JPEG Committee Meets, Talks DRM

We’re all familiar with JPEG as a file extension, but what does it actually mean?

JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is the title of the collection of people responsible for creating the now standard file type. “Joint” refers to the link between the standardization bodies (International Organization for Standardization [ISO] and the International Telecommunication Union- Telecommunication Standardization Sector [ITU-T]) that created the working group. Who knew?jpeg

Turns out there’s an entire JPEG Committee that meets at least three times a year “to discuss and create the standards for still image compression,” (JPEG website).

Their most recent meeting took place in Brussels a couple weeks back.

The topic: a proposal to secure privacy information for published pictures and address intellectual property rights for images provided by commercial stock providers or news agencies.

Before moving forward, it may be useful to define Digital Rights Management (DRM).

DRM is a term referring to various access control technologies that are used to restrict the usage of proprietary software, hardware, or content.

Much of the DRM required is already available in the JPEG 2000 image coding system. JPSEC, JPEG 2000’s DRM extension, operates in medical, broadcast, and cinema imaging and archiving contexts.

Problematically, JPSEC has little to no affect on the use of images online.

In response to this issue, the JPEG Privacy and Security Group is considering an attempt to apply Digital Rights Management to legacy JPEG images retroactively.

This could help with a number of growing problems with images used online. Archives often wrongly claim rights to images in the public domain, and most cryptographers don’t think DRM even works.

There are also a variety of laws in place that allow for the circumvention of DRM and even threaten liability for people reporting vulnerabilities in DRM implementations.

These circumstances posit a very real threat to people’s freedom of expression.

The DRM issue lies at the center of many unsolved problems involving the internet, user rights, the freedom of expression and copy right infringement.

internet piracy

Jim McGregor of Tirias Research believes that widespread piracy on the internet can only be combated by the development of kinds of business models: “Provide value and make it affordable and/or develop alternative business models around the content, and piracy will no longer be an issue.”

Although many believe that DRM can help to protect investment of time and money into the development of new content, McGregor believes that “it’s really just protecting antiquated business models that are out of date with modern society and current technology…there’s no way to completely protect content, especially with the speed with which it can spread around the Internet.”

JPEG has yet to announce a decision. It has requested feedback from the Electric Frontier Foundation along with other groups with a similar expertise, claiming that they appreciate “as much reaction as possible before standardizing security solutions.”

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