An Irvine company may have found a technological solution to what has until now been widely regarded as a legislative problem: protecting copyrighted images on the Internet.
This month, Maximized Software is planning to release a software package designed to protect images from theft, duplication or unauthorized references. The software is the first of its kind, said Howard Fram, product manager at the 12-employee company.
SiteShield is installed on servers, the powerful computers that store the text, graphics and sounds that make up the Internet's World Wide Web. Once installed, Web site designers and administrators can use it to protect the digital pictures they don't want copied.
The software thwarts attempts to duplicate images by altering their format so that once an image is copied to a new site, such as another server or computer, it can't be reopened and viewed again. SiteShield even blocks unauthorized references--electronic links to somebody else's graphics so that they appear on two sites simultaneously.
The company hopes to sell the $500 product to companies such as Disney that might want to keep their pictures, cartoon characters and other copyrighted images from being pilfered, Fram said. The problem is already widespread on the Net, where some Web sites are made up of little more than unauthorized copies of Dilbert cartoons, weather maps or other graphics.
Fram acknowledged that the new software might be an unwelcome innovation in an electronic universe where commercial protocol is often scorned.
In fact, SiteShield protects graphics but not words, partly because "protecting text is so against the thought of the Internet that we were afraid to even step in that direction," he said.
But Fram said SiteShield could enrich the Web by making companies and individuals less reluctant to post copyrighted material.
"There are a lot of artists and photographers who say they'd like to put their portfolios out there, but are concerned about people stealing their images," he said.
Maximized Software's home page address is http://www.maximized.com.
Greg Miller covers high technology for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at firstname.lastname@example.org