JPEG pictures may well soon have their own built in copy restrictions; if the ‘committee’ that looks after the format has its way.

JPEG images are the silent heroes of the internet.

Most of us make use of JPEG codecs on a daily basis, and rarely if ever give the images we see on our phones and computers s a second thought.

The JPEG format is one of the most widely used and popular picture standard used with over 1.8 billion of them being uploaded and shared across the internet every day, not counting the several billion more that are created and deleted on a daily basis.

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The growth in use of JPEGS has seen an exponential increase year on year since the format made its way onto our computer screens back in the early 2000’s.

The vast JPEG ecosystem growth also shows no signs of slowing down either.

What JPEG actually stands for

The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) committee, is a working group of the International Standardization Organization, and is the group responsible for the JPEG format.

The JPEG committee has however become more and more concerned in recent years of the growing trend to ‘share images immediately via the Internet by means of social media and cloud-based image repositories (i.e. Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest)’

The JPEG committee’s findings come after they commissioned a report into the Privacy and Security of JPEG distribution.

The online summary of proposals put forward by the committee states that photographs and images are now routinely redistributed without any copyright, or rights information attached – making them easy to be copied and published again, without the owner or creator’s permission.

The issue has become more prevalent with the rise of GPS technology now being embedded, often unwittingly, within images.

Within pictures metadata, the Geo-location of images, and the date and time they were taken could be accessible by anyone looking at the properties of the images.

That such information could be easily accessible has worried the committee about privacy issues.

Time for a JPEG change?

The JPEG committee wants to create a new standard using ‘technological solutions,’ that could, potentially, bring digital rights management (DRM) to the regular JPEG images in use on every internet page the world over.

Currently, only the highly specific JPEG 2000 format has any DRM associated with it.

So while the result could mean that it will be easier to protect users privacy by encrypting their meta-data, it could also present a major issue for people opening or copying JPEGs themselves, regardless of ‘fairs-fair’ useage policies that are being widely used currently.

DRM protected photos and images could for example force  memes to all but disappear from the internet, as they would next to impossible to create.

However, legitimate fears have also been raised that companies may use DRM protection on images to charge higher fees to anyone wanting to use or alter JPEG files or merely want to access restricted images.

The JPEG future

But don’t panic just yet.

While change is no doubt on the horizon, it will be some time yet before any take place.

Even then, JPEG files will in all likelihood still be available as long as the original authors allow them to be. Then there’s also the fact that most DRM protections can be bypassed or broken easily by anyone who is determined enough.