Scientists who claim to have developed technology to improve digital images by using parts of similar images found on the internet admit the system could hit copyright problems.

Computer graphic specialists at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States say they have developed software that edits or alters photos using segments of ?millions of images available on the web?.

But Amateur Photographer has learned that the project could run into problems because, under copyright rules, each user would first need to get permission to use each image obtained from an online library, making it seemingly unworkable in practical terms.

?The research focused on technical questions and did not explore copyright issues,? admitted university spokesman Byron Spice, pointing out that the system is not yet a ?commercial? product.

On its website (pictured) the Pittsburgh-based university states that part of the system adds elements to a photo, such as people, by estimating the camera angle and lighting and searching an online library for a similar scene. This enables an object, such as a car, to be added to the scene, adjusting its size if necessary.

The other system, called Scene Completion would draw on millions of photos from the Flickr website to ?fill holes in photos? – matching the colours and textures that surround the missing parts.

This enables, for example, an ugly seaside foreground to be replaced by more of the harbour and boats.

?Whether adding people or objects to a photo, or filling holes in an edited photo, the systems automatically find images that match the context of the original photo so they blend realistically,? said the developers.

They add: ?Unlike traditional photo editing these results can be achieved rapidly by users with minimal skills.?

Spokesman Byron Spice explained that ?photo clip art? adds images derived from a research database that is ?copyright free?.

But he added: ?The photos used for the scene completion work were obtained from Flickr, so the copyright issues are trickier.

?Presumably, if a copyrighted photo was used for scene completion, it would be the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner, just as the user would need to obtain such permission if the entire photo was being used.?

The technology was reported on the BBC News website yesterday.

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Picture credits: Carnegie Mellon University


Before Carnegie's software


After Carnegie's software in applied />