New Photoshop ‘Content Attribution’ Tool Tracks Edit History and Prevents Photo Theft

Somewhere in the mountain of announcements that Adobe dropped this morning—including major updates for both Photoshop and Lightroom—the company found time to unveil a prototype of its much-anticipated “Content Attribution” tool: a system that cryptographically embeds editing and attribution info into photos so that everyone can see when a photo has been edited, how it’s been edited, and who the image belongs to.

The prototype comes a full year after Adobe first announced the Content Authenticity Initiative at AdobeMAX 2019, and we have to say, we’re glad to see it take shape. The goal is to create an “industry-wide attribution” system that will “increase trust and transparency online,” and today, we get to see exactly how Adobe envisions this system working.

Available to a select group of beta testers, the attribution tool is built right into Photoshop as its own opt-in panel, which customers can use to embed a secure layer of “tamper-evident attribution data” to their images. That includes the author’s name, location and a full edit history, as well as a list of any and all assets that were used to create the image (if it’s a composite). Once attached, all of a photo’s authorship and editing info will be viewable on compatible sites like Behance.

You can see the prototype in action in the video demo below:

Seeing the Content Authenticity Initiative bear fruit like this actually has us excited. There’s no question that the world is hungry for a universal standard that can lend legitimacy to photography online and prevent people from stealing photos willy nilly, and if anybody can create such a standard, it’s a huge company (with deep pockets) like Adobe.

The main challenge facing the initiative moving forward will be adoption: the more people, companies, and publications adopt this standard, the more people, companies, and publications will feel compelled to do so. As Adobe puts it, it’s a virtuous cycle:

We believe attribution will create a virtuous cycle. The more creators distribute content with proper attribution, the more consumers will expect and use that information to make judgement calls, thus minimizing the influence of bad actors and deceptive content.

Adobe says it is already working with “The New York Times Company, Twitter, Inc., Microsoft, BBC, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Truepic, WITNESS, CBC and many others,” so things are looking good right now.

To learn more about the initiative, this prototype, and what’s next for CAI, head over to the Adobe blog or check out the dedicated Content Authenticity Initiative website.

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