Can New Tools for the Blind Help Combat Porn Piracy?

Aug 18, 2016 9:01 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — Adult content copyright holders and promoters have long grappled with the profit killing effects of rampant piracy, but these victims may find a new weapon in their enforcement arsenal, courtesy of recent efforts to facilitate web surfing and online content consumption by the visually impaired.

It is an interesting nexus of technology, where visually impaired surfers, long catered to by mainstream media through carefully crafted websites supporting screen readers and other assistance tools (though widely ignored by visually intensive adult site operators), are tackling their final frontier using new tools that read text that is graphically emblazoned on images.

While traditional assistance tools can read textual content and even render transcripts from videos, one major stumbling block is when text is an integral part of imagery — such as on the wave of memes that are awash across social media. Although “alt tags” or alternative text designations, as well as image title tags and other techniques based on textual data can help provide context, being able to separate text from a busy background requires a higher level of image analysis.

“The internet is all about sharing information, but a lot of the information shared assumes that its users are able to rely on their senses to consume said information,” Haje Jan Kamps wrote for TechCrunch. “That isn’t always the case, and for the more than 285 million people around the world who are visually impaired, browsing the ‘net can be a less than fruitful experience.”

Kamps was writing about today’s beta launch of a service by Braigo Labs to help visually impaired folks “make sense of text on images.” This free mobile-compatible web app supports more than 50 languages, and can reportedly extract text from images displayed from a variety of sources.

Comparative image analysis has been with us for a number of years, courtesy of Google Image Search and other tools that scour the web for “similar” images, but these technologies did little to parse text or identify images based on small print — such as a copyright notice or corporate logo/watermark.

This is where the rights enforcement angle arises.

Consider a current discussion thread now underway on the adult industry social network, where a community member sought advice for dealing with an alleged content thief that was covering his company’s legitimate watermark with a bogus watermark — a process similar to taking the “Chevy” badge off your neighbor’s car and replacing it with a “Ford” badge, in hopes that motorists will admire the vehicle enough to wander onto the lot of your Ford dealership and make a purchase.

It is one more wrinkle in the battle between creators and thieves, where making sure that your content does not appear on unauthorized websites — and that when it does it carries the correct watermark — becomes a full time job.

For those tasked with this daily mission, advances in technology are sure to help. While image searches have made the hunt easier and much more productive, being able to automate the scanning of textual content on those images, including your watermark, will take the fight to the next level, making this technology's evolution worth watching.

For more information on assistance tools, click here.

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