AI tools used to protect art   

“Content Credentials” will be attachable to uploaded work that gives its origin and owner-developer.

Cox, Sharon(s).jpg

There’s nothing like seeing some of your own artwork show up for sale online; especially when it’s being offered as someone else’s original work. Once an image is posted online, unless it’s blocked, anyone can click, copy and save it to another site. That copy can be printed and sold as if it belongs to the thief. But changes are coming to protect original works, and it’s coming from artificial intelligence.

“Content Credentials” will be attachable to uploaded work that gives its origin and owner-developer. As long as it’s online, and even when transferred, the badge (like an imbedded dog ID) will stay with the artwork.

Over time — usually 100 years or longer, original art becomes “public domain.” It’s why we see DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa” with a mustache in ads. Everyone who knows any history looks at that and sees the original Mona Lisa, but then gets to joke about whatever disguise is attached to the painting. Familiarity sells products and a connection to a famous work of art means buying that product shows you have class. That’s legitimate sales methodology. The artwork is already in the public realm and the artist is known worldwide.

But if you’re a rookie artist and trying to get commissions or sell your art outright, posting your work online can be dangerous. There will always be the person who cheats at life at others’ expense. They can grab your work, paint out your signature and sign their own name. It’s happened and probably will many times over. It’s why all artists are encouraged to document the process as they make a sculpture or create a painting. It’s sad we have come to this, but due diligence is important if you want to protect your own ideas.

When the internet became worldwide and every school, business and home logged in, we had new problems. If a work of art was created using clip art (the free images that could be downloaded and manipulated) the finished pieces were yours, true, but clip art was not originated by the user, so it was not really “original.” Now, art pieces can be drawn and “painted” using online programs and the finished work is your idea but done using someone else’s program. That becomes another question of “originality.”


If a photo of an oil painting is uploaded and someone copies it to their resume, claiming your work is their own, then what can you do? Is it stealing? Yes. What can an artist do to protect ownership? By attaching “Content Credentials” to the image; wherever that photo gets moved to, the icon stays attached. A thief may claim it as their own but anyone looking at the image would be able to click on the icon to check its history.

As new technology is invented and the public accesses it, we will need ownership protection. Like music, writing and every work of art, ownership is required for patents, for marketing, and to protect buyers. It’s why the US government has made cases against other countries where their citizens have made and sold fake products, hoping to gain funds from a known maker in this country. It looks like AI is on the road to protecting artists and inventors from freelancers.

Check Adobe or Amazon for information on “Deep Fakes” and AI protection.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

Sharon Cox retired in 2020 after 28 years at the University of Jamestown, including as department chair and professor of art.

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