[okfn-discuss] Annotating Open Images with licence and authorship to prevent copyfraud

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Tue Aug 6 11:06:15 UTC 2013

This is a suggestion for a very simple but effective tool/service to
address copyfraud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyfraud) in images
(especially, but not specifically, in STEM). I and others (e.g. Wikimedia)
have suffered from having  CC-BY images "copyrighted" by a third party (
http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2012/06/13/springergate-springer-replies/ and
earlier). If the images were indelibly stamped with licences and authorship
copyfraud would be very much harder. I suspect this would also be welcomed
by authors themsleves as it promotes their authorship.

At hack4ac http://hack4ac.com/ I suggested a simple project/service to add
Open licence and author information into images. This was later entered as
a developer challenge at repository Fringe (
Independently Chris Gutteridge took the idea and created an ePrints
plugin (and did it better than my code!) - our teams both won prizes. I
also talked with Open publishers including Mark Hahnel (Figshare) and Brian
Hole and they were interested in seeing the idea developed further,
possibly including implementing it.

Neither ChrisG or our team (Cesare Bellini and me) are going to take this
further ourselves but the response was sufficiently positive to see if
OKFNers are interested in seeing it happen.

The actual code is very simple (it took me about 10 lines of Java, Chris
used ImageMagick I think). It writes a licence (e.g. "CC-BY") and
optionally an authorname into the pixels of the image (either overwriting a
small area or transparency/blending). Options would include writing at a
chosen corner / side or adding a small border (which wouldn't affect the
image but would be easier to remove by cropping).

A tool could be used at many places:
* in the software that was used to create the image (e.g. ImageJ - a FLOSS
image manipulation tool for science)
* when the image was uploaded to a repository. Especially when done before
sending images to a publisher
* added by publishers who promote the value of Open licences
* retrospective addition to Open images (e.g. on CC-BY publishers sites or
Wikimedia). This would require the host to cooperate

I don't know whether this is in scope for
http://www.meetup.com/OpenKnowledgeFoundation/London-GB/998522/ tonight's
Open Data maker session - I shall be there.
Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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