After being announced during Adobe MAX 2019, this morning Adobe unveiled a first look at its content attribution tool, as a part of the Content Authenticity Initiative.

Will Allen

The tool, which aims to develop an industry standard when it comes to content attribution on the web, hopes to resolve the challenges of manipulated content and deepfakes. It will be available to select customers in a beta release of Photoshop and Behance in the coming weeks.

But even if you aren’t a part of that selected customer group, you’ll be able to see the front-end information on the Behance website.

“It’s gonna be really interesting. Just right off the bat to start to get this real feedback in the hands of real users. We’ve done a lot of user testing and a lot of research, but having it sort of truly be out in the wild is a whole different ballgame,” said Will Allen, Adobe’s Vice President of Community Products.

Built upon an open standard that provides a secure layer of tamper-evident attribution data to photos, the content attribution tool will allow photographers and digital artists to control what data is displayed on the web. When a person downloads that image, any changes that are made are recorded — and the original data isn’t removed.

For photographers, this means getting exposure and credit for your original work.

While the CAI is focusing on photos for now, the possibilities are endless — illustrations, video and other media are already on the team’s radar.

How it works

By watching the demo video below, you can see a quick glimpse into how the content attribution tool works in Photoshop and Behance.

When a photographer exports out of Photoshop, they have the ability to attach data to their finished image. For now, this works with JPEGs, but other file formats will follow close behind.

You can attach things like a thumbnail, producer (creator) information, edits and activity, as well as any assets used. It is able to tell what types of edits you do — for example, while it will tell you if an image was “AI Assisted” through things like Photoshop’s new Sky Replacement tool, it’ll also show you the original sky image used. Not only that — it will also show the original image you started from.

As the creator of the finished image, you remain in complete control over how much data and information you give. But Allen states that this is high on his team’s list to tweak during the beta process, based on feedback from users.

“The possibility is you could attach everything. Some of our early testing said, when you show it to a consumer, not the creative, it’s very overwhelming. It’s like watching the credits at the end of the movie. The cost is there is too much to process.

“That’s an active thing we’re thinking about, and that’ll probably changed depending on the app. That level of granularity that you see in Photoshop? It will be different within Premiere Pro or Lightroom. Or a different editor, because they’re going to have different frameworks and different ways to think about it,” Allen said.

Adobe outlines a lot of its workflows for creatives in its recent white paper, released this summer.

Looking toward the future

For now, the content attribution tool only works with Photoshop and Behance, but it is certainly in Adobe’s plans to work with its other photography and creative apps, including Lightroom, Lightroom Classic as well as third-party applications.

“Our goal is to make this work across the Creative Cloud and all the apps there. But we’re also working with our collaborators to figure out how does this exist, and work on a much larger adoption too, right?” Allen added.

And while a rollout of the tool is certainly a short-term goal that Allen is driving his team to achieve, he has a bigger picture sort of vision when it comes to the future of the CAI.

“If you look at it, I think there are two primary goals. There’s the creative getting credit. And so a really important one is how do you give them attribution? I hope to really solve that problem, or make a huge dent in it.

“The second one is, how do you reestablish a shared perspective on what’s happening across when you see something online, any piece of content … a photo, video or audio file. Right now, we don’t have a shared objective understanding of what actually happened to it. And so our subjective interpretations just diverged completely, at least with this,” said Allen.

Agreeing on that shared perspective is ultimately what Allen hopes the CAI can do for creatives and the public viewing the pieces in question.

“If we get it to ubiquity — which we really believe in — we’ll be able to refurbish that shared understanding of at least the objective part to say, you took this photo at this date, at this time. You did these edits. When it’s just sort of for fun, or maybe it’s a photojournalism sort of use case. You can say, ‘Yes, I was actually there, in-person, within this time frame and get it to be out there.’ Then that shared objective understanding, I think, hopefully, on a societal level, can help us sort of converge again, at least on the subjective interpretations.”