Image credit: WatermarkRemover.io
Artificial intelligence being used to create photorealistic artwork is already causing significant unrest within the photography industry, but a new tool, WatermarkRemover.io, is among the most concerning.
WatermarkRemover.io, which is available for free, uses AI to remove watermarks from images – as implied by its name. While there are some benign reasons to want to remove watermarks from an image, for example, if you own the rights to an image but can’t locate a version without the watermark, but it’s easy to imagine much more nefarious scenarios in which someone wants to remove a watermark from a photo.
This isn’t an article centered around bashing WatermarkRemover.io. It has every right to exist, and the developers aren’t completely responsible for whether users download the tool to do something illegal – removing watermarks to steal photos is illegal, at least in the US. However, it’s worth considering how the tool fits into an increasingly murky AI landscape.
You can already edit watermarks out of images with photo editing applications like Adobe Photoshop. In some cases, it’s very easy to do so. Where AI comes in is making complex tasks, like removing multi-colored watermarks with different opacity values, much easier.
Concerning AI in photo editing, we’re seeing it more frequently. Nearly every major photo editing app now includes AI features. In some cases, like with ON1 Photo RAW 2023, you can use AI to perform one-click edits on specific areas of an image. If you want to edit the sky, click on the sky, and the software’s machine learning technology creates a mask of the sky, allowing precise local adjustments without the need for tedious manual mask creation. Skylum has been at the forefront of the AI revolution in photo editing, including its Luminar Neo photo editor that uses AI across nearly every single image editing tool. In situations like these, apps use AI to simplify existing editing tasks, rather than using AI to fundamentally change an image.
While some photographers are a bit worried about AI taking the human touch out of photo processing and image editing, for many, AI makes the work photographers already did much easier. The less time you spend making masks and performing complex edits, the more time you have for other things, like capturing photos. When considering AI tools like DALL-E, you’ll find many more AI detractors, or at least people who are uncomfortable.
I really don’t understand anymore.
Where are we heading? pic.twitter.com/ALzHDFNZ4A
— Tobias van Schneider (@vanschneider) January 24, 2023
Beyond creating all-new images, OpenAI’s impressive AI system can take existing works of art and expand them. Both possibilities come with important ethical considerations. We’ve discussed some concerns already, including pointing out that artists have used AI to create prize-winning artwork. In that case, the artist didn’t misrepresent his entry, but it’s inevitable that someone will, assuming that has yet to happen many times. With DALL-E’s Outpainting tool, you can augment existing artwork, perhaps by someone long since deceased. It feels a bit wrong.
As professional designer Tobias van Schneider asks about AI on Twitter, ‘Where are we heading?’ It’s an important question and one that we need to answer rapidly to have any hope of the cultural and moral framework surrounding the use of AI keeping pace with the swift advancement of AI technology itself.