that has a line input to your computer... done. Not everyone has a voice recorder? Yes they do ... they can use their smartphone and a small adapter.

Do you know WHO DRM inconveniences? Legitimate users.

On another site, someone mentioned that they had rented a physical disk movie to watch with his GF (I know, who does that anymore) and was unable to watch it. after 2 hours o surfing for solutions he discovered that the DRM on the disk prevented the use of VGA output ... the DRM CONTROLS WHAT CABLES I CAN USE?!?!?

One of the reasons DRM doesn't work is that you have a few small companies putting their effort against the massed ressources of the internet. It's a fight you can't win ...

Just ask Adobe how the DRM on Adobee CC worked out for them ... it was pirated within A DAY!

I remember ID Software releasing a Demo disk for Quake 1 that also had the full game in it along with EVERY SINGLE GAME they had EVER produced.

The system worked by generating a code for you to use and you would call a 1-800 line where they would then give you another code to enter into the system and it would give you a zip file with the install files ... they claimed the system was unhackable ... if I remember correctly it took about 2 weeks for a crack to appear.


All it does is inconvenience legit users and make snake oil salesmen (the producers of the DRM) rich.

"It only allows content to flow across ports which support the system of DRM."

And those ports use specific cables ... if it doesn't support VGA output then it doesn't support VGA cables ... if it only supports HDMI output then it dictates what type of cable or connection I can use.

if I am setup to watch movies through my VGA port on my TV using a computer, I suddenly have to change my entire theater setup to accommodate this system ...

"Just not to watch their controlled content."

cool, does it say on the box what systems are supported? do I need to carry a card with me at all times with version numbers of my hardware to ensure my hardware is compatible with this DRM? No! I'll get home plop the disk in and then spend a frustrating 30 minutes trying to figure out why the f the movie won't play.

It inconveniences me but not the real pirate who will have already ripped the movie from a the disk anyways or gotten it from a Newsgroup or Torrent site.

My anger isn't at you. DRM is a touchy subject with me. :)

Like I said, I'm a big proponent of IP protection ... huge fan of stopstealingphotos[dot]com ... DRM just isn't the way to go.

Honestly, if people want their images protected. There are effective ways to prevent someone from coping your image. Also online web editors like square space also prevents image to be copied. Really the people to suffer are the professional photographers and artist. I don;t believe uncle bob's vacation shots are going to be use for a commercial ad.

But a lot of people made a good point here. If you want a image. You will get it one way or another no matter what DRM protection they put.

Screen grabs. That is how people are stealing and re posting images on social media. If it doesn't stop screen grabs I don't care.