Comments in media

Kevin Hughes (kevinh@eit.COM)
Tue, 29 Nov 1994 23:50:47 +0100

A week or so ago, David Koblas (
tossed out a remark in:

...that TIFF and GIF images could retain copyright
information via comments, and it's interesting that nobody
has explored this before! I've seen other people's copyrighted
images spread around the Web like wildfire, and there is often
very little the orginal author can do about it, unless they're
willing to spend a lot of time tracking down webmasters.
I call this kind of thing an "image virus" - sometimes
the first person who copies a piece is ignorant of copyright law;
once an image is viewed on a certain number of sites, people
begin to assume it's in the public domain and it gets copied even
more. For instance, you may be familiar with the "little red shaded
bullet ball" virus - or the more recent "tiny new! balloon" virus...
then there's a whole strain of horizontal rule images... :)
One can't stop this thing completely, of course, but
I'd like to propose some things which may help:

* Make it easy for authors to create and change comments.

A little program that reads and writes comments to images
would be great, for instance:

comment house.gif *.jpg *.tiff *xbm -r

...could read any comments that exist, while:

comment *.gif -w "This image is Copyright 1994 John Doe.\n
Created in Somewhere, CA by\n
Used with permission."

...would write in the comment easily. It would be nice if
xv, xpaint, and the like could do this easily as well. Of
course, bad guys could change the comment easily too, but
at least they have to consciously do something after copying
an image.

* Make it easy for users to view comments.

What do you think of the idea of being able to view image
comments in Web browsers, so when you (right-mouse click,
option-click, shift-click, move the mouse, menu option,
whatever) on an inline image, the comments appear (in a
message area, a dialog box, a pop-up area, below the image,

This can make it easy for webmasters to determine the origins of
images and the limitations associated with them, and can make it easy for
administrators to contact the author for permission to use a work. It can
also make it easy to index media by keywords, create contact sheets with
descriptions, etc., etc.. And Web users would know exactly what's going on.
On that note, does anyone know if the QuickTime and MPEG formats
support comments? Sun audio?
If somebody made this tool/patch/feature I know there are many
online artists out there who would be grateful! I would do this, but
image format and browser hacking is currently out of my area of expertise.
Any takers? Comments?

-- Kevin

Kevin Hughes *
Enterprise Integration Technologies Webmaster (
Hypermedia Industrial Designer * Duty now for the future!