Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.
Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."
Thomas Smith, CEO of AI-driven photography agency Gado Images, said this is a crucial step in addressing the issue of verifying NFT creator identities. The blockchain aspect of NFTs easily confirms the minting of an NFT, but confirming the artistic value of the NFT has been difficult thus far. "I could download an image someone else took, mint an NFT from it, and pretend it's mine," Smith said. "That erodes the value of NFTs." Now creators can tie their crypto wallet to their Photoshop.
Scott Belsky, chief product officer, spoke with The Verge about Adobe making it easier for NFT collectors to see both who created the NFT and who minted it on the blockchain. NFTs are all about authenticity, and with Content Credentials, people can embed their identity directly into a file. Belsky compared it to the verification badge on Twitter: "Imagine a world where you favor buying NFTs from artists with a cryptographic signature that you know that they actually made it, as opposed to one who doesn't have that cryptographic signature," he told The Verge.
Adobe will launch Content Credentials in public beta, along with a wave of other new features, at today's Adobe MAX conference, an annual event complete with a plethora of famous speakers and informational sessions for creatives. Another release in Adobe's Creative Cloud suite is the extension of Photoshop and Illustrator to the web. Anyone, not just Creative Cloud subscribers, can view and comment on these files through a URL. Subscribers can make light edits right within the browser.
Other new features include a collaboration and whiteboarding tool called "Creative Cloud Spaces and Canvas," the acquisition of video-collaboration platform Frame.io, updates to video and photo editing and more monetization options for creatives using Behance, Adobe's social media platform. Creative Cloud subscribers can offer Patreon-esque subscriptions without Behance taking any of the pay.
Content Credentials are a part of the Content Authenticity Initiative, a partnership Adobe announced with Twitter and The New York Times in 2019. The goal is to make records of ownership and authenticity a norm when creating and sharing media online. Rao said the 38-year-old company is uniquely prepared to address this problem. "As we stared at the landscape, we really felt like the piece that was missing was transparency," Rao said. "If you're using our tool, we're able to share with people who took that photo and where it was taken and when, and we also know what edits were made."
When a creator decides to apply credentials to their image, that metadata is secured and encrypted with the image. For example, it would record any imported images or artificial intelligence tools that were applied to the file. Rao emphasized that no encryption is completely invulnerable, but if someone did try to tamper with an image and its credentials, users would see a clear gap in the recording of edits.
Creators can turn on credentials in Photoshop, and they are attached to Adobe's Stock images by default. Anyone, even those without a Creative Cloud account, can check out credentials on Verify, a tool that analyzes images. They'll also be visible on Behance. Rao said Adobe's partners in the Content Authenticity Initiative, like Getty Images, are building credentials as well. "It's an open standard," Rao said. "Anyone can build an implementation, not just Adobe." The idea is to make Content Credentials a standard across platforms, so people truly understand the origins of images and videos.
Smith is excited by this first step into a more trustworthy digital landscape. He's a part of the Content Authenticity Initiative through the Digital Media Licensing Association, and like Rao, believes strongly that credentials should be adopted at every step of the image creation/publication process. "The ultimate vision is to bring everyone in literally from the hardware level all the way up through publication," Smith said. "I snap the photo on my Android phone, it's signed in the image the second I take it."
Standardized content credentials could have huge implications for media, politics and human rights. Smith pointed out that verifying where and when an image is taken can be useful in documenting abuse, or even linking medical imagery to patients. "This is very important outside of NFTs and the creative industry," he said.
Creative Cloud subscribers have to opt in to include credentials, mainly for privacy reasons. Adobe doesn't want to force people to disclose their identity or specific circumstances behind their image. The necessary outcome of this is "if you want to be trusted, you're going to go through this process, and if you're someone out there trying to deceive people, you're not going to show them what you did to the image," Rao said.
But it's a start, giving creators a tool to protect the integrity of their image. The next milestones will be building something similar for video and audio, and spreading the word so an average person knows that credentials exist — something Rao believes should fit into a larger, government-sponsored digital literacy campaign. "We want to show everybody that this thing works," Rao said. "The next step will be part of this education piece."